Trip to Siem Reap & Angkor Wat, Cambodia - April 2009
The travel blog

Back to index pageGet in touch if you have any questionsClick here to check out the Angkor Wat map




Churning of the Sea of Milk, The Khmer Rouge, Apsaras, the temples of Angkor Wat, King Jayavarman VII, Pol Pot, The Killing Fields, Tomb Raider – this is a trip report from Angkor Wat and Siem Reap in Cambodia.


A short summary
The Cambodian flag is also displaying Angkor WatThis trip report will focus on the short trip that my wife, Nikki, and I took to Siem Reap in Cambodia in the period from April 11 - 14th 2009. Our main reason for visiting Siem Reap was to visit the temples of Angkor Wat and it was a part of a round trip in South East Asia that also included Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The trip report is split into sections and this first page will focus on our stay in Siem Reap and our visits to the temples. On the next pages you will find information about Le Méridien Angkor hotel and an interactive Google map of the Angkor Wat temple complex and Siem Reap.
Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments. All pictures are taken by Nikki and Gard with our Canon EOS 450D, Canon IXUS and Olympus mju 750.

Nikki and I have been to Asia several times before and we have been to places like China, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia etc. But for a while we have been talking about expanding our horizon and this time it was time to visit some new countries. So in connection with a business trip to Malaysia, we decided to visit Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Siem Reap/Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Map of Cambodia

Map of Cambodia. Map provided by


Planning the trip
I have to admit that we didn’t plan our trip to Siem Reap that well. The period leading up to the trip was pretty busy but we did manage to buy a DK Eyewitness Guide for Vietnam and Angkor Wat and a Lonely Planet book focusing on Cambodia. We also reserved our flights in and out of Siem Reap, booked the hotel but we did not book any tours in advance.


Note: For flights in Asia you should check out AirAsia for cheap tickets.


The lobby at Le Meridien Angkor in Siem ReapAlthough we agree that the hotel is simply a storage space for our suitcases/valuables and a place to crash at night, the hotels in Asia afford one more luxury than e.g. most of Europe. More quality for the price you pay so we got a little carried away and in the end we decided to go for Le Méridien Angkor as I’m a Starwood Preferred Guest. Le Méridien Angkor was 153 USD including taxes, breakfast etc and you can read our review of the hotel here.
We also bought tickets from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap using Vietnam Airlines and the ticket was NOK 1205 (about 190 USD) per person.


Angkor Wat on a Cambodian bank noteNote: In Cambodia the currency is known as Riel. Right now 1 USD is about 4125 Riel (KHR). The “problem” is that no one is interested in Riel – basically only USD is in use. So bring along some US dollars and have a few one dollar bills available as you can expect people to give you back change when you hand them a 100$ bill :-)


When it comes to vaccines you should check with your authorities’ recommendations. e.g. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Siem Reap is considered a malaria area so you have to also look into this. After consulting our local vaccinations authority we chose to not go for malaria pills this time.


Note: You can apply for an e-visa in advance (check in order to avoid lines at the airports and border crossings. I paid 25 USD for the e-visa. The site is a bit unstable so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work on the first try.


The trip begins – from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap
Our Vietnam airlines flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem ReapWe started in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) (check out the seperate trip report) and the flight from HCMC to Siem Reap only took about 1 hour with a Vietnam Airlines airbus A320. We even got a little sandwich on the short flight :-) From our window we got a pretty good view as it was a clear day. White elephant at Siem Reap airport in CambodiaThe airport at Siem Reap it quite small and very charming – it reminded me a bit of the airport at Koh Samui in Thailand. The airport seemed to be fairly new and as we left the plane we were met by a statue of a white elephant. Owning a white elephant is regarded as something very special in this part of the world. I had already applied for my e-visa so getting through immigration was not a problem – it just took a bit of time as there were quite a lot of stamps involved. I think my passport and immigration papers were stamped 5 times each, and topped off by the immigration officer’s signature - on each of them *phew*


The weather was hot and sunny as you would expect from South East Asia. Note that you can check what weather to expect on


