The West of Cambodia

SIEM REAP

Global Mark : 15.31    Top Five : No2

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
4 4 5 5 3 3 1 14.29

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
24 100% 71% (17) 100% 12 to 20 16.33


Description :
A relaxed empty city by the side of the most famous & impressive ruins of Asia : the complex of Angkor.

Comments : Obviously, Siem Reap is not the reason to come to Cambodia but it is an attractive place bordered with charming villages well worth strolling around.

What to do ? 
- In town : Avoid touts & ask the guesthouse for a 20% discount. This is also true when arriving at night from Bangkok : you do not have to stay where the tour company brings you !  / Get free good guide- magazines (Siem Reap Visitors Guide & The free Angkor Complete Guide) / Walk the town, passing colorful markets, small temples, charming streets and luxury hotels / See artists working on stone, wood or doing polychromie at Les Artisans D'Angkor (best during week day 7 to 11 & 14 to 17) / Learn about the whole process of sericulture from silk worm breeding to price tags / Shop for souvenirs / See all kind of mines with stories at a small museum on the way to Angkor (donation only) / Get a massage (and help the blind)
- Around Siem Reap : Tour the beautiful countryside / See water wheels / Visit the earliest temples built by the Khmers at Roluos / Swim & relax on tiny beaches at Baray Oriental / Degust bees / Watch sunset in peace at Phnom Krom / Visit a crocodile farm / Boat a Vietnamese Fishing Village at Tonle Sap Lake (boat to share for $8 per hour) / Continue to the flooded forest / Splash at waterfalls / See the biggest sleeping Buddha of Cambodia at Phnom Kulen (60km) / Walk the jungle toward royal baths at Kbal Spean (40km) / Explore Beng Mealea (60km), a striking temple which has been described as Angkor Wat in the jungle / Visit a wild bird Sanctuary / 

What you may not like ? 
- In town : Being pressured to stay in the first guesthouse / The insistence of the guides to book a tour with them / Hearing "hello motorbike" every two minutes / Having touts well implanted inside your guesthouse, some even following you to your room / The disappointing Central Market, big but dark & dirty / The dusty traffic on some roads / The dirty river / The lack of good night market / The recent dengue fewer outbreak (protect yourself from daylight mosquitoes)
- Around Siem Reap : Realizing on your way to the boat you should have taken more time to visit some of the villages around / The high cost of the expeditions due to the fair distance of some sights & the need to pay the army for the privilege of seeing what a few people have seen

How long ? About one day for the town, as long as possible for Angkor and its surroundings but 3 days would be a minimum !


Where to stay ?  

Hotels  << Get precise info, book online and save money !

Dozens of GH around town. Most of them offer satellite TV, laundry service, rather expensive restaurant quoted in US$, transport booking out of town, bike for rent and, of course, guide service to Angkor. Note that it is often possible to get a 20% discount if you arrive by yourself and not with a tout. 

- On or around Wat Bo Road, East of the river, from South to North :

