The Kingdom of Cambodia is one of the countries in Indochina or Mainland Southeast Asia along with Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Along with my first Cambodia experience, I have listed the top things I did as a wanderer, specifically in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh that made my Kampuchea tour a memorable one. I hope you consider my bucket list as your addition to your bucket list too when you come and consider Cambodia as your next travel destination.
Explore the Angkor Archaeological Park
Visiting this place is definitely a must. I know this must’ve been included already in your Cambodia bucket list. As they say, you haven’t gone to Cambodia if you haven’t explored the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap Province. This is where the famous Cambodia landmark Angkor Wat is located. You need to at least rent a tuk-tuk or car taxis when you plan to visit. Riding a bicycle was my first idea to save money but with the intense heat, and far distances within locations, it is definitely not the best option, plus you need to have a personal lock just in case you want to park the bicycle you have rented.
Mind that there are certain fees depending on how long you wish to visit the Archaeological Park. Passes are sold in one-day ($20), three-day ($40) and seven-day ($60) blocks. The three day pass is valid for one week, i.e. 3 days to be used within the week, not necessarily consecutively. The seven day pass is valid for one month, i.e. 7 days to be used within the month, not necessarily consecutively. In this tour, I purchased the three-day pass. There’s a lot of picturesque views to see within the vicinity. Make sure you have your cameras and smartphones fully-charged for a day-long adventure.
Pose for a Photo at Ta Prohm, the famous temple from the film Tomb Raider
The Ta Prohm Temple is one of the famous temples within the Angkor Archaeological Park. Expect lots of people when you visit this place and make sure to mind of others when you take a photo with the famous Crocodile Tree or ‘Tomb Raider tree’ where Angelina Jolie used to be in one of her scenes from the film.
The tree is located at the entrance pavilion of the central enclosure, inside the easternmost part of the temple.
Try Lok Lak, the Cambodian Version of Philippines’ Tapsilog or Chicken Strips with Fried Rice and Egg for Breakfast
Now if you’re wondering, what are the selections I have for a Cambodian breakfast, as for me, it actually is a matter of choosing between having a Lok Lak or Chicken Strips with Fried Rice and Egg for my first meal of the day.
Lok Lak is actually the Cambodian version of the Philippines’ Tapsilog, a famous breakfast meal combination of dried cured beef (Beef Tapa), sinangag (garlic fried rice) and egg on top. When in Siem Reap Province, I recommend trying the ones in the stretch of restaurants in Pub Street, they’re cheap and delicious. Now I am craving for these two dishes as of this writing. Each would cost you $2 – $3 per meal.
Hop Onboard a Sleeper Bus
During my recent trip to Cambodia, my entry point was Siem Reap and I had seven days to spare. Because of this, my companions and I decided to go on a side trip and hopped on a sleeper bus when we landed en route to the capital, Phnom Penh. I consider sleeper buses as a way for a traveler to save money most especially when you want to go to another place while saving for accommodation at the same time. So instead of booking for an overnight stay, we just booked for a sleeper bus trip and went off right away. It was my first time to do it in Cambodia and It feels like onboarding a Knight Bus (Harry Potter reference lol).
Tip: Cambodia has few bus lines that offer sleeper buses and I recommend Giant Ibis Transport. Sleeper bus trips are usually night bus trips from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. Make sure to book ahead few days or best, weeks before your trip. It is not recommended to book a day before because there are only limited slots per trip (34 pax per trip). The ticket from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh costs $15 USD per person and if you will book online, there’s $1 USD credit card processing fee.
Visit the Psah Thom Thmey or Central Market of Phnom Penh not to shop but to scout for the Best Pho in Cambodia
Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia. After a scorching hot adventure roaming around the city, we were able to visit the Central Market to look for some things to buy and a place where we could try authentic Cambodian food. To our surprise, we were able to have Pho for lunch, which is not a specialty of Cambodia but it was the best Pho I’ve ever tasted.
Just proceed to the food court wing of the Psah Thom Thmey and check out the photo above where I have pointed out where we went for lunch. Credits to Lost & Found Travel for this, it’s a snip from their video feature of Phnom Penh’s Central Market. The best Pho I’ve ever tasted only costs a dollar per bowl.
Tip: When transacting in Cambodia, it’s best to pay in dollars than their local currency, Riel. So make sure you have spare dollars to bring with you.
Rave at the famous Pub Street in Siem Reap Province
Pub Street is Siem Reap’s life of the night. After a busy day exploring the province, it’s best to unwind here. By dinner time, you will notice a more laidback atmosphere in restaurants and pubs since everybody’s busy having their meals. But when the clock hits 11 o’clock, the pub street gets livelier. Party music is being played almost everywhere and tourists from all over the world rave here like there’s no tomorrow. There’s even a bar that goes by the name the Angkor What? – witty right?
Be crazy creative. Take #YOLO photos at the Angkor Archaeological Park
Traveling gives us the pleasure to see the beauty of the world. Whenever given the chance, go and be creative as possible, take #YOLO photos that you will be proud to bring home, but of course, this has limits.
Be mindful of the quote “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time” and do this with utmost precaution. Remember, safety is always a top priority.
Cross a Border for the First Time
As a wanderer, It has crossed my mind a few times to experience what it feels like crossing a border. Good thing, Cambodia is near different countries. If you haven’t done it yet in the past and have plans to cross a border from Cambodia, you have two options: Either to go to Bangkok, Thailand or Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Crossing any border will give you opportunities to have more places to explore and chances to expand your passport stamp count. But before you do this, make sure you have planned it well or you have ample time to do it. It is not advisable to have a cross-border journey if you only have less than 4 days of stay.
Try Angkor Coffee
Cambodians are coffee lovers too! Aside from the mainstream Angkor Beer which is almost everywhere in Cambodia, Don’t forget to try Iced Angkor Coffee too, they have it in almost all restaurants you visit. It’s one of the best refreshments you can have while beating the heat in Kampuchea. It’s best served with condensed milk. You can even take home a pack of Angkor Coffee at a very affordable price (starting at $3.50 USD).
Catch the breathtaking sunrise at Angkor Wat
When you visit the Siem Reap Province, make sure to allot a time to wake up early in one of your day trips to the Angkor Archaeological Park. Catching the breathtaking sunrise at Angkor Wat is going to be a really memorable moment. Make sure to be there at around 4:30am and position on the left side facing Angkor Wat to get a beautiful reflection of the icon in the swamp when the sun rises. Thank me later, It’s worth the wait.