WHAT WE DID:
- Spent two weeks at guesthouses:
- Siem Reap (5 days)
- Transit – bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
- Phnom Penh (4 days)
- Transit – bus from Phnom Penh to Kampot
- Kampot (5 days)
WHAT WE LIKED:
- Siem Reap was probably our favorite place, and not just for Angkor. The people were incredibly friendly, the food was wicked cheap (sometimes only $1.50 for a meal), the guesthouses were an unbelievable value, and the area was really bicycle-friendly and easy to navigate.
- Giant Ibis, a private bus company that runs between major municipalities as well as to Vietnam (used largely by tourists), was fabulous! The tickets were reasonably-priced, the buses were clean, comfortable, and air-conditioned, and the customer service was very good. Definitely the best bus service we’ve had in Asia.
- Motor-biking around Kampot and Kep… just awesome! Gorgeous area, amazingly friendly people, and the most adorable kids. The little ones all just want to say hello, try out a couple words in English, and have you return an enthusiastic wave. You can’t help but smile as you cruise down the roads.
WHAT WE’D CHANGE:
- Spend less time in Phnom Penh – seems to be the overall trend with us and large cities.
- Because of the dry season, we missed Ang Trapeang Thmor (sarus crane sanctuary) & Prek Toal (bird sanctuary & floating village), both a short drive from Siem Reap. Although not ideal in the dry season, this year’s exceptional drought precluded us from visiting both places. We realize for the best birding in Asia, visiting after the wet season would have be best (October or later), but our timeline didn’t allow for this.
- We were hoping our bus would stop in Skuon (the country’s tarantula capital), about midway between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh – but, alas, it was not meant to be.
WHAT WE LEARNED:
- Banks and some other establishments, like restaurants, won’t honor U.S. bills issued prior to 1990.
- Don’t let your guard down in Phnom Penh; we had several people that looked like they were ready to grab our phone and bolt when we were looking at the map.
- Tuk tuk drivers are beyond persistent in Phnom Penh, to the point that we were regularly really frustrated. Added bonus – when the tuk tuk drivers aren’t nagging you about a ride, they’re trying to sell you marijuana… “Tuk tuk? No? Smoke weed?” Apparently if you’re stupid enough to buy it, they inform the cops around the corner and take a cut of the $1000 fine.
WEIGHTS & MEASURES:
AVERAGE PETROL COST: 3,000 Riel/L
AVERAGE EXCHANGE RATE: 4,100 Riel (៛) to $1.00 USD (de facto currency is USD; Riel are used as change for dollar bills)
Would love to know what your favorite countries or experiences were in Southeast Asia as a whole.
Countries as a whole – Laos & Cambodia, without a doubt.
Favorite experiences – volunteering at Elephant Nature Park (northern Thailand, easily one of our favorite weeks of the whole trip), Luang Prabang (Laos), and Angkor Archaeological Park (Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, & Preah Khan being our favorite sites).
Update: we just did some caving around Phong Nha NP… what an unbelievably gorgeous area of the country! Definitely would add to our favorites of SE Asia.