bulletBig Lyna Villa (63 964807), No659 Wat Bo Village, on the road leading to Wat Bo, near the river / Upstairs wooden & bamboo rooms w. bathtub $20, w. AC $25, Downstairs concrete rooms $10 / Save 20% by showing up without a tout / French manager / Go there for the most charming traditional rooms in town & the relaxing terrace / What you may not like : not getting HW nor TV for those high prices
bulletGreen Park GH (012 890358), at the level of Oum Khun St on the other side of the river, just South of Diamond Hotel / Sgl $3, Dbl $4, Dbl w. shower $5 / Go there to take it easy if the pick-up from Poipet drop you here or to have your dirty clothes washed for free / What you may not like : the oppressive guides & offer of service, the rather small rooms and the bad noise isolation.
bulletB&B Global Home Stay (63 380189), east of the above, at the corner with Wat Bo Rd / Dorm (20) on the roof w. mosquito net $2, correct room w. shower & view $6(1) or $8(2) / Incl. unlimited breakfast (bread, butter & jam) / Go there to eat a lot & watch TV a lot as the owner has an extensive collection of VCD.
bulletMarina Villa (012 910759), No307 Wat Po Rd / Clean correct rooms w. shower $6(1) or $7(2) but no view as on the ground floor / Speak French
bullet® Angkor Thom Hotel (016 821094), No6 Street, next to the above / Upper floor rooms w. shower, local TV, fridge & good view $6(1) or $7(2), rooms w. cable TV $7(1) or $8(2), w. AC $12 / Little "extra" / Go there for one of the best deal in town as the rooms are cozy & fully equipped / What you may not like : the rather small rooms and the price increase during HS 
bulletPailin GH, Mohogany GH (963417) & Sun Rise GH (015 635883) in the northern part of Wat Bo Rd, on the right / Rather basic & small rooms, some w. mosquito net $4(1) or $5(2), w. shower $5 or $6.
bulletMom's GH (063 964037), just north of the above / In old wooden house : room $4(1) or $6(2), w. shower $8 / In new concrete house in the back : room $10 (fan) or $15 (AC) / Go there for the comfortable new rooms, some of them with a nice view over town.
bulletGarden House (063 963523), opposite the above / Sgl $4, Dbl $6 / Correct but basic rooms with some wooden charm & mosquito net
bulletSiem Reap Angkor GH (012 881692), at the level of Street 03 on the other side of the river, east of Wat Bo Rd / Rooms $3, w. shower $4 / Rather small & grotty
bulletSaron GH (012 630297), No110, just after the above / Sgl $3, Dbl $4, Sgl w. shower $4, Dbl w. shower $5, Dbl w. AC $10 / Go there for the relatively clean & spacious concrete rooms, the cheapest AC in town and to get a free bottle of water by claiming to write a guidebook... / What you may not like : the lack of charm & the barking dog. 
bullet® European GH (012 890917, email : 012890917@mobitel.com.kh ), turn left after the above, in a quiet street / Dbl $5(1) or $7(2), cheaper by $1 if stay more than 2 nights / Restaurant with set breakfast & unlimited dinner ($4) / Go there for one of the best quality-price ratio in town : spotless, nice & spacious high-ceiling fan rooms, water dispenser, little garden with water pond and helpful British owner full of tips & knowledge / What you may not like : not having bathroom attached & the rather expensive food 
bulletHappy GH (012 910782, email : happy@camintel.com ), opposite the above / Room $3(1) or $4(2), w. shower $5(1) or $6(2) / Go there to share smoke, drink & fun with the staff / What you may not like : the above atmosphere & the rather basic rooms
bullet® Samnark Prahriem GH (015 630039), just north of the above / A small house in tiny garden with only 4 rooms / Room w. shower $5 but $4 if walk in alone (not with a tout) / Go there for the cheapest clean attached-shower Dbl & for the opportunities to share the life of a Cambodian family / What you may not like : the intimate atmosphere

- Around very noisy Sivatha Blvd, west of town, from North to South :

