Cambodia: From Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia

Part II of Jaunt Contributor, Victoria Yanakos’, trip to South East Asia has landed her at the top of one of the world’s most popular temple destinations… Angkor Wat. Now, if she could only figure out how to get down.

Fear of Heights
By Victoria Yanakos

Turns out I’m afraid of heights. Well, not so much “heights” as the falling very fast from them. I realized this about half way up the 70 or so “steps” to the top of one of the Angkor Wat temples.

It seemed like a good tactic for getting away from mobs of Japanese tour groups and their incessant picture taking (of which my climb – in a skirt- is now part of at least a few albums). Now at the top, apparently unmoved by my mid-way epiphany, I have a whole new perspective of the situation. I’m actually much higher than I realized, and the “steps” are only about 6″ deep and covered in sand. This wasn’t a problem going up, but add gravity and flip flops and the descent feels much less safe. So here I sit, writing a journal, reflecting on Cambodia, and slowing devising a plan to get down…

Even in comparison to other parts of SE Asia, Cambodia has an irrationality that is wholly its own. Tuk-Tuk (rickshaw) from the bus station to hostel, $3. Tuk-Tuk for the whole day? $5. Thousands of people trying to sell me pineapple, no one able to sell me bug spray. Whiskey Sour is a vodka drink. Happy Pizza is a drug (pot). “Local specialty” on the menu: tarantula. No safety regulations for anything (hence why I am now stuck at the top of one of the temples).

For a country that has endured such devastation, oppression, torture, and is in a perpetual quest for genuine rebirth, it is no wonder that things in Cambodia may feel a little off. But the people are warm and laid back and the country beautiful, even amid the lingering scars of war.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

PHNOM PENH PENSIONS/HOSTELS

OKAY Guesthouse
#3BE, R# 258, S/K Chaktomuk, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
okay.2001@hotmail.com
Tel: 855-12 300 804
Clean, very helpful staff, predictable hot water (for Cambodia budget lodging this is saying a lot!)
$5-$15

Sunday Guesthouse
Tel: 211623
97PH 141
Very helpful, friendly English speaking staff, good deal for the price
$5-$17

PHNOM PENH RESTAURANTS, SHOPS, ETC.

Camory Cookie Boutique
#167 Sisowath Quay
sales@camoryfoods.com
http://www.camoryfoods.com
Amazing cookies! Proceeds go to Cambodian orphanages

Amara Spa
Corner of Sisowath Quay and Street 110
spa@hotelcara.com
Great drinks and cafe outside, posh spa inside

Chow
At the Quay along Sisowath
http://www.chowcambodia.com
Chic bar, modern vibe, smokers welcome

Kmer Saravan
No. 16Eo, St Sotheraros (3)
vuthy_vann@yahoo.com
Best Kmer food I’ve had! Try the curry dishes and banana flower salad – wonderful!

Happy Herb Pizza
#345 St Preah Sisowath
Tel: 023 362 349
It is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Make sure to specify if you want your pizza Not Happy, Happy, or Very Happy.

SIEM REAP HOTELS (the town serving Angkor Wat Temples)
FCC Hotel, Siem Reap
If you’re looking to splurge:

The FCC properties in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are design-driven and luxurious.
http://www.fcccambodia.com

The Hotel De La Paix
The perfect place to indulge in a weekend of decadence or even just a mixed drink at the sexy bar downstairs.
http://www.hoteldelapaixangkor.com/index.php
$330 – $750/night

For budget-conscious digs:

Shadow of Angkor Guesthouse
Tel: 964774
353 Pokambor Ave
shadowofangkor@hotmail.com
This is where I stayed. A great location overlooking the river

Or check out these websites for more guesthouse/backpacking suggestions:

http://www.canbypublications.com
http://www.travelfish.org

THINGS TO DO – SIEM REAP

Le Tigre De Papier Cooking School
letigredepapier@hotmail.com
Bar St
Courses $12
A great way to get in touch with the culture, courses include a trip to the market

Kmer Kitchen Restaurant
The Alley
Tel 964154
Visited by Mick Jagger and with one of the best pumpkin coconut soups on the globe, this place should definitely be part of your visit to Siem Reap

Of course, while in Siem Reap, the main attraction is the Temple of Angkor Wat. They sell 1-day, 3-day and 1 week passes. Don’t bother with a tour, hire a tuk-tuk for about $10-$15 a day, buy a book, and go at your own pace.

Next stop… well, when I was originally writing this, it was “land” but now? Looks like it’s Hong Kong, baby.

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