Angkor and Siem Reap, Cambodia travel tips

Siem Reap is a pleasant if rather soulless tourist town. Most of what there is to do is focused on nighttime entertainment, when people have returned from touring the Angkor temples.

Where we ate and drank:

  • Khmer Kitchen, Pub St. Alley, Siem Reap – From what information we could find, this is one of the increasingly fewer Khmer-owned and staffed restaurants in the area. The food was fine, but didn’t rock our socks: MEH
  • Food stalls inside Angkor Park – It’s a hit or miss scene at the many illegal yet utterly tolerated food stalls inside Angkor Park. We had some great meals of pork on rice, chicken with pineapple, and ice cold Angkor Beers that you desperately need in the tropical heat. We also had some atrocious, barely edible dishes. Look for stalls where Cambodians and tuk tuk drivers are eating. The worst meals were at stalls close to the main temples of Bayon (god awful) and Angkor Wat. Bizarrely and frustratingly, even though all the stalls have printed English menus, it’s necessary to haggle over food and drink prices; once we must have haggled really well because we were handed an entirely different menu, with prices half of what was on the first. Each dish should be $1.50-3.00 max: MEH
  • Angkor, Cambodia
    Tasty dishes from an Angkor park food stall, pineapple chicken and grilled pork on rice | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Warehouse, across from the northeast corner of Phsar Chas (Old Market), website – Run by Jed, a friend of a friend. A nice place to get a drink with a semi-rowdy crowd of expats and tourists, especially if you’re looking for a scene a little “older” than Angkor Wat? bar. Like most Western food in Cambodia, Warehouse’s food was ok, nothing more: YEH
  • Angkor Cafe, across the road from the main entrance to Angkor Wat, behind a parking lot, trees, and tuk tuks – Let’s be real, you pay $3-5 US per dish here for the air conditioning, the great ice cream selection, and no “Pineapple” shouting. Considering its proximity to the main temple, Angkor Wat, the food was surprisingly tasty, probably because it’s sister restaurant is the well-regarded Blue Pumpkin in Siem Reap. The amok curry ravioli was a curiously successful take on the Khmer standby, and we can’t wait to try to make it at home. They have plenty of Western food on the menu as well: YEH
  • Angkor, Cambodia
    Angkor Cafe’s fish amok ravioli: brilliant! | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Tigre de Papier – We were only a little bit hungry so we figured splitting a pizza was a good idea. Oh, so wrong. First, we had to send our pizza back because it wasn’t what we ordered. Then, the second pizza was so soggy and bland that even hot sauce couldn’t save it: NAH
  • Viva – What were we thinking getting Mexican food in Cambodia. Actually, it was ok. The many cuba libres we drank while waiting a half hour for our food may have positively biased our taste buds: MEH

Where we stayed:

  • Mandalay Inn – For just $10 US a night, they serve up a clean, sunny room, hot water, wireless, and niceness. Cozy common areas and disappointing kitchen. Their bikes, which they never had enough of, were not worth renting (see below for bike rental shop). Even so, Mandalay Inn was a wonderful change from Cambodia’s many ugly and unhappy guesthouses: YEH

What we saw:

  • Angkor Archaeological Park – Well, of course this is a big “YEH.” When you go, here’s some advice:
    • BICYCLING: Why anyone gets in a tuk tuk or tour bus is beyond us. On a bike in three days, we got to all the temples on our list and were able to bike around to the far side of things if walking seemed too torturous in the sun. Remember, when you bike, you create your own breeze.
    • TICKETS: Unless you don’t enjoy roaming ancient ruins, at a minimum, get the three day park pass (the three days must be done consecutively) and or get the five day pass and take a day off to rest your senses in the middle UPDATE: Just heard that as of July 1, 2009, the 3-day pass is $40 and valid for use over 1 week and a new 7-day pass is $60 and is valid for 1 month. One day passes are still $20.
    • SUNSET: Though everyone raved about sunsets, we took one look at the insanely rude crowds waiting for their perfect picture and skipped the viewpoints. We spent sunset at Bayon, watching the light change on its hundreds of giant faces.
    • BRING: Water and snacks, because prices are tremendously inflated inside. An umbrella, so you can walk in shade. Sunscreen, minimum SPF 50 if you can find it.
  • Angkor, Cambodia
    Biking around Angkor park | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Angkor Express Travel and Tour, corner of Siratha Blvd. and Phsar Krom Rd. – Two types of bikes can be rented here, a cheaper gearless bike which was sufficient for getting around Angkor Park ($1.50 US/day), and snazzier geared bikes that move faster for a lot more per day. Both types were well maintained: YEH