Sunday, October 9, 2016

[Travel/ Food Guide] Itinerary to Siem Reap (暹粒), Cambodia (柬埔寨).

Siem Reap is one of the most-traveled destinations in Cambodia, the resort town Northwestern of the country is home to a thousand-year old ancient ruins stretching over 400 square kilometers. Angkor was believed to be the capital of Khmer empire (during 9th to 15th centuries) and fast forward today, it is now one of the most visited UNESCO Heritage Sites in the world. There seem to be many mysterious stories waiting to be unfolded but apart from the historical footstep tours, visitors can also have a feel on the local Khmer culture and the bustling tourist and food scene in Siem Reap. The best time to visit Siem Reap is November to February (dry season) but the temperature can be quite high and the streets are dusty so please prepare the necessary before hitting the road. Also note-worthy is U.S. Dollars are heavily used in Siem Reap instead of their local currency- Cambodian Riel. Please prepare small notes, notes in big amount such as USD $50 or USD $100 are not easily accepted here.

1) Angkor World Heritage (吴哥窟)
How to go: Hire a Tuk-Tuk driver, depending on the route you want to take and the number of temples you wish to visit (typically differentiated by Big Circuit or Small Circuit). Just for your reference, we hired a Tuk Tuk driver for half day Small Circuit Tour (3 temples) + Sunrise view for USD $20 and additional USD $5 for lunch at Srah Srang
Visiting Hours: 5 am to 6 pm Daily.
Admission: USD $20 for One Day Pass/ USD $40 for Three Day Pass/ USD $60 for Seven Day Pass *It is confirmed by the authorities that the prices will be revised in February 2017*

We started our day as early as 4:30 am in the morning and the distance from our hotel (Somadevi Resort & Spa near the Pub Street) to Angkor took approximately 15 minutes. We headed to the ticketing counter and the process was smooth and hassle-free. We reached Angkor Wat at 5:40 am for the sunrise but due to wet season, the sunrise was shaded by the cloud. If photography is your concern, it is advisable for you to be there as early as 4:30 am for the perfect spot. We could not find a place for ourselves and could only stand at the fourth line. Also to bring along will be mosquito repellent, unless you would like to feed the insects. You are probably concerned if the time is worth taken to see the sunrise? No, but the weather was perfect for temple-run; we made quick moves before the day got hotter. Angkor Wat is extremely huge so if you wish to explore the area in great detail, do spare yourself a few hours. 

Angkor One Day Pass- USD $20 (to be increased to USD $37/ One Day Pass in February 2017)

The morning crowd waiting for the sunrise

Happily accepted our breakfast

Children asking for "donation" in the form of bread/ breakfast

Exploring Angkor Wat

Monk giving wishes to worshipers

Bayon Temple

Bayon is also known as the Temple of Smiling Gods and the exceptional stone carvings. The place is not as big as expected, but the flight of stairs is steep. 

Ta Prohm (otherwise known as the Tomb Raider Temple)

Made famous by Tomb Raider, Ta Prohm is one of the must visit temples within Angkor. It is also one of my favorite temples (of the 3 we visited). Do note that female must wear "appropriately" in order to enter (in accordance to their standard- long pants with sleeves). The temple is well-hidden and seemingly covered by trees; the place is picturesque and most suitable for shooting portraiture, especially with the astonishing stone-cracking trees as background. The place is big and if you wish to fully explore the place, do spare yourself some time here. We ended our small circuit tour here and adjourned to breakfast shortly.  

2) Khmer Angkor Kitchen
Address: Srah Srang Road, Siem Reap. 
Business Hours: 9 am to 6 pm. Daily.
Contact Number: +855 92 560 438
Khmer Angkor Kitchen Facebook Page

Cashew Nut Milk Shake (left/ USD $2) and Watermelon Milk Shake (right/ USD $2)

Western Breakfast (USD $4.50)

Traditional Khmer Beef Noodles (USD $4.50)

We did not know what to eat and so we asked for our Tuk Tuk driver for recommendation and he brought us here- Khmer Angkor Kitchen. It seems to be one of the well-received places along Srah Srang Road, a stretch of road full of restaurants right next to Angkor Thom.

