Thoughts on a week+ in Siem Reap?

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Jan 9th, 2019, 12:53 PM
  #1
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Thoughts on a week+ in Siem Reap?

Hey folkses.... I would welcome input for planning some extra time in Siem Reap.<br /><br />We fly into Siem Reap 7 days prior to a tour - we want time to recover from North America jet lag and then start the booked tour on our Day 8. The tour includes Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, as well as a bit of exploring Siem Reap over 3 days (followed by a Mekong river cruise into Vietnam). Wondering if there are options to consider for about 5 days within reach of Siem Reap, or should we just stay put and soak in the experience? We do appreciate spending more concentrated time in a place, but not sure if Siem Reap is good for that kind of "longer" 10 day total stay. Only so many pagodas are interesting, with more listed on the river cruise. <br /><br />If it helps with suggestions, we enjoy cultural history, people, food, snorkeling and... sleep. I'm happy to answer questions to get a sense of what may/not work. Thank you in advance, grateful for the info already gleaned on this site via other Asia threads on Cambodia especially.<br />
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Jan 10th, 2019, 12:18 AM
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There's more to do in Siem Reap than temples and pagodas; zip line, museum. ATV tours, bike tours, ultralight tours, tours of tonle sap lake, cooking classes horseback riding, etc. Lots of nice restaurants. Frangipani spa is wonderful, as are the little shops on Kandall street (I love Garden of Desire jewelry) .

If you want to wander further afield, you can head up north and see the Koh Ker (pronounced Ko Kay) temples. They are not nearly as touristed as the Angkor Wat complex. You can take a day tour, but staying overnight at Mom's guesthouse is an adventure. You can book through Seven Candles Guesthouse even if you aren't staying there. https://www.sevencandlesguesthouse.com/tour-packages

You can also head south to Kep or one of the other beach towns. Gorge on fresh fish and crab and stay on the beach.
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Jan 10th, 2019, 06:44 AM
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if you are thinking "recovery", could be good to soak/stay within Siem Reap. Probably get a few days of cheap/good Khmer traditional massage to loose your muscles before the temple "hikes", visit the local museums Angkor National Museum/Landmine Museum, or local craft shops/food places along Pokambor Ave/Siem Reap River.
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Jan 10th, 2019, 07:14 AM
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That seems rather a long time for SR, although there are enough temples to occupy several days. Where will the tour take you? Does it include Battambang? Visiting Kep/Kompot would also be worth investigating.
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Jan 10th, 2019, 10:00 AM
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We spent a week in Siem Reap and spent almost all of our time visiting temples. Even so, we didn't see all of them. You might want to pick up a copy of Dawn Rooney's book: Angkor, a guide to Cambodia's Wondrous Temples before you go.
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Jan 10th, 2019, 10:06 AM
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We just returned from five nights in Siem Reap, I am getting ready to post the trip report blog link but it was more than enough for us. We were not big fans of Siem Reap though we thoroughly enjoyed our time with Ponheary Ly and volunteering at her foundation. Hordes of tour groups at the temples were the biggest drawback.
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Jan 10th, 2019, 10:37 PM
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10 days would be way too long for Siem Reap . The main temples will take a couple of full days and maybe add another for some of the ones further afield (unless of course you REALLY like temple and don’t mind the hordes of Chinese group tours which descend on Angkor every day).

Some of the more remote floating villages on Tonle Sapa are nice to visit but avoid the ones closer to SR.

Battambang would be nice for a few days for a change of pace. It is only around 3-4 hours by bus, more by boat, less by taxi. A lot quieter than SR it has some nice sights around the town some to visit around in the surrounding countryside. 5 days there would be a little too much perhaps.

You don’t mention Phnom Penh but maybe you are visting on your cruise? If not, I would definitely consider a few days there. It is one of m6 favourite cities in Asia so 5 days would be fine for me but you could also consider combin8ngbwith Battambang e.g. fly to PP from SR, spend 3 nights there, bus to Battambang and then on to SR.

I also like Kampot but it is a long way from SR and getting there would involve a very long bus journey from SR or a flight to PP and a taxi from the airport to Kampot, a 2-3 hour ride. It is however a very pleasant riverside town with a lot to see in the surrounding countryside.

Many of these places are covered in the Cambodian section of our blog https://accidentalnomads.com/category/cambodia/ . For some reason I never got around to posting about Angkor!
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Jan 11th, 2019, 09:35 AM
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I am so glad we visited before the hordes of Chinese tourists invaded!
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Jan 11th, 2019, 05:25 PM
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Yea for Fodorites... thank you all for your replies -- so appreciated!! I hope you won't mind a group reply?!?

