Wednesday, November 29, 2017

2 Weeks, 3 Countries: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ah, long time no talk, because WE WENT ON VACATION! On November 7, Mark and I embarked on a 2-week vacation to Siem Reap, Cambodia; Chiang Mai, Thailand; and Nha Trang, Vietnam. This was our first time traveling internationally together that was not with the military and we had an amazing time! We didn't really get to pre-plan a whole of activities because we finally got the signed, approved leave form on November 5th and I didn't want to do too much planning in case it didn't get approved and we had to cancel everything. Anyway, here's a recap of all we did and probably a lot of pictures. I will be doing this in 3 posts to keep it from getting too long.
Every place we stayed and every activity we did, we highly, highly recommend.

Day 1 // We got to Cambodia at 7pm and our hotel: Suorkear Boutique Hotel & Spa, sent a tuk-tuk to pick us up. It was such an experience! It was hot and muggy but sitting on the bench of a tuk-tuk driving through the streets was so cool and such a wonderful way to start the vacation. At the hotel, we were shown to a wonderful room with a private balcony and outdoor bathtub. We went out and ate at the hotel restaurant where mark got Cambodian Curry and I got a beef stir-fry. Both were amazing! We weren't curry people before this trip and now we are. 

Day 2 // We took a cooking class through our hotel. At 9am we were taken to old market where the chef told us about how Cambodian people shop for their food. There were so many different kinds of fish, meat, and veggies, granted in conditions that would not be okay in the US but that's the interesting part of travel, seeing the differences in how people live. After touring the market, we went back to the hotel where we learned how to make Pomelo Salad with Prawns, Cambodian Chicken Curry and Curry Paste, and Caramelized Palm Sugar with Banana. All the food was delicious and so easy to make. I was incredibly impressed with the Pomelo Salad. 
Cooking class at Suorkear Boutique Hotel and Spa in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Pomelo Salad at a cooking class at Suorkear Boutique Hotel and Spa in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Khmer Curry made at a cooking class at Suorkear Boutique Hotel and Spa in Siem Reap, Cambodia
After the cooking class, we took a tuk-tuk to Old Market where we walked around and explored Old Market, Night Market, and Pub Street. We got foot massages for 3 dollars each, a "deconstructed" vanilla latte where the vanilla syrup came in a light bulb, which just made it more fun. We also spontaneously went to the Angkor National Museum which was $24 a person. I'm glad we went as it was interesting, especially the room of 1000 Buddha's; but man, there was so much information and a lot of the same statues but from different time periods that by the time we got halfway through, we were burnt out. It was worth it though. On our way back to Old Market, we found a little restaurant that had super cheap food, it was about 3 dollars a plate and 50 cent beer. So Mark got Cashew Chicken, I got Lok Lak (kind of like any of the Chinese saucy chickens), we shared spring rolls and we got two beers each for a grand total of 11 dollars. It was great and the food was delicious. We walked around pub street some more and we found a bar with live music so we sat and listened to that until it was time for our hotel tuk-tuk to pick us up.
Deconstructed Latte, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Lok Lak at Siem Reap, Cambodia
Pub Street at night, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Day 3 // Today we had plans to explore Angkor Wat. We had scheduled a driver and tour guide through Angkor in English. The owner, Sorm Son, had wonderful prices and came highly recommended. He was so incredibly knowledgeable about the history of Angkor Wat and Cambodia. I learned so much from him. I'm so glad that we got a tour guide because I got way more out of the temples than I would have otherwise. He came with a tuk-tuk (because we loved traveling by tuk-tuk), cold water, and cool lemongrass-scented towels (which were a Godsend, they were the only thing that kept me from being totally miserably hot). While walking through the temples, he knew the best routes and best times to get to each temple to make sure we avoided the crowds and took tons of pictures of us. This is the itinerary he had for us:
     8:30AM-12:00PM - Angkor Thom
                                      Visit South gate
                                       Bayon
                                       Baphoun
                                       Leper king terrace
                                       Royal Palace
                                       Elephant Terrace
                                       Tapromh jungle temple.
     Afternoon: Visit Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
For lunch, we ate at a restaurant near Angkor Wat that Mr. Son brought us to and he recommended we try the Amok, which is some kind of fish in a sauce, cooked in a coconut.
Amok, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Seeing Angkor Wat itself was amazing. It was incredible to be standing in and walking through a thousand-year-old building; the intricate stonework was mind-boggling because the people who built this were able to carve intricate designs into stones which have lasted a thousand years and through wars. The English Major/Language lover in me LOVED seeing the Khmer writing on the walls, to think of all the history written on the walls that's now gone hurts me. I highly recommend that if you can go to Angkor Wat, that you go, it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Funny story, I bought some flowy elephant pants from the market the day before because I saw so many people wearing them and they looked so cute and breezy. I wore them to Angkor Wat because they request that you cover your knees and your shoulders and all I owned that I could wear were jeans. We didn't even get through the first temple when they tore pretty much completely along the crotch. Luckily, I brought jeans just in case. But boy it was so hot! I've never sweated so much in my life, gross I know. So if you go, bring a maxi dress/skirt or buy a maxi skirt, not those flowy pants from the market for 2 dollars. 
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Day 4 // Today was a travel day, we left the hotel around 10am and rode a tuk-tuk for the last time. To be honest, we were a little sad about it. 

A couple tips for those traveling to Siem Reap: come with lots and lots of small US dollars (1 dollar bills and 5 dollar bills). Most places will not take their currency, they want small US dollars and will give change in Cambodian money. Bring something long and breezy for exploring Angkor Wat, especially if your traveling April-October. Take tuk-tuks everywhere. They're so fun and an experience you can only get there. Try off the main strip restaurants, that's where we found our favorite foods. Temple Pub on pub street is super pricey compared to everywhere else on pub street and the drinks aren't as good. Of course, don't drink the tap water. Go to a convenience store and buy a few big bottles of water -  the good thing about Southeast Asia is that they have 1 Liter water bottles for a dollar or less. Only use your credit card at the airport, the hotel, and the ATM, check the ATM for weird cameras and card skimmers first of course. All ATMs give US dollars that you can then exchange for smaller dollars. If you want a phone there, buy a sim card from the airport for a couple dollars, it's much cheaper than getting a pocket wifi. You get enough minutes and data to get you through, you're on vacation so you shouldn't be using that much data anyway.

We really enjoyed Siem Reap and I'm so glad we went; I was a little worried we wouldn't like it at first but we did. Two days was enough for us to see all we wanted: the markets and Angkor Wat.

Check out the other posts about our time in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Nha Trang, Vietnam.

See you soon <3
Kylie

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness Kylie! Your trip sounds like it was amazing! I'm off to read the next post now. :)

    ReplyDelete

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