It was our final day in Cambodia, and we wanted to try something new this trip. Our initial plan was to cycle around Angkor Wat, but in the end we decided to hire a tuk tuk for the day because of the enormity of that place.
Not to be disappointed, Ian found this great cycling tour, organized by an NGO called Grasshopper Adventures.
Its an organization that offers cycling tours around Asia, and part of the proceeds will be donated to the local community. Their equipment are well-maintained with quality mountain bicycles. Plus, on top of having an experienced tour guide accompany us, we also had a bicycle mechanic to follow us behind in case of any mishaps that needs to be fixed, so we were in good hands.
We opted to go for the half-day tour in the countryside for USD 35 per person. Normally, you have to book a few days in advanced via email, but lucky for us, we got our hotel to give them a call and they managed to book a place for us the next day.
So there we were at the bike shop, at around 7pm. We quickly registered ourselves and made the payment for the tour, before heading off for a quick bite next door while waiting for the rest of the group. There were about 8 of us in this tour, and we went along with a group of Filipino tourists.
The tour started off with a short briefing of the trip; this would be a 30km trip, and we would be cycling around the countryside and the villages. Of course, we will also make a few stops to say hello to the villagers and enjoy the sights, and they also talked about safety procedures.
Throughout the trip, I was mostly surprised with how flat the grounds were all throughout the area. Like seriously, this could be the Asian version of Holland because there were no inclines or hills anywhere in sight! I could see plains of fields from miles away, so it was a very pleasant ride.
Most of the time, I saw a lot of cows and cow pat everywhere. Also, there were a lot of stray dogs all around, but they seem to be well taken care of, considering their shiny coats and nourished bodies. But then again, they could belong to somebody, its just that the owner didn't bother to buy them a collar.
Ugh, it was dog heaven for me. So many dogs everywhere <3
We cycled for about half an hour into the countryside, when our tour guide made a stop at the home of a local family of farmers. It was the first time I saw how Eggplants were grown, and there were chili plants all around too.
The house was a tiny shack of aluminium, and before we entered their property, our tour guide taught us how to say hello Chomreabsuor ជំរាបសួរ in Cambodian.
At the time of our visit, the family of three, including a couple and their teenage daughter were out working in the fields, pulling out weeds. The family dog was out there as well, taking a long quiet nap, before getting up, debating on whether he should go back to sleep or not, and went back to his peaceful slumber.
Our guide explained to us about the schooling system in Cambodia; education is free around, but after high school, students have to pay for their own college fees. However, some of the young folks are forced to work as more hands are needed to bring in the money for survival, which is why you see a lot of children hanging around the tourist spots to sell souvenirs. Its pretty sad, really.
Our guide showing us how the locals get their water. I was very surprised that until today, they still use such an old fashioned way to retrieve fresh water. Also, the water isn't safe for drinking, so the only way you can drink it is to boil it first.
We thanked the family for showing us their home and our tour guide stayed behind a bit to pass them some donation from the proceeds.
As we passed fields of rice plantations and more homes, we came across a woman cutting leaves. To us Malaysians, these leaves looks like Pandan leaves, a fragrant plant which we use for desserts and air fresheners.
Funnily enough, the Cambodians also call it Pandan leaves, except these leaves are ENORMOUS and they're thick with sharp thorns on the edges. There's no smell from the leaves either.
The lady was busy cutting the thorns off the pandan leaves before taking them out to dry, which will later be used for basket weaving. Its quite a laborious job, and you can see all the cuts and scratches on her hands. When I asked why couldn't she use a pair of gloves. she simply said its because the gloves tend to catch onto the thorns, so its very troublesome to use it. She's quite used to the cuts now.
According to our guide, the pandan leaves are grown almost everywhere and it doesn't really belong to anyone. Usually when the locals have some free time and need to extra cash, they would cut out some leaves and use them to weave baskets and other stuff.
Later on during the trip, we stopped at a local marketplace among the village. Honestly, being in the dirtiest part of Malaysia's wet market, I thought I could stomach anything. But the place was just plain nasty.
As we looked around the place, I saw a woman sitting on a stall, with one side selling vegetables, and directly next to it, some questionable pork, covered in flies. There was lots of waste everywhere, and flies all around. I wasn't very comfortable.
