Cambodia is magical. The simple fact that the people are heart-centered in everything they do will leave you feeling honored and cherished. A great place to practice self love.
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Where I’ve Been
Currency = Riel, however US Dollars are accepted everywhere, so there is no point changing money. You’ll get some Riel when the change you’re owed is less than a dollar.
The various wildlife you’ll see in Vietnam…..(not a typo, the motorcyles are part of the wild life in Vietnam!)
Excellent. Everywhere you go people greet you with their hands in a prayer position over their heart. This is the best greeting I have experienced, so far, in the whole world. I kid you not! This simple act encourages so much love, appreciation, gratitude and the feeling of being deeply cherished. Allowing these feelings to permeate for days, weeks or months does something profound for your own sense of self-love, self-respect and personal growth. Though it’s hot as heck in the afternoon it’s wonderful to explore the temples with a local guide, and also to simply walk the streets of Siem Reap and take in your surroundings.
Excellent. Though there are spots I was told are dangerous in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap I never felt in any danger. Walking the main streets after dark, alone, nobody harrassed me or made me feel at all in danger. Eating alone was fine, and I felt like people wanted to take care of one another. I often walked in Siem Reap from one side of town to the other after dark, and visited the night markets. I never even encountered any pickpockets.
Authentic. While the temples, like Angkor Wat, are fairly touristy, it’s because these are wonderful places that deserve to be visited and a guide who can tell you their stories. Otherwise, I felt like I was experiencing a true culture, kindness was genuine, and I wanted to stay longer!
Buses and planes. The local buses were clean and felt safe. I was able to choose my seat prior to booking, which was especially great on the sleeper bus because not only might you want the bottom, but some of the beds were double and I certainly didn’t want to sleep right next to a stranger. In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap the main method of transportation is a tuk tuk. I took a bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok, which was an 8-hour ride and they took us through immigration.
It’s affordable! Prices, on average, were higher than Vietnam but lower than Thailand. Hostels and budget hotels are easy to find. Laundry is $1/kilo on the street, but MUCH more expensive in hotels. I suggest you walk down your street and find a laundromat. You can find great massages for $10, no need to spend more. If you buy any t-shirts they should cost about $2. Negotiate heavily.
Strategic bargaining. I found that the best strategy was not to budge from my price. A merchant would tell me what something cost in the markets, I would decide how much I felt it was worth and stick to my guns. When they lowered their price, I kept mine constant. When I shopped in a store at one point I asked if they could give me a better price and they gave me a small discount.
Great! This was my first stop after Vietnam and my gosh was I so happy to find real toilets that were clean, with actual toilet paper on rolls and real soap! Even public restrooms were decent.
Insects, Rodents and Reptiles
Minimum. I was hoping to see the monkeys in the area but we only got a small glimpse of them from our tour bus one day. Other than that, I only saw bugs and insects when they were cooked and on sticks!
Passport, Visa and Entry/Exit Rules
Requires trust or get an eVisa. It’s always a good idea to check the US government website (or your country’s local government if not the US) for in-depth information as well as the embassy website of Cambodia. I took a boat from Vietnam to enter Cambodia. We paid our boat guide $34 and he took our passports to an exit stop, and then we went to a second stop where we waited, eventually got our passports back and got an entrance stamp. You can also get an eVisa, but you must apply at least 4 days before you plan to enter Cambodia to allow time for processing. You must also have a passport that’s valid for more than 6 months after you enter Cambodia. I didn’t have to prove I would exit the country. A regular tourist visa allows you 30 days in Cambodia.
Health, Water, etc.
Moderate. I didn’t drink any tap water as a general rule of thumb throughout Southeast Asia. Bottled water is so easy to find and cheap. However, I did feel safe having drinks with ice in restaurants (they made one hell of a coconut smoothie in Cambodia) as well as tea and coffee since the water was boiled. Cambodia is VERY hot. By mid-afternoon every day I desperately needed a shower as all the water had sweat out of my body. I don’t think I noticed it quite this much anywhere else. Make sure you have a lot of water with you. If you take a tour of Angkor Wat they may have bottled water and moist towels for you which are very welcome! Pollution was nothing like in Vietnam, and there were fewer motorcyles on the streets. Check the CDC website for recommended vaccinations. Generally speaking, it’s always a good idea to get the Hep A, Hep B, and Typhoid vaccinations.
Hot and Humid. The weather is hot and humid all year round. Even in the somewhat cooler months, like October and November, it’s in the 80s and so humid you’ll likely sweat a lot. You’ll want to make sure to drink a lot of water.
Essentials to Pack
I strongly recommend a hat and sunblock, and wish I had brought a cooling bandana! A day pack to carry your camera for photos of Siem Reap and your water bottles is helpful. You’ll seriously sweat a lot so if you can get a daypack that’s waterproof you might be happier! In terms of currency it’s good to have dollars or euros with you as Cambodian currency isn’t used except sometimes to give you change. It’s very important to bring clothing that fully covers your legs and shoulders if you plan to visit Angkor Wat and the other temples.
How to Make Friends
You’ll find people really friendly and I found many waitresses really nice and got friendly with the owner of a great restaurant – Genevieve – by eating there a couple of times.
What to Do and See
Phnom Penh is great for a day or two, and of course the big must do is Angkor Wat! It’s worth seeing some of the many, many other temples near to it, but you may get “templed out.” There’s a temple pass and it’s fairly pricey. A 3-day pass was $61 in October 2018. Given how inexpensive other things are, I thought this was surprising, though worth it.
Where to Stay
Memoire d’Angkor Boutique Hotel – this was actually one of my favorite hotels in Asia! It was roughly $40/night with a huge room, a spectacular breakfast full of amazing options and wonderful staff. They were so nice I wanted to stay longer!