Whenever I read lists of the top places to go to in the world, I always see Angkor Wat – the largest religious structure (?) in the world. Considering how near it is to my location, I’ve decided to go with Cambodia as my first ever solo trip (November 2015)
I kept on googling Cambodian cuisine, Cambodian etc, but apparently the word is “Khmer”. Khmer cuisine, Khmer massage…
- Visa. I’m from an ASEAN country, so no worries about this.
- Tickets. I’ve got a Cebupac ticket going to Siem Reap and leaving from Ho Chi Min at PHP3,800ish. Suggest you check that there is an arrival card before you leave the plane – we had a problem in our trip because we weren’t given one and the customs won’t let us in without one.
- Accommodations. Based on some research, I’ve chosen Mingalar Inn. It’s only USD16 per night! People were extremely nice! They pick you up for free from the airport if you stay for at least two days.
- Transportation. Within Siem Reap, I only needed the transpo for Angkor. Mindalay Inn was nice enough to handle it for me at USD15+USD5 for sunrise. After Siem Reap, I wanted to go to Phnom Penh and since I was traveling alone, safety is a priority. Based on my research, Great Ibis is the best way to go so I also booked online (USD15-21 for my travel from Siem Reap to Phonm Penh, from PP to Ho Chi Minh)
- Tour. I wanted to visit Tonle Sap and with all my research, they recommended that I just book a tour. So I booked the flooded forest tour of Tara Boat for USD60 (all in).
Here’s the itinerary I prepared, printed, and pollowed for the rest of my trip:
Hello Siem Reap
Well, Angkor Wat is actually a city of temples, with Angkor Wat merely one of the temples in that city. It’s not even the biggest one (I think the biggest is Bayon). But it’s the most majestic.
There were so many people. They come in droves! So I decided to leave and explore the other temples before the rest of the people do. I went back after lunch and went inside Angkor Wat.
- Exercise. There’s a lot of walking and climbing involved.
- Prepare for the heat.
- Haggle. The prices are inflated to with around 100 – 300% markup. Seriously. You can haggle for at least half the price. Again, seriously.
- Go to Angkor Wat first, then explore the other temples rather than wait for it to open.
- Allot three days to explore, and only explore in the mornings. An all temple trip can get pretty tiring.
The different Angkors are pretty much the poster for Khmer quality pottery. So i tried it. Just google and you’ll see your options. I don’t remember my choice – I didn’t follow the one in my itinerary. But I remember I paid USD20 for the one hour tutorial with 5 samples (the other one was made by my instructor), and they agreed to blaze my finished “pot” and deliver it as part of the package!
Tonle Sap, the Flooded Forest, and the Floating Village
I love Tara Boat tour company! I was the only customer but still they pushed through with the tour even though I’m alone! Such amazing business people.
We went by van to the lake, got in to a boat, passed through the floating village, traveled for another 2-3 hours, got into the flooded forest, went to the house in stilts, went back and ate lunch at Tara Boat, then went home. All for USD60. With my own English speaking guide, own boat, own everything (because I was alone in my tour! Haha)
The floating village was a saddening experience – they apparently travel to around 12 stops per year, adjusting depending on the season. They bathe, defecate and live on the same lake. We went also to the house in stilts (no pics sorry), and the latter was only marginally better. My guide said it’s the result of their never ending war – poverty and people having to live on the outskirts and with scraps. Even my guide had no idea how to operate a computer (though he owned the latest iPhone then!), which makes me quite sad to see how the Khmer people live.
The flooded forest was a delight. These were not mangroves, take note, as this is freshwater. It was a peaceful 20ish minutes ride, and if I could, I’d set up a hammock and sleep in between one of these trees.
That’s it. After my trip c/o Tara Boat, I went to my inn to rest and bathe, then went to the Giant Ibis station (which was a five minute walk away) and waited for my bus to Phnom Penh.