First impression of Siem Reap in CambodiaGetting a taxi when we got out was not a problem – the price was 7 USD for getting to the hotel and we didn’t have a problem with that. I guess I was expecting that the driving would be similar to what we experienced in Vietnam but the driving experience here was totally different. In HCMC they did drive pretty crazy but the taxi from the airport in Siem Reap to our hotel took it slow and easy. Cambodia is regarded as a third world country with a GDP per capita of about 2000 USD (while the same number for Norway is 53 400 USD). Housing we saw along the way to the hotel was quite modest – shacks, plastic chairs, people selling stuff along the road, cows walking on the fields etc.


Our taxi driver did ask us if we had gotten a guide for our stay in Siem Reap but we had decided to go for a tour guide through the hotel so we turned down his offer. It’s quite common to get such requests so don’t be afraid to take him up on the offer. Just ensure you organize a certified guide in addition to the driver. The drive to the hotel was only 20 minutes and on the way we got glimpses of the ruins around Angkor Wat. As I mentioned earlier we stayed at Le Méridien Angkor. The hotel is quite new and was a very relaxing and pleasant experience.


What to see and do in Siem Reap?
Nikki on a tuk-tuk in Siem ReapMost people come to Siem Reap to check out the temples of Angkor Wat. But as we had arrived at the hotel at about 1 PM there was not that much time to check out the temples that day. So we spent our first day checking out Siem Reap and organizing the next days. As the hotel is located a bit out of the center of town we grabbed a so called tuk-tuk to get around. A tuk-tuk in Cambodia was basically a moped with a little carriage attached to it (unlike the Thai tuk-tuk which is a three wheeled vehicle). There were a few outside the hotel at all times so it was never a problem getting around. The price seemed to be pretty fixed at 2 USD to go from the hotel to the old market even if a driver one night tried to bring it up to 3 USD.


Note: Agree on price of a tuk-tuk or taxi in advance in order to avoid any uncomfortable disagreements.


A stall selling stuff along the road to the airportWe started out by going to Psar Chaa, the Old market in town. It only took us 5-10 minutes on the tuk-tuk as it is about 3 km (1.8 miles) from the hotel. The drive took us along the Siem Reap river, past a royal palace, restaurants and shops etc. Siem Reap seems to be a quiet little town or maybe we drove around in the middle of “siesta” time. We were also there in connection with the Cambodian New Year and maybe that slowed down things as well. People were preparing for the New Years by buying decorations for their homes. People seemed to be friendly and they would bring out the smiles when we looked at them. We just walked around the Old Market area to familiariase ourselves with the place and we walked through “pub street”, “the alley” etc.


At Artisans D'Angkor in Siem ReapWe walked over to Artisan D’Angkor which is a center where unemployed/uneducated youth from outside of Siem Reap get educated and trained in wood carving, stone carving, making silk products etc. We got a tour around the school from one of the students and we got to see the different products in the making. In the end there is also a store where you can buy some of their products so if you want to give some money back to the community; this is the place to buy. You can read more about this on


Spring rolls at Butterflies Garden restaurant in Siem ReapFinding a place to eat in Siem Reap is not a problem. Pub street and the alley consist of lots of bars and restaurants to choose from. On the first night we decided to go for dinner at the Butterflies Garden as this is a “dining for a cause” place e.g. sell products to help communities that are affected by HIV/Aids. When we came there we thought we had come to the wrong place as there was no one else there. Angkor beer at Butterflies Garden restaurant in Siem ReapBut we had come to the right place and got a table in the garden amongst the ponds. We had also chosen this restaurant as there was supposed to be a show of traditional dancing there….but of course with so few guests the show never did happen. Sitting all alone in a restaurant is a bit sad – a restaurant should be filled with lots of people enjoying good food. We had spring rolls (the same kind we had in Vietnam) and chicken in ginger to start with and the chicken was excellent. For main dishes we chose chicken curry and chicken in tamarind. There are a lot of similarities between Thailand and Cambodia (I will get back to this later on) so we were very surprised to find out that Cambodian food is not spicy! The main dishes were also quite good and together with a big Angkor beer and a big bottle of water the bill was 23 USD. Frog at Butterflies Garden restaurant in Siem ReapAnd we were not all alone by the way – a frog jumped out of the pond and landed on Nikki’s chair before it jumped from table to table. We never did see any of the butterflies – I guess it was past their bedtime :-) We had also made an arrangement for a roundtrip from our hotel with a tuk-tuk driver but as we were alone at the restaurant the food came quickly and we were done before the scheduled pick up time. But we solved this by leaving some cash at the restaurant for the poor driver and took another tuk-tuk driver back to the hotel. We did run into the tuk-tuk driver the next day and he seemed pretty happy with the arrangement. Might be a good idea to visit this restaurant during the day - might even see some butterflies then.