@ Icuy - yours were the opening comments and got me looking for Siem Reap listings of activities on line. I'm not sure I'd do another zip line, to be honest. We did that in Costa Rica a couple of years ago and that was ... an "experience". We noted a silk farm in the SR area that could be interesting. Any comments on that? Thank you!
@ bagspacker - ya, you caught my drift of jet lag recovery! We are inclined to take it easy since the tour will be keeping us busy... some poolside time would be fine while we look for massages and eat local as much as we can.
@ Thursdays - we will spend 2 days at Angkor Wat on the tour, as well as seeing more temples along the river cruise. The tour goes from SR to Kampong Cham (not that I know these locations, except by checking a map!) to board the Mekong River cruise. So kinda think we will have lots of temple & pagoda exposure. Will look into Battambang.
@ Kathie - found the book on Amazon, will check local library too. thanks! How long has it been since you were in this part of the world?
@ odie1 - we *might* be able to be helpful with Ponheary Ly - great idea!! Look forward to your trip blog. Question, what else besides the tourist hordes kept you from liking SR? Not really looking forward to that horde thing, and happy to keep to our tour group days vs going on our own. We are apparently going to a school to "enjoy an Apsara show" as well. Curious about that...
@ crellston - appreciate the tip about floating villages closer to SR. You also mention Battambang, will take a look! Very helpful feedback for Kampot. You asked about PP, and you guess correctly, stopping there on the river cruise, for 2 days.

I realized after posting I did not mention we very much enjoy nature, and noticed a bird sanctuary listed in a few places... although it may not be the right time of year for us. I also wanted to ask about dressing for cultural sensitivity... we know about covering knees and shoulders.... would it be a good idea to visit a tailor in SR? We will later be into Singapore, Thailand and back to SR to fly home, a little over 4 weeks total. Thanks for your time with these (and maybe more?) questions.
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Jan 12th, 2019, 09:34 AM
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outandabout- I think we are definitely more nature, small village people than city folk. I was not expecting Siem Reap to be so large and congested-I guess I did so much more research on our Myanmar trip that I did not do enough on Siem Reap. It is not that we did not like it but after our time in Myanmar, it was lackluster I guess. We had some delicious food while we were there, and enjoyed the cultural aspects of it, just the amounts of tourists got us.
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Jan 12th, 2019, 11:12 AM
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I know what you mean, odie1. Maybe if you had been to SR first, impressions would be different. I read your report on Myanmar and SR - glad you had such a very special time, esp in Myanmar. I've been on the Foundation website and chatted with the 7 Candles website, we are certainly interested in connecting, want to do a bit more research. For any Canadians or Brits reading, donations to the Foundation are also tax deductible, not just in the US. Thanks for your replies and info, odie1. I bet my DH and I would enjoy traveling with you! v
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Jan 12th, 2019, 12:35 PM
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Out and about, I'm glad you fund the Dawn Rooney book. It will enhance your visit to the temples. It has been a couple of years since I was last in the area. SE Asia is my favorite part of the world, and we typically visit somewhere in the area annually. Unfortunately, the last two year's trips were cancelled due to medical problems. I am looking forward to returning soon.

Odie, I can imagine that the contrast between Burma and Siem Reap made Siem Reap seem even worse to you, I'm sure. I've been traveling to SE Asia since the mid-1980s, and the area has changed a lot in response to tourism, and in some cases, over-tourism. Still, I consider the Temples of Angkor to be one of the wonders of the world.
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Jan 12th, 2019, 03:54 PM
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outandabout-I can't speak highly enough about Ponheary and her incredibly selfless work-we were overwhelmed by it and can assure it will become one of our regular yearly donations.
We are going to lose our travel companion soon-off to college in 2020. You might just be looking for new travel buddies!

Kathie-The temples were nothing short of extraordinary, it was just difficult to appreciate them. Even from the outside the mass of buses, cars and tuk-tuks, was extraordinary. The only exception was for Angkor early in the morning, following sunrise, around the one side, we had it almost to ourselves and that was bliss. I think that was also part of our drive to go to Myanmar now, before it is wrecked by the tour groups.
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Jan 14th, 2019, 06:17 PM
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My research continues.... and for anyone who travels, you know how time-consuming it is! Builds anticipation though and that is part of the experience, imo.
I think we are going to stick with staying in SR until the tour starts and just get to know the area better and get past jet lag. The pace will pick up with the tour. We want to do things like a silk farm tour and I've found a water-lily farm that creates fabrics also combined with silk. Sounds fascinating. Bird watching at the nature reserve, a day trip to do some trekking north of SR, also get to the lake area that is not immediately outside of SR, and ... looking to maybe connect with the expat community. We have lived overseas so have some ideas about that. Found a good website about the dangers of orphanage work, they list some SR NGOs but not Ponherary's foundation -- maybe that's not a bad thing though.
Still open to input, figuring out how to take money, what kind of money, how much money... what kind of tipping is appropriate, and sorting through the web of comments re culturally sensitive clothing styles. Even on the Cambodian tourism page, they talk about it, but also show at least one picture where a lady is wearing a tank top. I thought that was a big no, but then maybe their definition of a tank top means the very skinny straps and low cut, form-fitting kind of thing that is more for younger ones than me anyway.
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Jan 14th, 2019, 11:48 PM
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Us Dollars are the main currency of Cambodia. Take clean, crisp bills with no rips or markings. There is a local currency, but it is mainly used for giving change. Even the ATMs spit out dollars! Check with your bank, as some don't allow use of their cards in Cambodian ATM's. One of mine says it's a "high fraud zone", so I usually have 2 ATM cards. I usually take lots of 20s and 5s as 100 dollar bills can be had to get cashed. I wear longer capris and tee shirts or skirts in very lightweight fabrics. I would not wear spaghetti straps or tight, formfitting stuff (even if I could!!), especially at the temples. Just keep in mind that the Cambodians are pretty modest, even in the heat and humidity..

