Note: If you’re wondering why we did not do wrap-ups for Thailand and Malaysia yet, it’s because we are planning on returning to both countries towards the end of our SE Asia tour.
Days spent here: 7 (February 6-12, 2009)
Prices: We’ve heard a lot of backpackers complain that Cambodia was expensive relative to the rest of SE Asia, and we agree, though we didn’t feel it was outrageously so. In Siem Reap, our hotel (Mandalay Inn) was one of the nicest we stayed in, and one of the cheapest. However, food was on the pricey side (US$3-8 for mains) and the pass to visit Temples of Angkor was definitely expensive (US$40 for a 3-day pass), plus it costs an additional US$12 to hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you into the park (for a full day). In Phnom Penh, our accommodation was moderately priced but not that nice (we paid US$14 for a room without a window)…we got less for our money here. Food was on the spendy side as well.
Places we would happily visit again: We LOVED the town of Siem Reap, and the temples just speak for themselves. Even beyond the majesty of Angkor Wat, the town itself was really charming and the people were so nice. Phnom Penh, on the other hand, did not share the same charm; it was sort of a generic SE Asian capital city (in our limited experience of it), and there were a lot of Western tourists, which created a limited set of interactions between foreigners and the local people.
Places we want to see next time: Kratie, where you can see river dolphins, and Sihanoukville, the one big Cambodian beach destination.
Food: Khmer food is good! It has the richness of Thai food but the freshness of Vietnamese food. We sort of tired of it by the end of our visit, but we basically ate Khmer dishes for an entire week so I don’t think that reflects badly on the food. The one standout dish was “green soup” (not terribly descriptive, but that’s what the menu called it), which we had at a food stall in Phnom Penh.
Dust: It’s freakin’ dusty in Siem Reap! When you’re in the back of a tuk-tuk on the way to the temples, do as the locals do and tie a checkered Cambodian scarf around your face to keep out the dust and exhaust. You can buy these for about US$1 at the local markets.
Cambodia wins the “most family members on a motorbike award”: It is VERY common to see an entire family of four or five on a motorbike in Cambodia. The typical configuration is this: oldest child (usually a toddler) in between the driver’s (usually Dad’s) legs, second oldest child wedged between Mom and Dad, and a baby in Mom’s arms. These people grow up on motorbikes so they are very comfortable with the arrangement, though it is very shocking to us safety-conscious Americans.
Check out our Cambodia Flickr album