Note: Pub Street’s happy hour has bargain beers from 0.5 USD a glass.


Time to check out the temples of Angkor
Bas-reliefs at Angkor WatFirst of all let’s take a look at the history – no, I’m not going to bore you with all the details of Cambodia’s history but just a bit of background information. The rise of the Khmer kingdom took place when Jayavarman II declared himself a god-king in 802 AD. This was the start of one of the greatest empires in Southeast Asia and the period that would last until about 1432. Guides taking some tourist for a tour at Angkor WatThe main temple of Angkor Wat was built by Suryavarman II in the 12th century but it seems like one of the most important kings was Jayavarman VII who built a lot of the temples in the complex (including Bayon). The Khmer kingdom fell in 1431 when it is invaded by Thais and then many of the temples declined over the years but were rediscovered by the French in the 1860’s and the various temples have been restored and this work is still in progress. You can see an example of the restoration when you walk into Angkor Wat itself…the right hand side of the causeway has been restored; the left hand side is the original.


When I first heard about Angkor Wat I thought it was just one temple. Well, if you are of the same impression, think again. The Angkor temples are a vast temple complex and Angkor Wat is just one of many temples. Angkor Wat is located just north of Siem Reap and it was only about 3 km from our hotel.


Our passes to Angkor WatSo how can you check out the temples of Angkor? If you have lots and lots of time you can of course walk but I would not recommend this as it is a vast area and it is hot. There are two circuits that are made that you can bike which are 17 km (10,5 miles) and 26 km (16 miles). You can also rent a tuk-tuk to take you around – or an airconditioned car. Whichever mode of transportation you choose you still have to pay the entrance fee to Angkor. There is a gate on the way from Siem Reap and the one day pass is 20 USD and the three day pass is 40 USD. Passes are made on the spot as they take photos with a digital camera. Remember to smile! ;-)


Note: We were only able to pay with cash and not with credit card for admission to the Angkor temples.


Map of Angkor Wat

Map of Angkor Wat. Map kindly provided by .


We decided to go “all the way” on this trip and we went for a guide and a driver. The car/driver cost 30 USD per day and the guide was also 30 USD per day. This seemed to be the average price whether you booked through the hotel or directly. One thing we appreciated was not feeling like we were being duped. Pricing in Siem Reap for e.g. tuk-tuk seems to be standard. We were picked up at 9 am by Mr. Noun Chansarak (you can reach him on and a driver in a Toyota Camry and it only took a couple of minutes to the check point where we bought a three day pass to the temples.

Note: Keep the passes handy as they are checked when entering the various temples.


The temple of Angkor Wat
Parking outside Angkor WatIt only took a few more minutes before we reached some sort of lake and it turned out to be the moat around the Angkor Wat temple. The moat around the temple measures about 1,3 km by 1,5 km and it is about 190 meters wide. We stopped in front of the main entrance (the west gate) and as soon as we walked out of the car we were “ambushed” by people trying to sell us stuff. Kids were trying to sell postcards, books about Angkor Wat, drinks, clothing etc and they didn’t give up the first time we said “No”. This would be a recurring theme on all the temples we visited in the area. Discomforting at times and also a touchy subject with regards to the children selling wares instead of attending school.


