Siem Reap, Cambodia
Day 1 (25th March 2011)
This is my blog entry of our 4 days 3 nights trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We took the Air Asia Go package for RM1139. Below are the details:
- Hotel (Prince D Angkor Hotel) + Flight = RM865
- Transfer from airport to hotel = RM12
- Transfer from hotel to airport = RM12
- Angkor Wat 1 day tour (small circuit) = RM161
- Tonle Sap floating village morning tour = RM89
We arrived in Siem Reap around 7:45AM, just as scheduled. I was impressed with the airport. It was modern, the staffs were friendly and it was of modest size (for a town like Siem Reap).
Baggage pickup was a breeze as our flight was the only flight that arrived that morning. On our way out some of us converted our US Dollars to the Cambodian Riel. The exchange rate was around USD1 = 4000 Riel. I didn’t change any as I’ve been told the US Dollar is very much in use here (due to the fluctuations of the Cambodian Riel).
Near the exit, I spotted an Axiata Hello mobile service provider shop. Axiata is a big Malaysian mobile brand, hence I walked over to see what packages they were offering. Turns out the prepaid plan (USD 10) had good value for money. I was mainly interested in the data plan as I’m a facebook and twitter on-the-go kinda guy. They have a prepaid Blackberry plan where the daily data plan is USD0.75 for 10MB. I signed up for that one. Activation took around 5-10 minutes and right after that I was able to tweet and facebook immediately.
We were greeted at the entrance of the airport by a tour guide from Seagull Tourist, Mr Thun Soknin. A very polite and friendly Cambodian. He explained to us basic Cambodian culture, 2 of which I shall point out here:
- Cambodian women do not shake hands with men, they only do the Sampeah
- The Sampeah has 4 different “respect levels”, from friends or peers (at chest level), to adults or parents (at mouth level), to Buddhist monks (at forehead level) and finally to god or Buddha (above your head)
It is interesting to note that Malay custom has a similar concept when performing a “sembah” (similar to Sampeah) to royalty. For example, in the Perak royal court, the sembah at mouth level is done to “Raja bergelar”, the one at forehead level is performed to “Raja Muda” and the one above your head is performed for the Sultan.
Our ride to the hotel took us about 20 minutes. We stayed at the Prince D’Angkor, which later we discovered was conveniently located right in the middle of Siem Riep town. After settling in, we explored the town. We started off on foot. The initial impression that I had was that it was quite similar to a town in south Thailand (e.g. Koh Samui, Phuket etc). Tuk-Tuk (their taxi) was everywhere and it’s reasonably cheap. A single ride within the town costs USD2 for 4 people.
Since it was quite early in the morning (it was 10 something), we went to a local coffee shop for breakfast. We went to Blue Pumpkin (highly recommended by travel books) near Psar Chas and opposite Pub Street. They serve a wide variety of pastries, savoury and snacks, and, most importantly, they have good coffee.
After breakfast, we visited Psar Chas. (Psar is the Cambodian word for “market”, which is pronounced the same way as the Malay word “pasar”, which means the same thing). Psar Chas reminded me of Ben Thanh Market in Saigon, except that Psar Chas is slightly smaller than its Vietnamese counterpart. They have all sorts of goodies, from clothing material, shoes, bags, fake CDs, everything that you expect to find a normal asian flea market.
After that, we explored the town further. We walked along the Siem Reap river. The weather was sunny, but it’s not as hot as Malaysia. We saw a few in-town temples, and we ended up visiting the Siem Reap Angkor Museum. The entrance fee to the museum was USD12, with an additional USD3 for an “audio guide”. The entrance fee was quite high, but it was worth it. The museum was well designed and coupled with the “audio guide”, it’s just like a modern museum in Singapore or London. I was impressed with it. Good job by the local government in investing in such a state-of-the-art museum.
After spending nearly 2 hours at the museum, we went to have lunch at a local Khmer restaurant in town. It was one of the shops recommended by my travel book. In terms of price, it was a “$ sign”, meaning it’s quite cheap. On average, all the Khmer restaurants that we went costs USD2 – USD3 per meal, which to me was very cheap indeed. Of course there are restaurants that charge USD3 – USD5 per meal (“$$ sign”), but I find the “$ sign” is just as good if not tastier compared to the pricier restaurants.
After lunch, we went for a fish massage. The fish massage is a big hit for foreigners, but to us Malaysians is nothing new. However, the fish massage is very cheap here (USD2 for 20 mins), and we just had to give it a shot. After that, we headed back to the hotel to get some rest.
Around 7:15PM, we took a tuk-tuk to Koulen 2 restaurant for a dinner and Apsara dance show. There were a number of Apsara dance shows in town, but we were told the one at Koulen was the best. It was a big restaurant with a buffet that costs USD12. The dance lasted around 1 hour with various types of traditional Khmer dances, with the Apsara dance being the highlight of the show. For your information, the ladies of the ancient Khmer empire were topless, meaning the ancient Apsara dancers were topless too. Modern day Apsara dancers would wear a tight top so as to preserve their modesty, at the same time retain the elegance of the dance. After the show, we went up on stage to take a close up photo with the beautiful dancers.
Around 9:45PM, we headed to the night market to check out the goodies on sold there. We saw a number of arts and crafts products, and a few massage parlors. In the end, all of us took the leg massage for USD2. It was so cheap that I gave the masseuse a USD1 tip. It was, by far, the best leg massage I’ve ever had in Asia.
The market closed around 11PM, and after that we went for supper at a cafe called The Nest which happens to be near our hotel. It was a fancy looking cafe ($$ sign) with comfy looking bed-chairs. My friend told me it’s a similar concept to a cafe in in Bali. We took our time to relax and enjoy the Khmer hospitality, which I have to say rivals the world-famous Thai hospitality.