Cambodia is a fascinating destination and its tourism industry is booming over the years. There are many reasons to visit Cambodia, such as (1) rich history and culture, (2) travelling is affordable and enjoy luxury at an incredibly low price, (3) friendly locals, (4) experience the laid back and simple life.
As a female solo backpacker, I have only stayed for 4 days in Siem Reap (the most visited city in Cambodia) as it is safer compared to other cities. I do not want to be too adventurous since Cambodia is a poor country. Oh yes, I bought the flight ticket to Cambodia TWICE in the past and wasted them for some reasons. Finally, I am here.
Seeing Sunset at Phnom Bakheng
One of the romantic things to do in Cambodia is to see the sunrise and sunset with your love in Angkor (although I am doing it alone again). I rented a Tuk Tuk for USD$5 for a return trip to Phnom Bakheng for the sunset.
The sunset was stunning but unfortunately, the place was too crowded. I was not allowed to get to the top of the hill because it was overloaded. After a disappointing experience on the sunset, I decided not to see the sunrise on the next day. I would rather sleep for a few more hours than to squeeze myself in the crowd.
Angkor Wat and some other temples in Angkor
Angkor Wat is the most well-known sight in Cambodia. Some said you have not visited Cambodia if you have not been to Angkor Wat! 😉
Visiting Angkor Wat is a very expensive thing to do in Cambodia. It cost USD$20 for a one-day Angkor pass which allows me to enter Angkor Wat as well as other temples in Angkor Archaeological Park. In addition, I rented a Tuk Tuk for USD$15 for a full day. It means the driver pick me up and fetch me to all the popular temples in Angkor; wait for me there and send me back to the hostel once done. I spent about 9 hours (from 8 am to 5 pm) here.
There is a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist elements in Angkor Wat temple which is quite special. It was originally built as a Hindu temple and then converted to Buddhist Temple.
There are many temples in Angkor Archaeological Park, but not all of them are well-known. If you hire a Tuk Tuk, you don’t have to worry about this as your driver will know which one to go.
I am less interested in history and temple so I am not good at appreciating them. Furthermore, the temples were overcrowded and the weather was too hot. I was lucky that I didn’t buy the 3-days Angkor Pass because I do not want to spend another day here!
*Recommended!* Tonle Sap – Kompong Khleang Floating Village
I joined a half day tour with Beyond Unique Escapes to Kompong Khleang, and this is the best thing I have done in Cambodia! It is a memorable tour although this is the most expensive activity in my trip – cost USD$36.
Kompong Khleang is a small floating village in Cambodia, located about 55km east of Siem Reap town. This is a quiet and simple village and is non-commercial at all as I did not see other tourists besides our tour group (8 people including me).
The tour guide told us some interesting information about Cambodia: About 65% of Cambodians are farmers while another 35% living in the city. It sounds to me that many Cambodians do not like Vietnamese because too many of them have migrated to Cambodia, in addition, their culture and behaviour are different which is a surprise to me. For example, Vietnamese like to wake up early and speak loud while Cambodians are more laid back.
Besides, most of the people living in the floating village are very simple. They don’t really need money, instead, they fish and plant rice in the wet season, and their harvest would be enough for a year. They have to move house 4-6 times a year when the water level is high. Sometimes, the traders will come and buy their harvest. When the farmer/fisherman have money, they buy gold in the city instead of putting money in the bank!
If I have never experienced the city life, perhaps I would love this kind of lifestyle. But I can never adapt to this, although I dream about living in a small and peaceful village with my love. I am a contradictory person. I love peace, yet I love prosperity at the same time.
Explore Siem Reap by foot
I did not have any plan on my fourth day in Siem Reap. I walked around aimlessly. Rest, walk, rest, rest, walk, rest… a relaxing day. The only complaint is the awfully hot and dry weather (and this is winter in Cambodia!). Usually the January’s weather in Cambodia is quite cool, but unfortunately, the climate has changed this year.
I walked to some touristy shopping places such as Pub Street, Psa Chaa (old market), Angkor Night Market but couldn’t found anything to buy. Anyway, they are close to each other and nice for a walk. I also sat on a bench along the river for quite a while listening to the music. Suddenly, I felt my tears. Actually, I enjoy this moment – it is not that I am sad, but I think this is a moment belongs to me. I will forever remember this moment in my heart. Ok – enough emo.
Cambodia is a poor country, but I see the joy of simplicity from the locals. My auntie told me that this is how my mother live when she was a kid. Perhaps the life is less complicated at that time.
Massage and fish spa
Spending in Siem Reap is not cheap compared to other cities in Cambodia, or in South East Asia. This is because Siem Reap is too popular and depends heavily on the tourism industry. Still, most of the things and services are cheaper than many places in the world, especially doing massage and fish spa. I did a nice one-hour full body massage and fish spa… it was fantastic.
The photo below shows the price of doing massage starting from $4 USD. Actually, it is not the cheapest massage that I have found in Siem Reap, but I chose to do massage at this shop because it looks nice and more private. The price for doing fish spa is about $1 to $3 USD.
*Spending of my 4-day trip in Siem Reap*
Use USD$ in Cambodia. Although Cambodia has its own currency (KHR) but the value is too small and most probably you will not be able to find it at the currency exchange place. Most of the shops accept USD$ (including Tuk Tuk driver) so it is alright to bring only USD$.
The spending for my 4-day trip in Siem Reap is $250 USD, including a return flight ticket (from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia), accommodation, activities and daily expenses. It was a semi-budget trip.
I stayed in an 8-person dorm room hostel that includes free breakfast and airport pickup. Sometimes I eat street food and sometimes I dine in an expensive restaurant (honestly, I don’t like Cambodian food but I like some interesting snacks that I find in the market). I also do many activities in Cambodia as written above. Staying 4 days in Siem Reap is just nice. So I really enjoy my trip with the price that I paid.