The food was disappointingly average, though a bowl of hot Khmer Beef Noodles was most comforting. The meat can be extremely hard on the bite and the Yellow Noodles were slightly overcooked with soft texture, the only thing we could agree was the hot soup with a generous helping of vegetables. If you end up at this place (be it fortunate or unfortunate), make sure you order their Cashew Nut Milk Shake. The flavor was amazing, nut-earthy yet jam packed with milky-creamy aroma (from Condensed Milk); though it was extremely sweet for us.

3) Lucky Mall 
Address: Sivatha Road, Siem Reap.
Business Hours: 9 am to 10 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +855 63 760 740

Local Cambodia produce- perfect to be given as souvenirs

KIRUM Kampot Peppers (one of the most renowned Peppers in the world)- USD $7.80

Mineral Water for those with a deep pocket- Fiji Water (USD $2.20 for 1 Liter)

Lucky Supermarket- of local goods and imported products

The only fast food chain in Siem Reap- Lucky Burger

Said to be the only shopping mall in Siem Reap (we later found out that there's still T Galleria), Lucky Mall houses a supermarket that sells both local produce and imported goods. It's quite convenient especially you are in the look out for something; but if you are looking for local produce (such as Cashew Nuts, Dried Fruits etc), it's better for you to try your luck at the market (since you are able to bargain). We bought a few items from there- Beers (Angkor Beers selling at USD $0.60 per can), Fiji Mineral Water and some Peppers. KIRUM carries the best quality Peppers from Kampot province, Cambodia.

While Ground Floor does have a few more shops, none of them was particularly interesting (except for an artisan Personal Care products, a home grown Cambodian brand). On the first floor, there's Lucky Burger, the only fast food chain in Siem Reap.... nothing but just ordinary burgers. There's a electrical appliance shop on the second floor as well as a Japanese Steamboat restaurant (closed due to Pchum Ben Festival- from end of September to beginning of October).

4) Old Market (Phsar Chas)
Address: Old Market- between Street 9 and Street 11, Sivutha Blvd, Siem Reap.
Business Hours: 5 am to 6 pm, opens Daily for most vendors.

Dried goods for sale

Tailor sewing clothes inside the market

Fruit vendors selling local produce

"Chicky" Bargain

Touristy goods

Fresh local produce sold using Tuk Tuk

Seafood and shell fsh

Steamed Sweet Potatoes

Dried Goods- plenty of Nuts

"Help-Yourself" Rice Meal

There's no way you could miss the Old Market area, the market right next to the bustling Pub Street is one of the best places to experience the local culture. There are many to see, buy and eat here. We had a stroll at the area and found out that there are plenty of fresh local produce on sale as well as textile and various souvenirs cater for tourists. Bargain is highly recommended here to find a good deal- halve the offered price is not unusual here, in fact, try to counter offer at 30% of the original offered price; you might land yourself on a good deal. Most vendors carry the same items so the real catch here is to find the best deal. We bought quite an amount of Cashew Nuts here (produced in Cambodia). 

5) The Blue Pumpkin Bakery
Address: 213, Sivatha Street, Siem Reap.
Business Hours: 6 am to 11 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +855 063 968 898

2 Scoops of Ice Cream- Cinnamon Ice Cream and Vanilla Brownie Ice Cream (USD $2.90)

You would probably see The Blue Pumpkin everywhere in Siem Reap (including the International Airport), the chain-brand is a famous bakery that offers exceptional pastries as well as artisan Ice Cream. On a sultry hot afternoon, a serving of Ice Cream sure helps; especially with the presence of complimentary WiFi. There are some funny flavors for the adventurous, we had both of their signatures- Cinnamon and Vanilla Brownie, the former flavor stood out with a herbaceous-woody aroma while the latter one stroke us with a strong milky flavor, but the Brownie was a tad too sweet to our liking. The Blue Pumpkin makes a good pit stop for us to rest our shopping legs. 

6) Khmer Touch Cuisine
Address: Sivutha Boulevard, Old Market Area, Siem Reap.
Business Hours: 10 am to 10 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +855 12 628 399
Khmer Touch Cuisine Facebook Page 

Amok/ Khmer Fish Curry (USD $9)

Lotus Root Salad with Grilled Chicken (USD $6)

Stir Fried Khmer Fatty Noodles (USD $8)

Khmer Touch Cuisine is one of the highly rated restaurants on Trip Advisor and can be found directly opposite to The Triangle at Pub Street. The restaurant is famous for its authentic Khmer cuisine but the service was extremely slow, we were probably the second table there and it took them more than 40 minutes to serve our orders.