The cause way leading over the moat to Angkor WatWalking across the causeway over the moat towards the temple is quite an experience. It is amazing to think that we were walking on a bridge laid down over 800 years ago – just clearing this area to build the temples and moat must have been a monumental task. Keep in mind that there are no quarries in the area – the stone had to be brought in from the Kulen Mountains some 50 km (about 31 miles) away. After we crossed the moat we reached the outer wall. Statue of Vishnu at Angkor WatOur guide seemed well informed and he told us about the ruins, the legends, the symbolisms, the different figures….but to be honest it was hard to keep up. There were stone carvings everywhere, the ruins are impressive – it was just hard to digest everything at once. We walked through the outer wall, looked at the 3 meter statue of Vishnu carved from one sandstone block and got an introduction to the different figures. Some of them are apsaras: heavenly nymphs who are shown in a dancing mode all over the temples, the linga which is a phallic symbol, the naga which is a multi-headed serpent, the garuda which are half man half bird etc.


Carving of an apsara at Angkor WatThe outer walls are about 1025 meters by 850 meters (3360 ft by 2790 ft) so once you pass through the wall you get to quite an extensive court yard with a view to the Angkor Wat temple – the symbol that you can see in e.g. the Cambodian flag. One of the towers at Angkor WatWe walked the causeway and our guide lead the way to some of the better photo spots and even helped us take photos of us with the temple in the background. We walked over to the temple and the first wall stretching around View to Angkor Watthe temple is covered with panel after panel with carvings displaying various important histories – the first thing that came to my mind was of course the Ramakien at Grand Palace in Bangkok. The bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat are amazing – there are thousands and thousands of figures and stories with amazing details. None of the photos we have taken can give a sense of how grand this is – you have to see it with your own eyes.


Soup in a coconut in Siem ReapAfter a few hours at Angkor Wat it was time for lunch and there are a few places to eat outside the main entrance. Alternatively, you can return to your hotel or a restaurant in town. Our guide took us to a place called Angkor Reach where we had a small lunch – I tried some sort of Cambodian soup served in a coconut but the food was not really the focus here - we were just eager to get going as there was a lot more to see.


Angkor Thom and Bayon
Nikki jumping in the Angkor Wat areaWe continued going north and after a short drive we came to an impressive gate – the bridge leading over the moat was lined by stone statues holding the naga (the giant serpent) – demons on one side and gods on the other. This is a scene that you will see again and again around the temples as “The Churning of the Sea of milk” is an integral part of their legends. Bayon temple in the Angkor Wat temple complexAngkor Thom was the fortified city built by King Jayavarman VII and historians think it housed about 1 million people. The “city” is about 3 km by 3 km (1.8 by 1.8 miles) so it is a vast area. We drove to the middle of the town where the Bayon temple is located and started looking around there. The temple was built by King Jayavarman VII and contains 54 towers and 216 huge stone faces of Avalokiteshvara (the Buddha of compassion) but some say that they also look like the King himself.


The face of Avalokiteshvara at BayonWalking around in the temple is a bit eerie – wherever you go, whatever you see there is always a huge stone face looking down at you – with a strange smile. I guess it was a hint to all in the city that the king was always watching them – a great way to remind people who’s in charge.
Stone faces at Bayon temple inside Angkor ThomThe Bayon temple also features lots of bas-reliefs (about 1,2 km with 11.000 figures, according to the Lonely Planet guidebook) and it seems like the bas-reliefs here is like a diary as it shows everyday life in 12th century Cambodia. The LP guidebook is very informative and I would recommend it if you are not planning on having a guide with you – it can give at least some description of all the bas-reliefs that you see in the temples. I have to admit that we were most fascinated by the stone faces and we walked around on the third level for quite some time and took lots of photos.


View to Ta Keo at Angkor WatWe took a walk outside Bayon afterwards and visited Terrace of Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King etc. before we drove out of the gates in the east wall (the Victory gate). We made a short stop at Ta Keo and as Nikki and our guide were ready for a break from climbing steep temple stairs, I went to the top alone. This is an unfinished temple built by Jayavarman V (968-1001) and they speculate that it was not completed due to the king’s death. Anyway, being about 50 meters high it is still impressive. The staircases leading to the top are steep so be careful on the way down.


