Friday, January 21, 2011


Note: re-posting this entry due to some publishing issues involving Network Blogs and Google Reader. If you have received this entry on Cambodia already via email there have been no changes since the original post so you may ignore or delete this email. Thanks! -Greg

Time to take a few moments and highlight our visit to Cambodia. To start with we only spent time in Siem Reap which is known for the Angkor Wat temples. We spent a total of seven nights in Siem Reap at the Ta Som Guesthouse ( I'll highlight our time in Angkor Wat then review some of the activities we did in and around Siem Reap.

Words probably will not due Angkor Justice and my pictures probably will not either :-). Angkor Wat is a complex of several temples stretching out over several kilometers. They were mostly built between the 9th and 15th centuries making them older than most of churches found throughout Europe. We spent spent the better part of three days visiting at least 17 temples. We purchased a three day pass for $40 US. I think it was money well spent. A couple side notes on the ticket. When you purchase the ticket they take your photograph and print it out on the ticket to cut down on counterfeiting and scalping. They check for tickets constantly which is a good thing and you have to show it to use the bathroom for free which were in good condition to our surprise. We have visited numerous other significant landmarks on our trip that had poor facilities but I guess our $40 went to something. Anyway, back to the temples. Many of the temples are massive and some are quite a distance away from each other. Each day we rented the use of a tuk tuk from our hotel which cost us anywhere from $12 to $28. This was cheaper than a tour bus or car but not as cheap as riding on the back of a moped which would have been fine with me if I were traveling solo. The temples have numerous designs and are influenced by either Hinduism or Buddhism and sometimes both depending on what religion the king endorsed at the time. We spent a lot time climbing through the ruins including climbing up many that were quite steep. All in all it was very enjoyable and I would recommend a visit. The peak time of the year is from December to February due to the weather being the coolest and driest. It didn't rain on us and the temps were a bit hot with highs in the low 90's. For more about Angkor Wat I'd suggest the wiki travel article that I read before visiting (

Angkor Wat

The rest of our time was spent in or around Siem Reap. Siem Reap is a town with a little under 200,000 people depending on how you count. Its primary purpose is as a hub for the Angkor Wat traffic. It has numerous hotels and restaurants which is pretty good because there is plenty of competition which can keep prices down. Our hotel for instance only cost us $15 a night and that included a free breakfast, free wi-fi, free pick up from airport, and free rides into downtown which is only a mile away. We did enjoy walking around and eating downtown. The food was good and cheap. It took a lot of effort and multiple 50 cent draft beers for us to spend more than $8 or $10 for dinner for two people. One interesting note is that everything in Siem Reap and from what I've heard Cambodia in general is priced in US dollars and the ATM’s dispense money primarily in dollars. Their currency is called the Riel and ca be pretty unstable. Everyone prefers dollars. In Vietnam things would mostly be priced in their currency but you could pay for everything in dollars or euros.

Us getting fish feet massages on Pub Street in Siem Reap

The two main activities we did not related to the Angkor Wat temples were a visit to the Kompong Phluk village and we went horseback riding. We actually did the Kompong Phluk village on the third day of temple hopping. The village is actually a floating village about 30 plus minutes outside of Siem Reap that sits on a the Tonle Sap Lake. It is a very large lake. It has a population of around 3,000. The neat thing is that nearly all of the house are built on stilts since the water level of the lake changes so much from the dry to wet season. Most houses if you want to call them that are about 30 meters off the ground. Bad news is that most of these houses don't look to be in such good condition. We spent a hour on a motorized boat weaving around the outskirts of the village before switching to a canoe that a local paddled for about 30 minutes through some mangrove trees before switching back to our motor boat to go out to the lake. It was pretty neat and a little sobering to see people living like this but I am guessing they are living that way because they want to. Only bad part was that our driver was not that good. We banged in to other boats and houses among some tight turns and also got stuck once. When we docked he and his buddies suggested a tip for the driver but we kept walking and didn't tip. We had already paid a $15 entrance fee to the village and $5 for the paddle boat portion.