The ambiance was impeccable though, with above average food (though might be grueling to the wallet). One of the must haves is their Lotus Root Salad- expertly crafted and beautifully dressed to perfection. The dressing was most appetizing, slightly acidic with sweet after taste; one of the uncommon but delicious Salads I've ever had. One should never miss Amok, traditional Khmer Fish Curry which shares some similarities with Otak-Otak, sans the Egg. The fluid Curry in Yellow-hue carries an indelible sweetness followed by robust Herbs. Khmer Touch Cuisine was very generous with the fish, (White Rice was complimentary).

Amuse Bouche- Roasted Oats infused with Herbs

7) The Red Piano
Address: 341, Street 08, Siem Reap.
Business Hours: 7 am to 12:30 am. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: (855) 63 963 240

Draft Beer (USD $0.50) and Margarita (USD $3)

Tomb Raider Cocktail (USD $3.75)

Made famous by Angelina Jolie, Red Piano is said to be her favorite pub in Siem Reap. She was a regular patron here when they were filming for the action movie- Tomb Raider. The Cocktail with the similar name was initiated by the actress, it consists of Cointreau, Lime Juice and Tonic. It reminds us of Margarita with a sleek and mild sweet after-taste. The place is always packed to the brim so if you wish to secure the perfect spot (window seat overlooking the bustling Pub Street), do make early reservation. Local Khmer dishes and Western Food are available too.

8) Kwong Hing Grill Food (广庆烧卤饭店)
Address: B05, Sivatha Boulevard, Siem Reap.
Business Hours: 4:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: N/A

Roast Duck (USD $5/ small)

Stir Fried Yellow Noodles with Roast Pork (USD $3.50)

If you could not find something suitable for your palate and would still prefer Chinese food, fret not! There are a few Chinese eateries along the Pub Street-district. Kwong Hing Grill Food is perhaps one of the busiest ones, the restaurant is famed for its Roasted goodies with some Cantonese-influenced stir fry dishes. To our dismay, their signature Roast Duck was below par. The marination was weak and the meat was rather bland. The dipping sauces did not manage to complement the meat well either. It was a let down.

Stir Fried Yellow Noodles was equally disappointing either. The noodles were swimming in a pool of oil, the greasiness was of a whole new league. We had a few bites and gave up on the rest. You can try your luck on other dishes nevertheless.

9) The Soup Dragon
Address: 369, Street 08, Old Market Area, Siem Reap.
Business Hours: 7 am to 12:30 am. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +855 12 731 152

Beef Lok Lak (USD $5)

Stir Fried Squid with Green Peppers (USD $6)

It's easy to notice The Soup Dragon at one corner of Pub Street, the restaurant is always packed whether lunch or dinner and we are not surprised. The menu is extensive with local and international offering, we dropped by here for a quick meal before our home-bound flight in the afternoon. 

We had two local Khmer dishes- Beef Lok Lak (Khmer Stir Fried Beef) and Stir Fried Squid with Green Pepper. The Beef Lok Lak was good but nothing particularly unique about the dish, it was more of a decent home-cooked Beef dish with slightly sweet after taste. But the real draw of the dish was the dip- magical mix of Pepper Salt with Lime Juice; the peppery flavor with refreshing touch complemented the red meat well, the dish is best spooned over rice. 

Equally satisfying was their Stir Fried Squid with Green Peppers, fresh and resilient Squid had a quick stir with Green Peppers. It was well-executed with spot on seasoning; a simple dish that relies heavily on the Peppery aroma. The Peppers were believed to be produced in Kampot Province, Cambodia.

10) West East Burger
Address: 2 Thnou Street, Old Market Area, Siem Reap.
Business Hours: 10 am to 11 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +855 63 966 523

Cambodia Crocodile Burger (USD $5)

Adventurous eaters or those with exotic taste buds may challenge themselves to an extraordinary gourmet journey in Siem Reap, the place is home to many exotic delicacies. We had the privilege to sample some of these. West East Burger may seem a common Burger joint at Pub Street but when you look closer to the menu, you will find a type of exotic meat- Crocodile. 

As expected, the Crocodile Burger came in exactly like a Burger (duh!) with two soft and pilloy Buns sandwiching the meat patty and slices of juicy Cucumber with a sliver of Cheese. The Crocodile patty was juicy with a lot of crunchy tendons sans the fishy stench, the seasoning was impeccable and the Burger turned out to be very tasty. 

