After my family left me in Thailand, I joined another G Adventures group to embark on a two week tour of Cambodia and Laos, two countries I’ve been holding my breath to visit since 1999 (During Semester at Sea, while I opted to travel around Vietnam, some of my friends visited Cambodia instead. I’ve also heard such great things about Laos over the years. I find that when you travel to a country, in my case Vietnam, you become more aware of the geographic region and surrounding countries and usually add them to your travel with-list).
Crossing the border
It took us four hours via private bus to reach the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet and then another three from Poipet, Cambodia to Siem Reap. Before the roads between Poipet and Siem Reap were sealed in 2006, the journey took several days (from Bangkok). Now, you can reach Siem Reap from Bangkok over land in about seven hours (depending on how long the border crossing takes).
Before the roads were sealed, the best way to reach Angkor was by flying to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, and traveling overland from there.
The Aranyaprathet-Poipet border crossing is now Cambodia’s busiest land crossing and the most popular route for tourist travel between Bangkok and Siem Reap, which has become the gateway to the magnificent temples of Angkor.
Siem Reap- such a unique town
Since the route from Thailand to Siem Reap was so difficult and time consuming until very recently, the town has only just started to explode with tourism. Therefore, it maintains a bit of its sleepy, friendly Cambodian nature.
Siem Reap has the bustling night-life of a good-sized city but does not have all of the modern manifestations of an urban environment that would take away from the ambiance of a quaint Cambodian town (such as grid-lock traffic, crowded high-rises, heaping piles of trash). It’s worlds away from Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.
The night market feels more authentic than most. The products are so cheap but not cheaply made. This was a great place for me to do some Christmas shopping. Cambodian silk and pashmina scarves make great gifts, as do various herbal teas.
Cambodia is likely the cheapest country I’ve ever visited. Note the 50 cent beers on draft (below). The riel, Cambodia’s currency, is hyper-inflated, so the U.S. dollar is the current favored currency.
Yes, we went to a bar called “Angkor WHAT?!” (Get it, Angkor Wat- Angkor What?) It was very neon, black light-lit and full of backpackers.
From what I’ve heard, sometimes backpackers visit Siem Reap and end up staying indefinitely. I can see how that could happen. The town has such a cool, funky vibe. I would have enjoyed spending about a week there.
As I mentioned above, lots of glowing neon under black-lights.
Siem Reap is a fun mix of Euro-rave and Cambodia jungle… does that make sense?
The best thing about travel
One of my favorite things about traveling, other than eating local food and experiencing different cultures, is meeting new people, and adding those people, from all over the world, to your treasure-trove of friends!
Tomorrow’s post: the infamous, fascinating and mysterious ruins of Angkor, including Angkor Wat and “The Tomb Raider Temple.” Stay tuned!
Thanks for stopping by!