bullet® Green Garden Home (015 631634), Oum Khun St, off the main road / Room w. shower from $10 (fan) or $15 (AC) / Go there for a little bit of luxury : nice setting in a relaxing flowered garden and comfortable rooms / What you may not like : the prices if alone
bullet® Eclipse GH (012 907700), south of the above on the main street / Dbl or Trpl w. shower $5 or $7 / Go there for the large wooden upstairs rooms at good prices & for the opportunity to share the life of a Cambodian family / What you may not like : the approximate cleanliness downstairs, the local TV upstairs, the lack of mosquito net at the windows & not speaking Cambodian
bullet® Smiley's GH (12 852955), No26 Krom 1, off the main street, big yellow sign difficult to miss / Dorm outside $1, Sgl $2, Dbl $3, Dbl w. shower $6, w. AC $10, Quad w. shower $8 / Mosquito net / Water dispenser / Free pick-up / Go there to meet other backpackers, the small relaxing garden, the cheap prices for basic rooms or AC / What you may not like : the tiny basic rooms, the dirty common shower, the rather expensive rooms w. shower
bulletRosa GH (012 921986), No6 on main road / Rooms w. shower $6 (1 or 2), w. AC $15 / Correct but lack of charm & noisy. 
bullet® Hao Sotha GH (012 913824), No5 on main street / Upper room w. shower & balcony $5 (1 or 2), small room w. cable TV $7, bigger room $8 / Go there for the brightest rooms in town at an excellent price if two / What you may not like : there are only two cheap rooms with good view and the other my be noisy if next to the road...
bulletBakong GH (063 380126), No1 on main street, rooms in the back / Sgl w. AC, HW shower, satellite TV & fridge $15, Dbl (big + small bed) $20 / Go there for the cozy atmosphere but the rooms are rather small & expensive
bulletOrchidae GH (012 898 178), in "expensive center of city" as they say, turn west after Hotel de la Paix, off the main street / Room $4(1) or $5(2), w. shower $5(1) or $6(2) / Go there to check the rooms. It looked OK from the outside.
bullet® Naga GH (063 963439), after the above / Dorm $1 (not seen) / Sgl or Dbl $2 or $3 (or even cheaper) / Mosquito net / Go there for the cheapest bed in town, the small garden w. old pool table and the friendly backpacking atmosphere / What you may not like : the tiny, basic & not so clean rooms

- A few GH also on National Route (Chenla GH, Takeo GH,...) : seem to cater to Japanese backpackers but are fairly basic, not so cheap and in a rather unpleasant & noisy environment. Let me know if you find exceptions...


Backpacker's Tips :  Carlos Xavier, Portugal (Dec 05)
« When you arrive at Siem Reap ask your driver to head to the hospital, or the central market. The reason is that both are located at a central place of the village and gives you a good reference point to start finding out a guesthouse. I stayed in a guesthouse called Popular guesthouse ( which is situated by the river and 2000 meters from the hospital ) and I payed 5$ for day. the food was good, they had clean rooms and a nice terrace. The motodrivers of the guesthouse were excellent and they didn´t try to get into my pocket but,I did agree about their fees in advanced. Tyckets to the tempels can only be bought at a place that is situated in the road to Angkor wat, if everyone tries to sale you a tycket in other place that is for sure a scam. My advice is to buy a three day tycket cause is almost impossible to see all the major ruins in one day. One more thing, if anyone wants to see something unforgetable ask your driver to take you to the nearest flooting village. The trip there takes almost 20 minutes by motorbike and after havig bought your tycket at the entrance office you will be able to see how people can survive living literaly on dusty and muddy water. The boat trip around the flooting village takes 1 hour and don´t forget taking your camera,otherwise you will deeply regret it. »

Backpacker's Tips : Stefan Westerheide, Germany (Jan 05)
 
« Ivy 2 GH dbl,br,clean,friendly fan 8 $ good value but no mosquito net. Better to stay in Wat Bo Village or near Psar Chas e.g. Red Lodge gets good reviews, there you get a bicycle for free. Cheap food and drinks at Max Mart (two shops in SR). Copied books are cheaper inside the park than in SR
Siem Reap´s harbour: very few tourists go there, on top is a small temple, go through and find yourself a nice spot on the slopes of the hill to watch the gorgeous sunset over Tonle Sap (tuk-tuk 3 $ including wait).
Boat to Battambang 7.5 h, 13 $. Though the bus is much cheaper (4-5 $) faster (3.5 h) and safer I would recommend taking the boat. The ride is extremely scenic (lots of stilt villages on the water), in the morning you can sit on top of the roof (if you´re on a slow boat like us) until the sun gets too hot, it´s less noisy and much more relaxed there.»