Kompong Phluk floating village

The other activity we did was much more enjoyable although a little painful. Alethea and I got up bright and early at 5 am in order to go on a 4 hour horse ride at sunrise. The place we went to is called the Happy Horse Ranch Farm. It was a 15 minute tuk tuk ride from our hotel. I had not ridden a horse since I was probably 6 or 7 years old and I barely remember it. It was at my cousins in Bluffton, Indiana. All I remember is hanging on to my cousin Elaine for dear life. I definitely enjoyed this horse experience. We rode out into the Cambodia countryside and even ate breakfast at an 11th century Hindu Temple that is off the beaten path. My horse's name was Astar and was 6 years old. I thought he was pretty well behaved although when we stopped he would occasionally start eating and I would have to give him a kick or yank the reins to get his attention. We spent most of our time walking but on the way back we did some trotting and even some galloping which is close to a full run. I liked the galloping part even though my rear end did not. Both Alethea and I were pretty sore and I even took a couple Tylenol once we got back to the hotel which is pretty rare for me. If anyone is reading this who plans to go to Siem Reap then I'd recommend the place we used. Here is their link ( I would say the only negative is that we went by a lot of houses with some being small three sided shacks. We saw several children running around either completely naked or naked from the waste down which was sad. We did have several children come running out and start waving at us saying hello or good bye. 

Us on our horses

Well that pretty much wraps up Cambodia. It was a somewhat brief but enjoyable experience. The people were nice and friendly and we didn't really encounter any problems outside of a minor problem purchasing our Angkor Wat tickets that I will not go into detail about since it wasn't that big of a deal. Only real negative as I alluded to a little bit in the previous paragraph was that once you get out of the town and temples you see a lot of poverty and people struggling to get by. I think Cambodia statistically is the poorest country we'll visit with the average yearly income being around $2,000 a year. If you spend enough time SE Asia outside of the tourist zones you'll should come away with a better feeling for your situation especially those living in the US. Cambodia also has just a terrible history if you spend any time reading about. One travel resources said that things have pretty much gone downhill in Cambodia since the 15th century until about 10 years ago which is probably not too far away from being accurate.

Next stop for us is Thailand. We are crossing by land starting from Siem Reap. We'll be taking a 3 hour taxi to the border (only $25) then picking up a Bangkok bound bus once we cross into Thailand. We already have our Thailand visa so we aren't anticipating too much of a problem. Hope everyone is doing well and being careful in all that snow for those in TN or wherever it may be snowing quite a bit. Take care!

Link to photo albums:

Daily Log

Friday January 15th
Despite leaving 20 minutes late we arrived on time in Siem Reap @ 4:55 pm.
Made through purchasing a visa, immigration, and customs by within 20 minutes.
Tuk Tuk driver from hotel met us outside of airport. Trip to hotel took about 15 minutes
Ate dinner @ hotel. Hotel Ta Som Guesthouse. Total for dinner was $6.

Saturday January 16th
Woke around 5 am to the call of Buddha. Loud music from nearby temple.
Woke up via alarm @ 8 am.
Spent most of day planning Siem Reap\Cambodia activities. We had spent a lot of time on Vietnam and then on Thailand and needed to re-read out Cambodia stuff so we spent a couple hours doing this. We then worked with the hotel staff on booking a guide and driver for the following day. We've also booked a day of horse riding. I've spent more time on elephants than I have horses in my life.
Decided to get out around 4 pm. Took tuk tuk downtown.
Walked around for about 1 hour. Very heavily tourist town. Felt like I was on spring break with all the cheap beer and westerns.
Ate dinner at Khmer restaurant. Had 4 50 cent beers and two entrees for $8
Got fish foot massages by sticking our feet in a fish tank and let fish nibble on our feet. They had small fish and large fish. Cost $3 per 15 minutes.
Walked home

Sunday January 17th
Woke up @ 6:45 am, ate breakfast @ 7:00.
Left for Angkor Wat @ 8 am.
Little snafu getting a ticket. We purchased a 3 day ticket for $40. Alethea noticed that the ticket was good for 3 consecutive days instead of what is advertised where you can use it any 3 days within 7 days. We tried to argue with the people at the window and they said that you can't change the ticket once it is bought. They wouldn't listened. They don't think outside the box and don't go out of their way to help the customer. Still have a lot to learn in the service industry.
We stopped at several Wat. I'll need to get the list from Alethea. We started with Angkor Thom and visited 3 or 4 other temples before finishing the day with Angkor Wat.
We had our driver drop off us downtown where we ate dinner. Dinner was only $3 a piece per entrees where at lunch it was $5. Total dinner bill was only $8 and that included 4 beers (.50 & two $3 entrees).
Walked back to hotel and got online. Had to email the horse riding people since we have to go to Angkor Wat over 3 consecutive days instead of being able to break it up.