Scene from Banteay Kdei outside Siem ReapWe continued on to Banteay Kdei – a Buddhist monastery from the 12th century built by King Jayavarman VII. This was about 500 meters by 700 meters and we just walked through it and were picked up by our driver on the other side. Towards the end of the temple walk I was approached by a young lady that asked me if I wanted to buy stuff and I said no with a smile. Girl trying to sell stuff at Angkor Wat in CambodiaBut she kept on following me asking if I wanted to buy this for my wife, that for my mother etc. As it seemed like her English was pretty good I started talking to her. She told me that she was 16 and when I asked her if she was still in school she said yes but at the moment it was school holiday because of New Year. All of a sudden I saw something glittering in her smile and I was like “what is that?”. I think she got a bit embarrassed as she pressed her lips together in a smile. It turned out that she had some sort of diamond (or similar) inserted into one of her teeth and it was glittering in the sun. I take it that this means that there is some money in selling stuff to the tourists and I hope that it means that some do live a comfortable life.


A small kid at a templeWe did ask our guide about buying stuff from kids and he was like “yes, it is not a problem buying stuff from kids” and he claimed there were lots of kids there due to the school holidays but I’m not completely convinced. They all seem to have the same selling technique – on several occasions kids would ask me if I wanted to buy and I would say no. And then they would say “Ok, I will wait here and maybe you will buy on the way out” and I would innocently reply “Maybe”. And then when I came back out the kids would be like “But I have waited here just for you and now you don’t want to buy? You promised you would buy when you come back” In the end I guess it is better to buy stuff from kids rather than giving money to begging children.


Note: There are toilets around in the Angkor Wat temple complex area. Mostly at the entrances so make a stop before going in or on your way out. You will need to show your entrance pass if you don’t want to pay.


Monks on a bike in Siem ReapAs is it was nearing the Khmer New Year a lot of Cambodians from surrounding areas were in Siem Reap to visit family, take wedding photos at Angkor Wat, take coming of age photos at Angkor Wat, etc. Fortunately Cambodians have free access to Angkor Wat. It seemed like a few of those out of towners (i.e. not used to tourists) were fascinated by Nikki’s dark skin. From time to time people would keep on staring at her which can be a bit uncomfortable. Some would stop and stare - like they had seen a ghost. It seems like the Cambodians also have a complex about darker skin - i.e. light as their ideal skin complexion – just like Thailand, where you can find lots and lots of beauty products with a whitening agent in it. Certainly a test of Nikki’s patience and a topic of discussion considering a number of those out of towners had complexions just as dark and darker than Nikki’s.


Pool at Le Meridien Angkor in Siem ReapAfter a long day of walking around in blazing heat and high humidity, it was great to get back to the hotel and jump into the pool to “cool down”. Well, the pool was like 30 degrees as well so there was not much cooling down to be done there. April is one of the hottest months in this part of Asia – maybe that is why the New Years is celebrated with splashing of water We also had som indian curry at Kamasutra in Siem Reap(as with songkran in Thailand). In the evening we went back to downtown Siem Reap and had dinner at an Indian restaurant called Kamasutra :-) The food was excellent and we paid about 28 USD for onion pakora, a couple of main dishes, two large Angkor beers and a big bottle of water. We also stopped by the night market and here you can find masks, t-shirts with various funny texts, fish spa (you know…where you stick your feet into a pool of small fish and get them to nibble on you), jewellery etc.


Dance show at Temple Club in Siem ReapThere are places with internet connection/wi-fi in Siem Reap. In some places you have to buy something and then you get the access code to the wi-fi. Just walk around Pub street and the Alley and you’ll see the signs. I think we stopped at a place called Temple Club as they had free wi-fi so that I could blog a few photos from my iPhone and at the same time we got too see a show with traditional dancing – and I have to admit that it looked quite a lot like the Thai traditional dancing.