Backpacker's Tips : Marcin Goclowski, Poland  (April 04)
« I stayed in Get Lucky Gesthouse in Siem Reap (getlucky_srp@hotmail.com) 15 minute walk from the Old Market to tthe South. Very nice place. Doubles with cold water for 6 dollars, can also organize a tuk-tuk trip to Angkor Wat for 12-15 dollars. Owned by an old ugly woman who doesn't speak English, but managed by young funny English-speaking Cambodian guys who entertain guests, serve meals and show them Angkor. Pretty nice, cheap restaurant, also Internet access. Very good choice. »

Backpacker's Tips : Helle-Mai and Jarek, Estonia & Poland (March 04)
« Tokyo Guest House (same area as Smiley GH and others) is of usual nice, new and pushy kind (4$ dbl), but the view is amazing (if you have room on second floor), there are about 25 big fat crocodiles straight under you window. Possibility 24 hours to keep an eye on crocodiles interesting existence. Owner of the guest house sells them to the market. Good bikes to rent for 1.5 dollars.» 

Backpacker's Tips :  Jia, Malaysia (Feb 04)
« We stayed in D'Angkor Grand guesthouse - USD3.50/night (double room w/ attached shower, satellite TV and ceiling fan), it's right next to the market. Free laundry service if you pay USD5/night.
Must try from the local market: Home-cooked soup (very very tasty, serve with steamed white rice @ R1500/person), sugarcane juice (R500), Cambodian hotdog (R500, you might not like how the leaves taste though).
You can rent a bicycle at USD2/day, just ask around.Oh yeah, bring mosquito repellent!
»

Backpacker's Tips : Spunky, Dutch (April 03)
« We stayed (march 2003) in Kumamoto Guesthouse (tel. 855 - 12 62 44 53), next to Paris Angkor Hotel. This guesthouse was recommended by the guesthouse we stayed in in Phnom Penh. Kumamoto came to pick us up free of charge from the place where the Express Boat from Siem Reap arrives. This is 17 km out of Siem Reap. We paid 4 dollar for a double room with private bathroom. The boys (ask for Bun Thoeun to come with you, he is the most funniest and helpful guy in Siem Reap!) of the guesthouse are working as motorbike drivers and are of course eager to go and visit Angkor Wat with you. We did that for one day and it was really good. We paid 15 dollars per motorbike which is probably a little too much. But for that money they took us in the nighttime to see the sunset in Angkor Wat and the day after we did a whole day Angkor Wat, starting at 05.00 (sunrise) and came back at 17.00 hrs. The furthest temple we visited was 37 km out of town. On the way back we visited the Landmine Museum as well, which is a quite simple but really interesting museum and highly recommended! Angkor Wat is just amazing to see! The temples itself are very beautiful but  also the surroundings are amazing. So green! We definitely enjoyed it! Siem Reap is such a nice town to stay. There are lots of nice restaurants and bars and you can do great shopping. And don't miss out on Cambodian nightlife! There are some crazy clubs in Siem Reap, real worth going to! If you have the possibility take a local with you to experience local (night) life better! »

Backpacker's Tips :  Sin Ho Tan, Singapore (April 03)
« Mandalay Inn Guest House. Fantastic people, Good Location, Best Service, Tasty Food, Safe and Hygiene room and Linen. 148, Sivatha Road. Newly open but service is 5 stars »  Too good to be true?  Check it out!

Backpacker's Tips :  Dirk Verbruggen, Belgium (Dec 00)
« After a hard road trip from Bangkok, the pick-up truck dropped us off at "Sunshine Guesthouse" (house #486, Thaphul Village, Svay Dangkum Commune, Siem Reap, Tel 012/940659). This quiet little guesthouse is located about 15min walk to the N-W of the market. They charge 3$ for a double room with private bathroom and provide free laundry service. The owner, mister OUM BOPHA, is very friendly and can give you a lot of information about the surroundings. They also provide transport to the temples on motorbikes for 6$/day/pers. This little place was really a home away from home... the food was excellent, especially the red curry. For a nice drink in a very nice setting in town head to "The Red Piano" near the market. »


Where to eat ? Plenty of restaurants & GH quoting in US$. For very low local prices, head toward the old market or the north-east of the river (north National route 6) : prepared dishes cost R1000 a plate, plain rice R500. For low local prices & English menu, go south National route 6 to one of the two busy restaurants on the east of the river : vegetable fried rice cost R2000. 