MORE Exotic Delicacies to munch on! 

Scorpion Skewer (USD $1 each)

Spider Skewer (USD $1 each)

The brave-hearted can further challenge themselves to exotic Insects like Scorpions, Spiders, Snakes, Sea Cockroaches or Silkworms. When wandering the streets of Siem Reap, we found tourists screaming here and there; we then later found out that they were too excited about the delicacies. Both Scorpions and Spiders were first marinated with Sugar, Chicken Powder/ Salt, Pepper and deep fried. Unfortunately, they were not crispy enough for us to chew all of them... we only managed to try their legs (or feet). Don't be freaked out by the hair on the legs, the Spider we had tasted alright, it certainly reminded us of Dried Shrimps- chewy with woody texture.... no funny smell if you must know. Scorpion on the other hand, was less-favorable, I bit on one of the claws and it was so hard that I thought I was biting on a Crab (with hard shell), the texture was not as friendly as Spider. While they were not delicious at all but it was a fun experience nevertheless.

11) T Galleria by DFS Angkor
Address: 968, Vithei Charles De Gaulle, Siem Reap (right next to National Museum of Siem Reap)
Business Hours: 9 am to 10 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +855 063 962 511

If you can't control the shopaholic in you and would insist on finding a good shopping place to shop, make your way to T Galleria, right next to National Museum of Siem Reap. T Galleria is new and houses many renowned premium international brands such as Coach, Michael Kors, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Dior, Bottega Veneta, Emporio Armani, Gucci, Fendi etc (refer to the website for the full list of brands). All items are tax-free here and true enough, some of the Watches are cleverly priced. Getting there is easy, simply hop on a Tuk Tuk and they will take you there.

Siem Reap International Airport

Rumor: We hear that the immigration officer will ask for "tips" upon entering the country and we did witness some people intentionally sandwiching USD $1 in their passports to handover to the officers. No prizes for guessing whether they accepted the money or otherwise. Anyway, we were not even asked for the bribe and the whole process went smoothly. 

If you must know, Malaysians (with a valid Passport) do not need VISA to enter Cambodia. 

Plaza Premium Lounge @ Siem Reap International Airport
Address: No. G-75, International Departure Terminal, Siem Reap International Airport.
Business Hours: 5 am to 1 am. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +855 063 962 378

Many Thanks to Plaza Premium Lounge Siem Reap for hosting us

Air travels in Siem Reap continue to grow and with the newly refurbished International Airport, there are certainly something worth looking forward to. Apart from the standard Duty Free shop, travelers can also have a quick recharge at the Plaza Premium Lounge at International Departure Terminal, a stone's throw distance away from the boarding gates.

Plaza Premium Lounge offers one of the most refined airport experiences one can ever imagine; with the new Plaza Premium Lounge opened on 21 April 2016, visitors to Siem Reap can now enjoy the world-class airport lounge services and facilities. The design is gorgeous- clean, modern and minimalist... similar in many respects to other Plaza Premium Lounges in Malaysia.

Business travelers can now make great investments by simply paying entrance fee of USD $39 for a 2-hour usage and unlock opportunities to enjoy facilities like International Buffet, wide selection of beverages, high-speed WiFi, Business Cubicles with recharging stations (for work), Shower facilities (with amenities) etc. Certain Bank Card holders may have complimentary access to the lounge, please refer to the friendly staff at Premium Plaza Lounge Siem Reap or call to inquire.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Appetizers- fresh Greens, Salad and Fruits

Fish Ball Noodles

Fried Fritters and Hot dishes


Though there are not much on offer, the selection is good enough for a quick recharge. A bowl of hot (Vietnamese-influenced) Fish Ball Noodles will always remain comforting. To quench the thirst, look no further than their bar... which has almost everything on offer. One of the notable items would definitely be the pride of Cambodian- Angkor Beer. Other types of Cocktails and fizzy drinks are also available.

USD $39 for 2-hour Lounge use/ USD $55 for 5-hour Lounge use

Working cubicles for the professionals

Dining hall

Reading corner

Make your travel less-stressful by enjoying their Massage treatment (will be available soon), traditional Khmer Massage Treatment will be introduced soon from USD $13 (15 minutes), though the setting is not that grand, it is a great way for stress management (in a way). For those who concerned, Shower facilities and VIP room are available upon request and advance booking.

Have Fun and Travel Safe in Siem Reap!