Note: Your 2 essentials for day and night? Day: sunscreen. As already mentioned, it’s hot. Wear a hat, lather on the sunscreen and keep hydrated. Night: mosquito repellant is a must. Mosquitoes here are not shy and will feast on you at all times of the day - although I’m pretty sure other creepy crawlies were munching on us during our daylight trips. This is also a malaria area so avoid becoming mosquito appetizer at dusk. We didn’t get too many bites but we also made an effort to ply on the repellant before heading out in the evenings. Don’t expect restaurants with aircon - maybe a ceiling fan but that’s not enough to keep those bloodsuckers at bay.


Walking in the footsteps of Lara Croft
Gard and Nikki in Lara Croft's footstepsOn day two of our Angkor ruins touring, Nikki was not feeling that great – I guess it was something that she ate. When we went to the pharmacy, Nikki tried to be a bit discreet and she was like “I’m having a bit of problem with my tummy…” and the woman behind the counter was like “You constipated or have diarrhea?” You have to love that honesty. A few years back I went to Singapore to visit a family that I had visited a couple of years before. The first thing the Philipino housekeeper said to me on the second visit was “You have become fat!”…thanks for your honesty :-) Anyway, our drive to the pharmacy took us through another side of Siem Reap - on the opposite side of the river. And even if it was just across the river and barely out of town it was easy to see that this was a local community without that much money as the houses seemed to be pretty much unstable shacks.


Tree roots are taking over the walls at Ta ProhmWe started out by driving to Ta Prohm. I guess this place got real famous when Angelina Jolie was running around as Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider film. We walked through this temple built as a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII in 1186. The fascinating thing about Ta Prohm is all the huge trees that seem to have taken over the entire temple. Scene from Ta Prohm in the Angkor Wat areaSome trees have stretched out their roots to take over walls; roots have grown into walls etc. It almost seems like some of the trees were out for a walk and got frozen right on top of some of the buildings. A lot of the structure is also in ruins and there were some restoration work going on. But that didn’t matter…the atmosphere is quite unique with all the huge trees that are taking over the temple. We were also shown an echo room by our guide – in this room you would get quite an echo when pounding yourself on the chest. I guess it looked pretty stupid for people standing outside the echo room :-)


Scene from Preah Khan in the Angkor Wat areaWe continued to Preah Khan and there is no prize for guessing that it was also built by King Jayavarman VII and it is believed that it was his residence while Angkor Thom was built. It reminded us a bit of Ta Prohm as there were some huge trees here too taking over some of the walls. But it seemed to be in a better state as it has been restored (and I guess the restoration is still in progress). There are even a ruin here of two story building.


Having the traditional Cambodian dish AmokAfter a lunch stop at Rumduol Angkor restaurant we took a bit of a drive to get to Banteay Srei. We had to pay a bit extra due to the long drive but as the guidebook called it “the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art” we decided to go for it. The about 20 km drive was not boring as there is always something to look at – all of a sudden we saw one guy on a moped carrying a live pig at the back of the bike. I guess he was on his way to a market to sell it. Along the route there were small stalls selling a brownish liquid in all sorts of bottles (ranging from Pepsi bottles to Jack Daniels bottles). It turns out that this was gas for the motorcycles.


The details at Banteay Srei was amazingBanteay Srei is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva and it contains a lot of stone carvings. I guess the pinkish stone must have been of better quality because if these are the originals, then the details are just mind-blowing when temple is believed to be built in 967 AD! It is a small temple so it does not take that long to visit it but it was quite amazing to see all the details in the carving. When we were walking around we were also followed by a young girl but she was just too shy to talk to us.


Pre Rup temple in the Angkor Wat areaOn the way back to the hotel we made a stop at Pre Rup – a pyramid shaped temple that we climbed. The view from the top was quite good in the flat landscape. As we were taking photos of the exterior a young girl came biking on a HUGE bicycle. It was so big that she was not able to sit on the seat while biking as she wouldn’t reach the pedals. But when she saw us she made a stop of course and asked if we wanted to buy some postcards. And of course…when you are in a place like this you have to send home some postcards so I did buy from her.


