Siem Reap, Cambodia

We bought direct bus tickets from the northern bus terminal, Mo Chit, for 750TB, but I’ve heard rumors that this can be done online, and seeing as this is something that needs to be done in advance (they fill fast), I would recommend trying the online method if you can’t get to the terminal. If one were to google “direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap” they would find the numerous and very helpful articles that I did. Read em’, they help you to avoid scams and misfortune. Word of caution- don’t buy a ticket from anywhere but Mo Chit or the website located here: thaiticketmajor.com
 The visa process to get into Cambodia (Aranyaprathet-Poipet, a main land crossing) was a little disorganized, but we just kept our eyes focused on the signs and other streams of tourists. You basically get off the bus, you need to stamp out of Thailand, buy a visa for Cambodia (you need a little passport picture for the visa, we brought them with us from Canada), and head across the border (all done by walking) to get your passport stamped into Cambodia. It took us 45min but I’ve heard horror stories of hours. Yikes. We did have to pay an additional 200TB on top of the $30USD fee (1100TB is acceptable) for the Cambodia visa- it’s basically an undisputed bribe that, if you’re willing to literally make a scene and risk a long wait, can be bypassed. We didn’t feel like doing either so we paid (begrudgingly).

Upon arriving in Siem Reap, we were dropped off at the Nattakan office (the Cambodian side of the direct bus route) where a tuk tuk driver from our accommodations picked us up. We stayed at a place called “The Siem Reap Hostel”, original, I know. A bed in the dorm cost 300TB, aka $8-$10 USD (everything in Cambodia is basically done in American dollars, except for the small change. The atms even dispense it. Our dollar to the American dollar was awful so that sucked, but we managed). The in-house restaurant was great and well priced, and the pool was a perfect escape from the heat after a day of touring.



We met a lot of people to do things with, which was all the better, as the hostel itself was great at organizing excursions to local sights, as well as arranging trustworthy tuk tuk drivers for sunrises/sunsets, and Angkor tours; you signed up on the whiteboard the day before and off you went in the morning. Trips cost between $7USD (sunrise) and $32 USD (day trip to a waterfall). Not all trips had to do with Angkor which was really nice. With the exception of the waterfall, the prices $7-$15USD could be split between maximum four people so it made things relatively cheap. Keep in mind, passes had to be bought for Angkor:

1 day pass- $20 USD

3 day pass- $40 USD

7 day pass- $60 USD

 

Word of advice, if you are trying to catch the sunrise and want to be in the park and seated before 5am, you will need to have gotten your pass the night before; they don’t start selling passes until 5am on the dot, this little hiccup almost derailed our Angkor Wat sunrise excursion. If you already have a multi-day pass, you’re good to go.

Siem Reap itself is quite the tourist center. The pub street features a highly active nightlife, while the art market and pretty city lights across the river seem to burst with trinkets and color.

 

  We got a chance to hang out with some great eastern-based Canadians. Darrian was feeling rather brave by the end of our pub street adventure. (Yes that’s a snake).

With all fees considered, Siem Reap wasn’t the cheapest option for renewing our Thai visas, but it was worth it. I didn’t see everything that I wanted to (not even close), but I’m starting to learn that you never really do, and the more you look, the longer your travel wish-list grows. Being that our stay in Cambodia was so short and limited, I am hesitant to say much more, as we really didn’t stay long enough or go far enough for a proper taste of the country’s culture. Having said that, I know I will be back, next time a little more educated on the history and details of Angkor, as well as the history of Cambodia itself. I am not condoning ignorance, but Thailand (besides their world-record number of coups) does not have the recent bloodshed that Cambodia has experienced, and it’s possible to visit Thailand without so much as touching the country’s history (though some research on the royalty does explain a lot). For Cambodia, I can’t help but feel a trip to this country isn’t complete if you don’t acknowledge and open yourself to the darker days of the Khmer Rouge, and the hardship that ensued.

And realistically, I didn’t sign up for a resort vacation, right? I asked for the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly, in no specific order or quantity, and at this point (day 30), if I’m not atleast a little unsettled, I’m not pushing myself enough.

 I’m unsettled, and wanting more.

I’ll see you in round two, Cambodia.
All the best,

Em

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