We arrived in Siem Reap via the mini bus company by the name of Larryta. It was a smooth ride and I slept most of the way there. We used the service for our return trip back to Phnom Penh. What can I tell you about the company? The minibus holds up to 15 people but we were never at full capacity on either trip. From what we could tell from the schedule, buses leave about every 30 minutes starting from 6AM to 10PM.
Upon arrival we contacted our amazing Airbnb host, Sovong. He sent Pish, his friend and buisness partner who drives all of Sovong’s Airbnbs guests around in his very swanky tuk tuk. No lie, Pish’s tuk tuk was the first one we had ever taken and comparing it the ones we later took in Phnom Penh, Pish’s vehicle was by far more comfortable and well decorated. Not only that but Pish was such a safe driver! He was cautious and alert at all times and he was just a nice guy. Sovong and him both were just kind guys who were happy to talk to us and answer any questions we had during our stay and were a part of the why we enjoyed Siem Reap as much as we did.
Upon arrival, Sovong met with us on the balcony and helped us plan a lot of day to day excursions which isn’t something that had ever happened before with a host but Sovong had so much information and was just so happy to help us truly enjoy Siem Reap. We had kind of splurged on this listing because we had been pretty budget conscious in our other Cambodian accommodations and we were really happy with our choice. The place was beauitful and massive! We were so surprised by the spaciousness of it and there was a hammock in our bedroom, so how could we not be delighted. The balcony was also another added luxury we had not expected. We spent many of our nights out on the balcony with drinks in our hand.
After relaxing for a bit in the apartment we spent a bit of time wandering the streets. The beauty and tranquility of Siem Reap was immediately obvious just from our quick wanderings. We had to be back at our apartment by 4:30. Pish met us there and drove us straight to Angkor Wat to see the sunset from atop Phnom Bakheng. It did feel like the majority of tourists decided to come for sunset at the exact same time which at first distracted me but then the beauty was still captivating once the sun started its slow descent downward. The ruins upon first sight are impactful. It feels insane that with a measly 20 dollar pass humans, mere humans, are able to climb all over these precious pieces of the past. Especially coming from an archiving background in university libraries where I constantly making sure I had gloves on when handling delicate material. Gah, I mean what can I do? I walked and climbed carefully.
We had dinner per the request of Sovong and Pish at a local place called Lillypop. It was damn delicous. It was also just so well priced which made us crazy delighted. Feeling as though you can order whatever you want and not break the bank is intoxicating. And then you literally become intoxicated because drinks are costing you a dollar a pop. Everyday of our vacation I had a fruity drink with alcohol in it but the ones at Lillypop might have been my favorite because you could really taste the fruit and you could really taste the alcohol. Yum. We ordered so much that we had to takeaway some boxes but the beautiful thing about Airbnb is you got a kitchen to warm up your treats for later.
The bed was so comfortable we slept like babies! Unfortunately/Fortunately, Pish was scheduled to pick us up at 4:30AM to see the sunrise and enjoy a full day exploring the temples of Angkor Archaeological Park. By golly gee, it truly was a full day of exploring. We started out at the Angkor Wat temple gathered around the lake directly beneath the temple with about 100 other individuals. The sunrise was just as beautiful as the sunset. We left directly after the sunset to explore more. Pish met us at his tuk tuk with breakfast ready for us. It was such a kind gesture. It was a simple but delicious egg sandwich reminiscent of a banh mi.
The day was incredibly long but filled with beauty, calmness, and awe. I felt so honored to walk through the temples of Angkor. The history is palpable, so much change has occurred over the centuries it has stood. The art and design of the temples are memerizing. It is hard to deem favorites because all of the temples are truly beautiful but we admired the Hindu temples to a greater extent than the Buddhist temples. Among our favorites were…
We ended the night eating at one of the fancy upscale resturants in Siem Reap but wished we would have just returned to Lillypop because food was much more flavorful there.
We gave ourselves the luxury of sleeping in a bit after our 12 hours of exploring but were picked up at 9:30AM by Pish because we were headed over to the Cambodian Cooking Cottage to take the Champey Cooking class. Unlike the class we took in Hanoi, we weren’t the only people who came to take the class. In total 5 others came and once we all had gathered we left to tour the food markets. Honestly, we didn’t learn as much we did about the local produce and meat as we did in Hanoi. The chef leading the tour wasn’t speaking at a volume level at which many us in the back could here. The whole experience of touring the market was uncomfortable, frankly. A woman on the tour with us from Belgium spent much of the tour talking very invasive up close pictures of women working in the market. It didn’t sit well with me at all and I kick myself now for not saying anything. In my opinion, as a tourist you must ask for permission before you invade someones personal space to take a photograph and it would be kind to offer them compensation for their time.
Returning to the cooking class venue was a welcome relief. We all donned aprons and hat caps which I thought were unneccesary but whatever. We started cooking right away and the set up was actually really nice. Every person had an individual cooking station and all materials were laid out in a really convinent way. And instead of holding our hand through the process the chef would demonstrate all the steps and complete the steps and then let us have at it. Pretty cool.
Our last night in Siem Reap was spent restuarant hopping and bar hopping in and around Pub Street. We also hit up the night market which had some really gorgeous products. We bought some really detailed carved magnets for ourselves and some friends actually. Buying souvenirs isn’t really something that we do. When contemplating what to buy I feel like a small war erupts in my head. Do I want it? Can you carry it? Too much money? Blah…blah…blah. Back to Pub Street, we found some really great food spots but we also found the pit of hell called YOLO bar where we sat for about 30 minutes doing anthropologic research. Eventually we found a very cute little reggae spot nearby that played really good songs and made really great drinks and we relaxed there for a couple of hours. It was a great way to end our time in Siem Reap.