Scorpion with babies on a temple wall at Angkor WatFinal stop on the way back home was at Prasat Kravan built for Hindu worship in 921 AD. By this time we were getting tired and hot so we just made a short stop. Outside the temple a girl was screaming from something she saw in a corner and I figured that it was a spider or something like that. Well, being curious I walked over and it turned out to be a black scorpion clinging on the temple wall. But the interesting thing was that it just had babies and all the tiny white scorpion babies were crawling all over the mummy scorpions back. Nikki was spooked and held a very safe distance, knowing that baby scorpions are deadlier than their angry mothers. I had to get a close look for a memorable shot, of course.


After that it was back to the hotel and we said goodbye to our guide and driver. We were not sure what the custom is when it comes to tipping – it is always an awkward situation. So I asked in the hotel and they said that tipping was appreciated so we gave our guide 10 USD and the driver 5 USD. As I said, tipping is an awkward subject for most Norwegians as it is not a common thing when paying for services as home. So in our defense: when we don’t tip it is not because we are cheapskates…we are just not used to it.


Blood donation – one way to help
Jayavarman children hospital in Siem ReapOur hotel was located right next to Jayavarman VII Children Hospital and when we passed it there were signs on the outside saying “Severe epidemia of haemorrhagic dengue fever – Please help the children in shock by your blood donation”. As a former blood donor in Norway I decided to stop by the hospital and I was welcomed with open arms. When I came to the gate I said I wanted to donate blood and I was walked to the blood bank. There was no one else there and after filling out a form I had a needle in my arm and they were draining blood. Maybe I looked pale or something but there were three of the nurses and doctors standing around asking me if I was feeling fine. But donating blood here was not a problem – I only had to donate 300 ml compared to the 500 ml that is donated in Norway. I guess it is because Cambodians have a smaller body than your average westerner and that is why they drain less blood here. Anyway, I got a Coke while I was donating blood and I even got a t-shirt. So there you see Norwegian blood bank – my blood can still be used in some parts of the world! So if you want to help children in need in Cambodia, this is a great way to do it. There are also hospitals in Phnom Penh that accepts blood donors. Nikki chose not to donate because of the stomach problems - one can never be too sure about these things.


Last night in Siem Reap

All of a sudden we were down to the last evening in Siem Reap. We didn’t waste any time after my blood donation and we headed to Angkor Wat to check out the temple atmosphere at sunset. It is said that the best place to experience this might be at Phnom Bakheng but according to the guidebook it can also get pretty crowded there. And to get great shots you also need a good lens as it is located a bit away from the Angkor Wat temple. We just went into Angkor Wat again and looked at all the people and looked at the temples again. Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy so it did not turn out to be a perfect sunset but it was still nice to see the temple one last time. Coming back out again our tuk-tuk was still waiting for us (we paid 6 USD for a round trip from the hotel).


Gard at Cambodian BBQ in Siem ReapWe ended up having dinner at Cambodian BBQ in the Alley and it was a place where you fry and boil your own food at the table. I wouldn’t recommend it – why pay to do all the work yourself? ;-) I think what was bugging me the most was the fact that when we were frying the meat a lot of it got stuck to the “frying pan”, when frying it would create a lot of smoke etc. But anyway, I did get to try snake and it was just like…eh..chicken (what did you expect?) and Nikki had the ostrich. The meal was 43 USD and we had a bottle of wine with the food (costing 25 USD).