Backpacker's Tips :  Guan Hing Teo, Singapore (Dec 01)
« There is a small shop, Angkor Diamond, near to Pacific Commercial Bank that offers really cheap and good food. The owner is a Cambodian Chinese who cook food a little different from the rest. It differs from the conventional Cambodian food as it is less sweet, closer to the taste of Chinese.»

Bikes ? Most of the GH have bike for rent but it can be expensive (up to $4 a day) or substandard (Chinese bike). Rasmei Angkor GH (rather dirty & basic rooms, tel: 015 834264), just north of the market, offer good mountain bike for $2 a day, with the possibility to keep it at night. Passport deposit. 

Motorbikes ? Just before the market, opposite the bridge at the corner, a money changer (016 818133) offer motorcycle for $6 (after a bit of negotiation) a day. They also accepted to deduct our repair costs. Royal Group (012 823 147) at 22 Sivatha Blvd has got 250cc motto-cross bikes for $10 a day. 

Internet ? The cheapest internet place is ATS Internet (Sivatha Blvd, near Provincial Hospital) : $0.15 per mn or $8 per hour (above 30mn, free drink comes attached) but the connection is poor. The best bet is therefore the Lotus Temple "Group" (opposite the market) : $20 an hour but off line use for "only" $0.25 per kilobyte and better connection.

Backpacker's Tips :  Robin (March 06)
« There are several new ATMS in Siem Reap that accept most cards and are protected by guards...»

Backpacker's Tips :  Anonymous (Aug 01)
« IS down to around $2.00 per hour, connections are fast and mostly reliable. The best place I found (not the cheapest) is the Ecafe on Sivatha Blvd opposite the Cambodia Bank, 2.25 per hour but aircon and fast connection.»

From the airport ? 7km away. Visa upon arrival. It should cost US$1-2 by motorbike or US$5 by taxi. Follow touts and get a free ride !


Leaving Siem Reap ?
Most GH can arrange for pick-up truck or boat tickets out. Some of the less expensive include Happy GH, Saron's, Smiley's or Naga. If taking the boat, make sure to buy the ticket at an agency which provide a free transport to the pier. 

To Battambang : considering the state of the road to Sisophon, the fast boat is the only good option : 7am, $15 (down to $13 with some GH), 3-4 hours

To Phnom Penh : 
- By boat (251km, 5 to 7 hours) : Fast boat, 7am, $25 (down to $23 with some GH), 5-6 hours. Follow the other backpackers to the roof to enjoy the view & feel safer / Also slow boat, cheaper but 34 hours ! / Boat leave from Phnom Krom (usually free transport to the lake then $1 boat ride to the pier)
- By road (314km, 9 to 12 hours) : Minibus, 7am, $9 / Also pick-up trucks, $3 to $6 depending on where you seat. 

To the Thai Border (Poipet) : the 4 hours ride should cost around B150 in the front cabin of a truck. Best to ask to go to Sisophon first (B100) and change for the border (B50) to avoid some of the possible scams. Best also to show up early in the morning. / From Aranyaprathet to Bangkok, two trains daily (13:35 arr. 19:15 & 06:30 arr. 11:50, B40, 3rd class) or hourly buses (around B150, 4 hours). The bus station is 6km from the border (B50) / Also possible to go straight to Bangkok from Siem Reap : 9 hours, around $14 inside or $10 outside (much cheaper the other way) / If not too found of the road, you could consider reaching the border via Battambang (3-4 hours from the border)

Backpacker's Tips : David, France (Oct 04)
 
« From Siem Reap to Pnom Penh: There are boats every day between The 2 cities.If you ask the price for Siem reap to the capital most of the people will tell you it's 25 dollars,but in fact one day there are only 1 boat and it's 25 dollars and the next day there are 2 boats and it's 10 dollars for the boat. And It's cheaper to take the visa for Vietnam in Cambodia than in Bangkok.»