So our guide stopped by this stall that was selling fried stuff. I was quite weary about eating street food around here, but nonetheless, the food was fresh off the wok so how bad can it be?
It wasn't at all. The Pisang Goreng (fried banana) was pretty good! I was quite happy to know that the locals enjoy that stuff too. Just that their technique is to flatten an individual banana before covering it in batter and sesame seeds and fry.
We also tried some fried sweet potato as well, and we didn't pay a single cent as everything was all paid for by our tour. But in case you're curious, one pisang goreng costs RM0.50 each.
Here you can see above a woman selling fish paste.Its mostly fermented meat, pulverized into pulp, before selling it to the public. The smell was horrendous, yet people were asking to take a sniff at it before making a purchase.
Our tour guide said that to them, it may smell bad, but it tastes like heaven.
I think I'll stick to my Durian, thank you very much.
The fruits and vegetable side was ok, but the meat section... Let's say the sight of animal gut and head is a normality, on top of the usual cuts and flies. I quickly got outta there as soon as I could.
Our final stop on our cycling tour was to hang out at this Lotus farm. It was beautiful! I saw water lilies covering miles of land. I've never seen so many in my life.
Our tour guide brought fruits such as Longan, Bananas, and Mango for us to eat is this little hut above the waters. He also ordered fried eel and frog as a dare for us visitors.
Jokes' on him! Because you never challenge a Chinese to an adventurous meat challenge. I've eaten those things before and I actually like frog leg. It tastes oddly like a combo of chicken and fish.
Our tour finally ended by lunchtime as we cycled for another half an hour until we reached the bicycle shop. Exhausted and hot, we were all greeted with a serving of cold towels and fresh, cold, coconut juice. Such excellent service!
On top of that, we also got to keep the water bottle provided for our bicycles as a souvenir from the trip.
Overall, I thought the cycling tour was an excellent choice; the tour guide was very knowledgeable and spoke good English, the terrain was very smooth with hardly any inclines, we learned a lot from the village life, and everything was for a good cause, which is to help support the local communities. It was definitely worth every single penny, and I highly recommend this tour if you're around the area!
If you wanna know what we did during our entire trip in Siem Reap, click here.
OR if you need some tips from our recent trek with Angkor Wat, click here.
The comparison of just reading about the place in High School and actually visiting this wonder is like watching Captain America and have Chris Evans pounce on you in real life. Its unbelievable!
As I stood in front of the amazing sight, I was suuper excited to get close and check out the entire place!
In the beginning, we really wanted to rent a bike and cycle around the entire place, going temple to temple. However, when we asked the hotel owner for advice, he strongly recommended that we hire a tuk tuk for a day as the size of the Angkor Wat temples are not to be underestimated, and we wouldn't have enough time to cover most place on our 1-day pass alone.
In the end, we decided to trust in the local's advise and BOY was I glad we did! The place is HUGE and in the end, we only managed to explore 3 out of the 8 major temples around Angkor. We hired a tuk tuk driver for the entire day at USD 12, making it about RM 48 for the two of us. Very cheap, considering that the guy will take us to any temple around the area, and he will wait for us all day.
First thing we did upon arrival on our first day was to purchase a Temple Pass for the next day. The best part about it is that you can already visit the temples from 4.45pm onwards and the temples closes around 7pm. So always make sure you purchase them a day before your actual visit!
Take heed of the rules! Most important is to always have your Temple Pass with you and to dress modestly. Otherwise, you may risk being turned away.
Naturally, we took advantage of the 2 hours and visited the temple of Phnom Bakheng, known for its stunning sunset view.
It was a cloudy day, and the tourists are aplenty, so we didn't really get to see the sunset in the end. Still, it was a stunning place, and we explored every nook and cranny around the place.
On the actual day of our visit the next day, the first place we visited was naturally the temple of Angkor Wat!
Hooo my gawd! So many Bollywood moments going on in this temple. Like, you can pop in and out in any part of the temple and I swear it looks like a Bollywood scene.
Even though its not in India, and yes, I know Bollywood scenes usually happen around trees.
Casually pretending I'm just chilling in the temple, unaware of having my pic taken...
