My Paradise: Venture off the beaten path in Cambodia

My Paradise: Venture off the beaten path in Cambodia

by Bryce hollweg
Stripes Guam

Prior to my recent venture to Cambodia I had been to many places throughout South East Asia (Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam) but never to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Travelers I had met in my previous adventures boasted about their affinity for the country. They praised Cambodia, describing it as lawless, but in a good way. They gushed about the culture, the people, the beaches, the prices. Most ranked it No. 1 on their list of “off-the-beaten-path” destinations. With this much hype, I had to see it for myself.

My first stop in Cambodia was Siem Reap. The only thing I wish I had was more time. After years of turmoil, Cambodia is surely on the rise…and Siem Reap is the poster child for what the country hopes to become: clean, inviting and capitalizing on tourism, all while maintaining its cultural charm. One stroll through “Pub Street” will open your eyes to what I consider an anomaly – a third world country with first class restaurants and cafes at jaw dropping prices. Gourmet meals for seemingly pennies and beers for even less. What more could you ask for?

The obvious reason people make the trek to Siem Reap is to visit the venerable Angkor Wat. The relics of Angkor Wat have always intrigued me, as I’m sure they have for any wanderlust traveler. They invoke a sense of mystery that the ancient European relics just don’t incite. Simply put, the temples are incredible and should be at the top of anyone’s list of things to see before you die. However, with only 24 hours in Siem Reap, I worried I would feel shorted. I was very happy to find that even with a limited time I did get to experience its magic thanks to a reliable, efficient Tuk Tuk driver and an early start. Using the itinerary and tips (right), you’ll hit the highlights – Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon and Ta Promh – and still make it to Pub Street for a beer or three.

Proposed 24-hour itinerary:
3 p.m.: Arrive Siem Reap Airport and transfer to hotel
6 p.m.: Sunset at Angkor Wat
8 p.m.: Dinner at Il Forno authentic Italian restaurant
9:30 p.m. Dessert at Gelato & Coffee Lab
10 p.m.: Pub street bar hopping
5 a.m.: Sunrise at Angkor Wat
6 a.m.: Tour Angkor ruins
1 p.m.: Lunch at Siem Reap old market
3 p.m.: Depart Siem Reap

Helpful Tips:
• You can obtain a Visa on Arrival when you land at the Siem Reap Airport for $35 USD. Be sure to bring at least two passport photos with you.
• The primary currency in Cambodia is the U.S. Dollar. ATMs will dispense money in USD.
• As with everything in Cambodia, accommodations are very cheap. I stayed at the Angkor Secret Garden Hotel for $10 per night, which included transfer to and from the airport, breakfast, and a nice room with private bathroom.
• Arrange your trip to Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples through your hotel. They will set you up with a Tuk Tuk driver who has a proven, efficient route through the best temples for around $15 for the day.
• The entrance fee for the Angkor Archeological Park is $20 for a 1-day pass ($40 for 3 days and $60 for 7 days). The pass is valid beginning at 5 p.m. the day before, so you can enter the site to watch the sunset.
• Your driver will take you to all of the main sites including Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon and Ta Promh. Even when taking your time to enjoy the sites, 5-6 hours is plenty of time to see what you came for. A second day is only necessary for those who want to see temples beyond these main sites or who want to spend additional time exploring.
• The nightlife area in Siem Reap is located around Pub Street. Tons of cafes, restaurants and bars…all dirt cheap.

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