Backpacker's Tips :  Anonymous (Sept 01)
« The road from Siem Reap to Poipet has been upgraded. The new road opened in May 2001. It now takes about 4 hours. To Bangkok, it cost around  $13 and takes about 10 hours total.»


Visit Angkor ?  See the Angkor Wat Section 


The trip to Battambang : SSSSS / all around / $1+$13 / 4 hrs / Speed boat
This was a short night as the free transport to the pier was scheduled at 5:30. We however did not leave until 6:00, once having collected passengers from all the guesthouses involved. A pick-up truck from another company was doing the same. 
The 12km trip toward the pier was very interesting as passing small villages with water wheels and lotus flower's water-fields. The end of the road was however busy & crowded with small shops offering breakfast opportunities and touts eager to put us on their respective boats. Why that ? Because the nice 30mn ride to the fishing village where the boat would depart was not included in the ticket price ! We all had to fork out another dollar...
As most of the westerners were going to Phnom Penh, our boat was mostly patronized by local people. It was of the speedy basic type with two not-that-noisy engines and no roof. We left on time at 7:30.
The first part of the trip was across the wide lake and it offered a nap opportunity. But soon, things really became interesting : fishermen villages on stilts, Chinese fishing nets in action, boats of all size, shape & use,... The river life was keeping us well awake.
Just after the 5mn break, the trip however took a scary turn or, more exactly a lot of scary turns : the river had became narrow and twinkling but our driver did not feel like it was time to reduce the speed. Turning without visibility on the inner edge of the river, we nearly collided with three oncoming boats we discovered in the last second. Fishermen's boats along the way were also badly shaken by the waves generated by our powerful engines. Passengers kept smiling at each other but those were rather nervous smiles. Local passengers tried to reassure me by saying that the driver knew the river fine as he was doing it everyday but I wasn't moved by such claim : it was not the river I was afraid of but the other boats ! I therefore asked the driver whether or not he could postpone his suicide plan until later and cool of a bit. Speed was not reduced but turns seemed widen a little bit more... 
The perilous part lasted for only 30 long minutes. The river soon became wide again and we finished the trip thinking more about the scenery than our fate. We arrived at 11am. 
The jetty was opposite the hospital, less than a km north from the market & hotels' area. Motorcycle drivers welcomed us with R1000 proposals, down rapidly to the normal R500. The place receiving few visitors, there were however no touts from the hotels.

Backpacker's Tips :  Phil Mines, UK (Jan 03)
« There is also a slow boat (I mean slow 6 hours+) as an alternative. It leaves from the same place and is not meant for foreigners but it is possible to travel on it. It gives you much more time to enjoy the journey and as it stops to pick people up you see more. It has neat little wicker chairs and the best way to describe it is a "chicken bus boat"»

 << Discover the boat trip


See also the trip from Poipet (Thai Border)

Backpacker's Tips :  Audris, Malaysia (Dec 05)
« We start our journey from Bangkok, Khao San Road. No matter you buy the bus ticket to Siem Reap from different travel agent there with different price, finally most of the tourist will be meet inside same tourist bus. When we across the Aranyaprathet - Poipet checkpoint, didn't face the scams from Imigresen Officers. Everything ok. But we find that hard to get the pick-up truck at Poipet checkpoint when we met and informed other groups which is not arranged their transport through travel agent. When they request us to help to lodge them in our tourist bus to Siem Reap, USD12 is requested by travel agent. Finally that group go to Siem Reap with Taxi (USD60.00 whole car or 4 persons).
Still very bumpy and unpaved road from Poipet to Siem Reap. Only the last part is paved. Even public holidays, money changer still open for bussiness in Siem Reap Town, rate is USD1:4200Riel.
We met broken bridge on the way to Siem Reap. Local people ask for tol payment, 20Baht/person, luckily not USD20!! So, if you access from Thailand by land, better keep little bit baht with you. Of course, restaurants on the way mostly accept Riel only, but normally we don't have appetite to eat once it is still the 7-8 hrs bumpy and unpaved raod. Most of tourist bus reached at Siem Reap at mid-night.
Better visit Phnom Bakheng in morning, would not crowd as night market in evening. View the sunset at Angkor Wat is exceptionally good!
»