Day one temples:
South Gate Ankor Thom
Central Angkor Thom (Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of Elephants, Terrace of Leper King)
Victory Gate
Chau Say Thevoda
Ta Keo
Ta Prahm
Ankor Wat

Monday January 18th
Woke up @ 6:45. breakfast and out the door by 8 am
Good day overall. Did the grand circuit of temples. Some were far out. 35 minutes away from town. Visited 7 or 8 temples. Temples today were mostly 10th to 12th century. They were flatter and somewhat different than yesterday's.
Arrived at scene of accident involving a moped and truck. Didn't look at bodies in the road. It wasn't pretty. Wreck just happened before we got there.
Finished sightseeing around 4:30 pm. Had tuk tuk driver drop us on Pub Street
Stayed on Pub Street drinking beer and eating pizza until 9 pm. Sat next to three Australian women who are sister that are our parents age and had a really good time.

Day two temples:
Pre Pup
Banteay Srey
Banteay Samre
East Mebon
Ta Som
Neak Pean
Phnom Bakheng

Tuesday January 18th
Visited the final group of three temples starting at 8 am this morning. We were essentially done by 10 am. Went to village that live on the water on houses that are on stilts. During the rainy the season the rain can get quit a bit higher. The villages has about 3000 people in it. We took a motorized boat through a part of the village then a boat where a woman paddled while her 2 kids were in the back. Our motor boat driver was not that good. When we docked he and his buddies wanted a $1 for a tip but we didn't tip. He got stuck and was banging in to the things. The boat itself wasn't in good condition. It was pieced together and was started with a jumper cable connection.
We were done with the village by around 1:30 pm.
Back @ hotel by about 2:15 pm. Washed up and ate lunch.
Spent the afternoon relaxing at the hotel.

Day three temples:
(Rolous Group)
Preak Ko

Kompong Phluk village

Wednesday January 19th
Not sure why but we started to hear chants of monks or something coming from the temple starting around 4 am.
Woke up a little after 8 am.
Ate breakfast then spent the morning going over our task list of things to do. Alethea worked on Thailand train tickets, I worked on figuring out how to get to our hotel in Bangkok. We then re-worked the transport section of our cost spreadsheet. This helped us get an estimate for much we can spend for Thailand and give us ballpark estimated for how much we can spend in India and then in Europe.
Spent the afternoon editing and uploading pictures
Went toiletry supply shopping at grocery store pretty close to our hotel.
Ate dinner at nice restaurant real close to hotel. Had preset menu that was only $6 a piece plus the 75 cent draft beers. Service was good to so we left a $2 tip on a $15 meal. It is rare to tip in Cambodia.

Thursday January 20th
Woke up @ 5 am to go horse riding.
Left hotel @ 5:30 am. Funny note – Three of the hotel staff were asleep on the floor under a mosquito net in the lobby when we left.
Tuk Tuk ride took about 15 minutes to get to the Happy Ranch Horse Farm (
Started riding horses starting @ 6:00 am for 4 hours. Got back @ 10 am exactly. I really enjoyed it. We were out in the countryside. My horse was names Astar and is a 6 years old male. We mostly walked but we trotted and galloped a little bit. Pretty neat when the horse was moving pretty fast. My rear end is sore after the 4 hour ride. We stopped for about 30 minutes about 2 hours into the ride to have breakfast at a 11th century Hindu temple.
Was back at hotel by 11 am.
Took shower and edited pictures.
Ate lunch at hotel for $3 total.

Friday January 21st
Travel day to Thailand.
Took private car from hotel in Siem Reap to Thai border @ the Poipet crossing. It was very smooth. We actually had to walk across the border which is the 1st time I've walked across a border between to countries. In Israel we had to take a bus to cross into Jordan even though it was less than kilometer.
End of Cambodian blog :-)