If I dressed like the women depicted in the temples, am I still allowed to enter?
Hello from the backside!
Throughout my time in Angkor Wat alone, I was mostly in awe of the intricacy of every part of this temple. Everything was beautifully hand carved, depicting scenes of the Gods and war. Like this wall alone. This wall is covered in such detailed carvings and its all around the temple.
Like, how long did it take the people to do all that? Its amazing!
We spent hours walking through the temple, and that is only Angkor Wat alone. Despite the lengthy walks in the temple, we still didn't have much time to check out the entire place! I already walked at least 10,000 steps that morning,
The one downside, though is that despite the highly intricate and detailed design of this place, there are no ancient toilets to be found. So after 4 hours of keeping it in, we finally decided to take the lengthy walk outside the temple, before dining at one of the nearby restaurants for lunch.
Food was okay, its best to ask the locals on the recommended dishes, but don't expect too much on the quality of the food as the surrounding restaurants are mostly catered to the tourists. Price wise, I would say its not expensive, but its not cheap either. Dishes costs around USD 5-8 each.
Our next destination after lunch was to visit the Bayon Temple. On the way there, we were greeted by a stone causeway, which featured a row of 54 stone figures on both sides.
In the red corner, we have the Demons, in the blue corner, we've got the Gods guarding the gates!
The bridge was overlooking a river, and it leads to the other temples in front. Our driver had dropped us down to walk along the bridge before picking us up again on the other side.
The Bayon temple was yet another stunning monument to visit, with lots of stairs to climb, and little passages all around. Get ready to work your legs!
With all the climbing, walking and exploring, we eventually came to the point where we spent most of our time just chillin in the temple. Because it was so HOT, and we were super tired.
Oh yeah, another top tip is to always bring a large bottle of water. Bring lots of water if you can, because you will need lots of it.
Apparently, there's a term for excessive temple hopping. Its called 'Temple Fatigue', where eventually you're just seeing way too many temples in a certain period of time. Of course, we've only visited 2 temples haha, so I don't think we qualified for that.
But to those who actually bought a 7-day pass, kudos to you.
Of course, aside from being in awe of the wonders of a world heritage, you can trust a man to find a dirty joke in EVERYTHING.
"Look! There's a Lion's asshole."
"This tree looks like a vagina!"
This one has a real asshole carved in, and it has BALLS!
At 3pm, we almost felt like collapsing in the hotel and just call it a day, when our driver suggested we visit one last temple of Ta Phrom. Apparently, its one of those famous temples where Angelina Jolie's movie, 'Tomb Raider' was filmed.
We knew that we were already there and when will we ever come back? So we agreed to visit one last temple before calling it a day. I was glad we went after all.
What I find most fascinating about this temple is how nature has slowly claimed this temple once again. All around, we saw large trees growing from the temple walls, and giant roots claiming the land.
Interesting to imagine what would the world look like if humans suddenly disappeared...
Best part of this temple is the fact that it has no stairs and it is a one-storey building! Yay!
At last, we managed to call it a day and I can say for the both of us that it was quite an eye opening experience and its one of those once in a lifetime kinda thing.
If you plan on visiting Angkor Wat anytime soon, here's a few things I've learned from this trip:
1. Even though it is a tourist area, the temples of Angkor is still considered a holy land to the locals. Respect that, and remember to dress modestly. I've seen a white guy get turned away because he was wearing a singlet to the temple. And to clarify, he was certainly wearing pants, its just that he was turned away because of his sexy arms.
2. Read up on the place. Just like stalking your new match on Tinder before a date, you gotta get to know the place a little better to truly appreciate what you see. A day before, we got to visit the Angkor National Museum for $12 per person. We got to know the culture and the temples a little better to understand the meaning behind the carvings.
Although I must say, some of their legends are pretty damn trippy...
3. The sun and mosquitoes are aplenty, so make sure you take preventative action for that.
4. You have the option to either cycle, or hire a driver around Angkor. Of course, cycling would definitely be the cheaper option, but if you're there for a day, best not to torture yourself to see everything, so just hire a driver instead. Your feet will thank you.