The Ponheary Ly Foundation does not do orphanages. Their focus is education. They adopt neglected government schools, train teachers, set up English programs, libraries and breakfast programs at the schools, provide housing for the country kids when they need to be nearer to high schools and college, and award scholarships. It's a good organization; not all SR NGOs are.
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Jan 14th, 2019, 11:51 PM
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By far the main currency used in Cambodia is the US $. The Cambodian Riel is often received as change and can be used for small purchases. Both currencies are readily available from ATMs.

Cambodia is a very cheap country by most western standards. Food is cheap and good. A good guide is the "beer index" a glass of beer in Cambodia costs around 25-50 cents, double that of neighbouring Vietnam. Street food stall offer meals between $1 -3 and local type restaurants, $5_10 - hotel and for more upmarket restaurants triple that ( although IME, whilst the surroundings maybe be nicer, the same isn’t necessarily true of the food)

Tipping is not the custom in Cambodia so I would tend to go with the local practice and not tip. The exception might be tuk tuk drivers who have a pretty hard time of it. The market is very competitive as there are so many of them. They drop there prices just to get business. Many rent their tuk tuk by the day ( sometimes from the local "mafia") and once they have paid the rent, fuel etc. There is not a lot left over to feed the family.

I wouldn’t worry about dress code too much but visitors do occasionally get turned away at the temple entrance if wearing vest or singlet type tops, short shorts or skirts. Why anyone would want to risk the inevitable sunburn in 30c plus heat and blazing sunshine wearing that sort of stuff, I really don’t know! Hat, sunglasses, and a minimum of a tee shirt covering the shoulders are pre-requisites as far as I am concerned!

A good investment is the "Kramar" which you can find in the market for a few dollars. A large piece of tasselled material, usually red and white or black and white. It Makes a great skirt, headscarf, shawl, sheet. Excellent for covering up for temples or the sun. Also makes agreat towel if the need arises.
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Jan 15th, 2019, 06:23 AM
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I'm with crellston and lcuy regarding sensible clothes for the tropics. Long trousers and tops that at least cover your shoulders in lightweight natural fibers. I take a folding umbrella to use as a sunshade, as I hate sunscreen. When it comes to "appropriate" I imagine that that battle has been lost in SR. I haven't been there since 2004, but I expect the same thing has happened as in Luang Prabang. LP in 2001 - very few tourists, all in appropriate dress. 2004 - somewhat more tourists, only one dressed inappropriately (female with strappy and mostly backless top). 2010 - hordes of tourists, many inappropriately dressed.
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Jan 16th, 2019, 09:01 AM
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Thanks so much, this really helps. Money is a tough question, I know, as it will always depend on... well, a lot of things! We are not interested in bargaining down to the very cheapest price, nor are we impressed with rip offs. Sometimes we have engaged in a bargaining process and in the end pay the full amount, depending on context. Which is also not completely trustworthy either but we would rather err on the side of more generous than stingy with others. Im sure we are not alone in this approach either.
@Icuy, really like the idea of a second ATM card, brilliant. And ATMs produce USD?! Definitely tourism. And ya, didn't think that the Ponheary Foundation was about orphanages, sorry if I gave that impression. Appreciate your comments, as you say - being an NGO does not somehow guarantee integrity!
@crellston - great feedback, thanks so much! We would really like to get into "real food" and high price tags aren't a guarantee. I'm not a beer drinker at all, so that will be lost on me, but not my DH. Water and ... any suggestions?? I drink alcohol, just never developed a taste for beer. =P Im sure with you on the hat, sunglasses and was thinking of taking an umbrella more for sunshade (like thursdaysd!). Will look for the krama, and not on eBay.
@thursdaysd - we do travel with more of the technical wear, I've sometimes taken jeans with me just because I'm so comfortable in them and air con can get chilly! Although I'm not planning on jeans for this trip. Do you happen to know anything about water lily fiber? Wish there was a way that buying it benefited those who actually make it. https://www.travelfish.org/sight_pro...siem_reap/1939 Wouldn 't you know it, one reference says the main water lily farm is in Battambang. Never say never!

We took a whack of mosquito repellent to Costa Rica and brought it home again, this time we are inclined to buy it locally as needed. Does this sound reasonable?
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Jan 16th, 2019, 09:06 AM
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"Water and ... any suggestions??" Cambodia is one of the few places in Asia where it is possible to get reasonable wine at a decent price.

I don’t recall a water lily farm in Battambang but there is a lot to see in the area.
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Jan 16th, 2019, 09:12 AM
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Vino works! will let you know if we get there and and lotus farm.
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