Thailand vs. Cambodia – what’s the deal?
If you have paid attention you will probably have noticed that I have mentioned Thailand a few times in this trip report. It seems like Cambodia and Thailand have quite a lot in common. It seems like the language and alphabet are similar, they have the same religion, they greet people in a similar manner (it is called wai in Thailand and sompiah in Cambodia), they’re physical facial features are similar, the temples and style of telling stories (the ramakien in Bangkok vs the bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat) etc etc. We got the impresseion that there is still quite a lot of tension between the two countries. While we were in Cambodia there were some border clashes over Preah Vihear temple and we asked our guide a bit about the relationship between the two countries. To start with it seems to be a bit like Norway and Sweden – we are basically brothers but at times we have a “big brother” complex and there is always a bit of rivalry going on. The history of Cambodia goes back a long way as the Khmer kingdom covered a lot of what is Thailand today but later on Siam invaded and took over parts of what is now Cambodia. It looks like they are still bickering over who has the rights to the origin of their shared culture and background. I hope that Cambodia can look to Thailand and maybe learn from them on how to build up a tourist industry and maybe even learn from their mistakes. Hopefully this will bring more money into this poor country and stabilise the economy. But maybe it will take a while for them to really embrace the Thai’s. According to our guidebook the name “Siem Reap” means “Siamese defeated” – I guess that gives an indication of their relationship. We also learnt that the Khmer word for Siam means thief/pilferer.


Time to go
Gard and Nikki at Angkor WatOn April 14th it was time for us to move on. We checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to the airport - cost us about 9 USD. The domestic terminal was basically just one room and we checked in to fly with Bangkok Airways to Phnom Penh, the capitol of Cambodia. We had bought the tickets in advance online and it cost 82 USD per person. You can read more about our stay in Phnom Penh in a seperate trip report.


Gard at Angkor Wat at sunsetWe only spent about 3 days in Siem Reap and it was amazing to see Angkor Wat with our own eyes. The temple complex is spread over a vast area so remember that you do need some time if you want to see a few of the temples. We basically didn’t get to do much more than checking out the temples and I would have loved to spend more time there to check out some of the other sites in Siem Reap and Tonlé Sap lake. And maybe we should have gotten up at the crack of dawn to see the temples at sunrise. Gard and Nikki taking a rest in the shade at Angkor WatBut we got to see it, we got to see a bit of the Cambodian culture and we got to experience a new country. If you get a chance to go here, don’t hesitate. It is an experience of a lifetime and as Angkor Wat’s popularity is on the rise maybe you should go there before it is too late. Sooner or later I think there will be too many tourist and they will eventually have to protect these ancient monuments in various ways.


I hope that you found this trip report useful please give me feedback if you have comments or questions or I have made factual mistakes. I can be reached on Below are some more tips that you might find useful.


Some “useful” tips
So what do you need to bring to Siem Reap? And how do you plan a trip? Here are some useful tips:

  • A pair of good walking shoes: I guess this goes without saying but as I mentioned, the temple area is quite vast and there will be quite a bit of walking.

  • Wondering about the weather in Siem Reap? Check out to get some weather stats so you know what to expect. This is southeast Asia so it will be hot and humid (by European standard at least) most of the year.

  • As it is hot and the sun is strong you should take some precautions – bring water (or buy it) when you are walking around in the temple area and remember sun screen to avoid getting fried.

  • A good guidebook: yes, you can find a lot of useful info on the internet. But get a good guidebook with a comprehensive street map. Which one to buy is up to you :-) We bought the Lonely Planet book and we found this to contain a lot of useful info about Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The Eyewitness Guides book was not that great for Angkor Wat.

  • Which forums to ask questions: Try TripAdvisor, Fodor’s, SlowTalk, Frommer’s and Travelers to Go!

  • Are you bringing a laptop? We did and it was great to use this to check out attractions and opening times, maps etc. We did have an option for internet at our hotel but it was not for free but there were some bars and restaurants in Siem Reap that had free WiFi.

  • Do you wonder how far it is from one place to another in Siem Reap? Why not use Google Earth/Google Maps to measure? I find this to be a great tool.

  • Here is a interactive Angkor Wat Google map where I have highlighted some of the places that we went to

  • Remember to dress “properly”. In this region they are a bit more modest so it is recommend to try to dress with respect when visiting e.g. temples.

  • Remember that monks are not supposed to touch women.

Feel free to check out the next section of this trip report: Angkor Wat Google map.


Back to index pageGet in touch if you have any questionsClick here to check out the Angkor Wat map