5. You'll always find that there will be people, including children, selling souvenirs. If you're genuinely interested in making a purchase, buy from an adult, and not the children. I know it sounds like a terrible thing, but you are honestly not doing these kids a favor by supporting child labor. There are plenty of NGOs who will help them in the proper way.
6. Finally, have fun! You don't have to visit everything, so just chill out once in a while. The best part of not being in a tour group is that you get to take your time and enjoy the sights.
If you wanna know what we did during our entire stay in Siem Reap, click here!
Happy Monday everyone! Hope you had a great weekend, because I certainly did, in the land of Cambodia!
In this 4 day, 3 night adventure, me and my partner, Ian spent time in Siem Reap mostly to visit Angkor Wat, one of UNESCO's world heritage. It really was an exciting experience and I'm so glad to be able to see such fantastic architecture and art behind these ancient monuments.
Visiting the top of Phnom Bakheng, known for its stunning sunset view. Also, there's good lighting.
To give a brief summary of our trip, the number one advice I would give any traveler coming up here is to always have a plan beforehand, because with the limited time we had there, we only had so much to see, yet so much more to discover.
We stayed in this lovely boutique hotel for just over RM100 per night called Vilada Angkor Boutique Hotel. It was fantastic, I highly recommend this place.
Considering the fact that our stay in this really nice hotel includes airport transfer and free breakfast, the cheap skate in me was tingling...
And, and, aand.... they have a PS2. A freakin PS2 in PERFECT condition, with all the classic games I played as a kid including Street Fighter, Megaman, Capcom vs Marvel, Metalslug, and all the good stuff!
Like, the moment I walked into the bar and saw the console, the owner, Mr Sakada, was kind enough to turn it on and I went nuts. For that alone, I deem this place my favorite hotel EVER.
I mean, aside from the PS2, the place is really nice and clean, plus the hotel owner was ever so polite and very helpful in giving advise on the best places to visit, where to eat, what to do, etc. Also, he and the staff were more than happy to arrange our transports and tours while we were there. I definitely felt a personal touch to the stay for sure.
Of course, what with all the great adventures we had in Cambodia, I couldn't possibly cover everything in this post, so I will talk more about them in the next coming ones.
If you too are planning to visit Siem Reap soon, here's a brief itinerary on what we did during our stay here. Just to give you an idea on what you can do.
-Arrival at the airport
- Visit the National Museum
(a good start to getting to know the place before
actually visiting the temples)
- Purchase the 1-day Temple Pass
(Tip: You can purchase tickets for the next day by 4.45pm. That way, you can also visit the temples this evening, and have the whole day tomorrow.)
- Visit Phnom Bakheng for the sunset view
- Buffet Dinner at Koulen Restaurant and Live Performance
- Packing up
- Off to the airport
- Goodbye Cambodia! :(
So sad to go, but all good things must come to an end, until our next great adventure!
Couple of things to note when planning your trip to Cambodia:
1. Upon arrival at the airport, you will see that people will be scrambling to apply for the visa and this may require a small fee. If you are from an ASEAN country, you don't need to do that, and you only need to fill in the arrival card which you can get from one of the officers.
2. The currency that is mostly accepted in Siem Reap is in USD. Don't bother changing currency to their local Riels (KHR), because everything is quoted in USD there. However, do note that they won't accept bills that are damaged and old, so make sure to bring fairly new cash. Also, when the call for change is less than USD 1, they tend to give you change in Riels because they don't accept USD coins. Weird, I know.
3. Mosquito spray and Sunblock. Lots of it.
4. Make sure to bring stomach ache pills in case of food poisoning and try to avoid street food.
5. If you plan on visiting the temple, I advise you to purchase the passes a day before your actual visit starting from 4.45 pm onwards. You get to skip the morning queue the next day AND you can already start visiting some of the temples on that day itself. Visiting hours is until 7pm, so you have about 2 hours to check out the place in the evening.
6. Dress modestly. When visiting their place of worship, the locals can and will turn you away from visiting the temples if not dress appropriately. Make sure to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees This applies to men too.
7. Relax! You're on a holiday, and there's only so much you can do with your limited time. Enjoy the moment and savor your time there.
Stay tuned for more posts on the trip!
Anne is the author and founder of this blog. She likes to write about current issues, travels, food and the general struggles of a millennial.