So you’ve read about how we got to Siem Reap, but what did we find when we got there? Well, in a nutshell, we found Khmer Amok, Pub Street, the night market, massages, fish spas, lots of temples, helpful people, very unhelpful people, traditional dancers, three guest houses, two orders of traveller’s sickness and one great cocktail bar… to mention a few.
Where we slept – We pre-booked our first two nights stay in Siem Reap at the Advisor Angkor Guest House as it was close to town but only $3.50 each per night for a private twin room. We arrived by tuk tuk to find that they were experiencing problems with a faulty toilet and that we would be spending the night in another guest house around the corner. A courtesy tuk tuk dropped us off at Popeye Guest house, a little further still from town, where we were shown to our unsurprisingly basic but clean(ish) room. At 7am the next morning we were again picked up by the courtesy tuk tuk and ferried back to the Advisor Angkor where we were told our room would not be ready until noon. Having not washed, brushed my hair or properly packed my bag for the 5 minute journey, this was especially annoying. Luckily, after our free breakfast of instant noodles with a fried egg on top we were allowed to put our bags in the room and shower before the cleaners came round which was very welcome. Once we finally got inside, the room it’s self was pretty decent. It was clean, the shower worked and they had even folded our towels into the shape of a lotus flower on the bed.
Unfortunately again, when we tried to extend our stay they were all booked up which meant a third move in three days. The Green Town Guest House was a short ride away, about the same distance from the main street but on the other side. Again, the room was basic, double bed, shower room and desk but for $3.89 a night, who could complain. The hostel had a pool table, bar area, bikes for hire (that were all broken) for $1.50 per day, a laundry service ($1/Kg) and free wifi. We also moved rooms within this hostel to a twin room in the building opposite the bar. While it was only $3 each per night, I would definitely recommend spending the extra $0.89 for one in the main block as this room was filthy, there was no top sheet only an old, itchy blanket and you had to walk over people sleeping on the floor in the hall way to get to the also filthy, shared bathroom.
Where we ate – Siem Reap offers a huge variety of restaurants, cafes and bars all crammed into two main streets and surrounding alley ways. The famous ‘Pub Street’ was as you would expect from it’s name. Busy, touristy and full or bars/restaurants and pubs. While some good fare seemed to be on offer here, we opted for the slightly quieter ‘Pub Street Alley’ just one road over. We ate at many different restaurants along here, most of the food was pretty good and pretty reasonably priced but the service was always so slow. Think 45 minutes to be bought a bottle of water.
HOWEVER, we did discover one seriously hidden gem. The Mezze Bar – located upstairs, close to pub street, next to the Blue Pumpkin Cafe. Run by a Khmer/French couple, the Mezze Bar serves Lebanese tapas dishes, Khmer mains, and super duper cocktails. From 6:30-8pm they also have a happy hour where you can get two for one cocktails making them just $1.75 each!
The atmosphere is classy, dark and trendy, and you can sit inside or outside on the balcony overlooking the busy streets below. The food was amazing, the cocktails were all made properly with fresh fruit and the bill was totally affordable, even on our budget!
We ordered: one gin martini, one passionfruit mojito, chunky prawn cakes, scallops, falafel, 2 hummus plates, pita bread, spicy potatoes, and some lebanese meat balls. Grand total: $9 each. Priciest meal in Asia yet but totally worth it. We also went back the next night for more!
The Town – Siem Reap is famous for it’s close proximity to the Angkor Temples and for this reason, the town it’s self is very touristy. In fact, the entire night market area as well as most of the restaurants cater just for tourists. However, unlike the night markets of Bangkok or Shanghai, this market is a bit more up-market. No plastic rubbish, fake bags or sunglasses, more cotton clothing, crafts and textiles. You still have to bargain hard but Rich and I scored a pair of trousers each for just $4. There are hundreds of street-side places offering $1/15 minutes foot massages but don’t expect too much skill wise, it’s more just for the novelty I think.
If massage isn’t your thing, you can pay $2 for an unlimited dip in the nibbley fish foot spa where unnecessarily large piranha things feast on all your dead skin. This is great for a laugh and such a weird feeling if you’ve never done it before – you pull all kinds of faces. It takes about ten minutes to get used to the feeling and the price includes a free beer! Don’t expect a minute to yourself in Siem Reap either. From the moment you step onto the street and sometimes even before, people are shouting at you to get into their tuk tuk, on the back of their motorbike, or into their shop or restaurant. It can get pretty funny, but after the 10th time in an hour of being called ‘pineapple lady’ or ‘where you go’, ‘lady you buy something’ or just ‘you buy, you buy’ it gets pretty annoying. Everybody shows an interest in you but they only see you as a predictable, mindless ATM machine. They don’t care how they get your money, as long as they get it and if you don’t want to buy, they’re not interested.
As Rich and I were both ill most of the time we were in Siem Reap, we didn’t really hit any of the night life. Possibly for this reason, Angkor was definitely the highlight of Siem Reap and you can read about our Angkorian adventures here:
From Toilet to Temple… And Back Again