Backpacker's Tips : Heather Robertson, Canada (June 04): Cambodia's bus scam
« Walk down Koh San Road in Bangkok and you will be confronted with any number of travel agencies and travel options. But please remember that the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap (only 100 baht!!!) really is too good to be true. In fact, if I had read up on the numerous scams abounding in Cambodia, perhaps I would have been able to avoid what in fact turned out to be one of the most frightening experiences of my life. The truth is, although you are only paying 100 baht to get to Siem Reap, on the WORST "road" I've ever even been on by the way - if you can even call it a road, you are expected to stay at the guest house that you are brought to at the end of your journey. This means you can add on another US 6 - 10 dollars to the cost of your trip, because as I discovered, you will not easily be let go to find a different accomodation.

The trip to the Cambodia border is fine, although if you don't have your visa already you will be taken to a restaurant not far from the border and charged more than the required price to get your visa due to a "service charge". It is once you are at the border, Poipet, that the fun really begins. As a group of 12 travellers, we were made to wait on the Cambodian side of the border for over 3 hours... This, I would later learn, is fairly standard. We kept being told that the bus was "delayed". The border is not a fun nor necessarily safe place - there are countless pick-pockets (I mean you have to HOLD on to your wallet at all times) and children beggars etc. However, once we finally got on the bus, it would still take us over 12 hours to finally get to Siem Reap. This is because the bus makes many "extortion" stops along the way, at pre-arranged small road-side convenience stands and restaurants. This has the unfortunate effect of delaying your journey well into the night, because as I was to soon discover, your hosts do not want to give you any options when it comes to arriving in Siem Reap at close to midnight or even after. I've also heard that there are many bandits on these roads, and they are very unsafe - that I can not personally testify to, but suffice it to say that you are in NO MAN'S LAND. Anything that could happen to you I would believe possible.

It was when we FINALLY arrived in SR that our trip took a very unfortunate turn for the worse. While our bus pulled up to the guest house we were supposed to be dropped at, our bags etc. were unloaded into the guest house before the travellers were even let off the bus. As well, I was surprised to see around 15 Cambodian men waiting for us at the GH. Although my friend and I had made it very clear from the beginning of the trip that we were already booked to stay in another GH - we were meeting friends there - what had originally been "no problem" turned into all of these Cambodian men doing their best to prevent us from leaving. This includes standing in a line in front of us so we couldn't even get to the road without pushing past them, which I ws not so inclined to do. We were not even in the town of SR, but out in the country, on a dirt road with no lights ... perhaps 10 minutes from where we needed to be. All of a sudden, our "friendly hosts" started threatening and accusing us of not wanting to stay in their GH (which had cockroaches EVERYWHERE - bed, floor, walls, sink etc.) The only way we could eventually leave, safely, was to negotiate for one of their tuk-tuks to take us around Angkor for the following day (at a very inflated price). They made their money off of us in another way and so they were happy to have us leave.

All I can say is that most people in Cambodia are friendly and welcoming, but this experience was a very bad one to have in my first few hours in the country. It was something that I suppose I could have easily avoided if I had read up on what this scam in fact was. However, I was very conscious after it happened that many Cambodians do carry knives or other weapons on them and as a tourist (especially a female tourist) you always have to remember that. Of course, Angkor is an experience that words alone can not even describe, and I would automatically recommend people to go to Cambodia for that. That is why my recommendation to Cambodia is qualified: you have to remember that safey is more of an issue there, especially coming from places like Thailand. This bus scam, apparently, is one of the last things run by the khmer mafia ... and it is perfectly orchestrated to catch unsuspecting tourists who are too tired to arrange other accomodation. But taking it is a safety risk, and one that I wish I hadn't taken. Ultimately, I cut my trip to SR short and ended up leaving for Pnom Penh only one day after being in SR because I felt so unsettled there. I'm really glad that I was with someone else (another woman) but at least I wasn't travelling by myself.
»

 

 

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