Siem Reap is Hot! Tips on Currency and Shopping.

Siem Reap Travel Blog

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Man reading outside because of the electrical outage.

Our flight to Siem Reap was quite smooth - we didn't get a direct flight because for some odd reason all the direct flights left in the evening and we wanted to get to Siem Reap earlier.  Good thing too, because the electricity was out in Hanoi today - not just our hotel - but seemingly city-wide.  We were glad we weren't stuck in Hanoi with no electricity (and no a/c!). 

Our flight was on a smallish plane (a Fokker (sp?) with only about 30 - 40 seats), but it wasn't that scary.  During our stop we were so disoriented, we didn't even know what country we were in.  We later found out we stopped in Laos (for only about 20 minutes).  From the air it looked lush and beautiful.

Flying to Siem Reap.
  Soon we landed in Siem Reap and I must say the airport is quite pretty and clean.  We were surprised that there were so few people there ... where are the tourists?  Not that I like tourist crowds, but it's a bit odd when there are no tourists around.

Visa Tip - you can get 30-day visas on arrival in Cambodia - just fill out a form, give them a passport photo and $20 USD and you are pretty much set.  They are really encouraging tourism here.

Currency - We made the mistake of changing into Riel - Cambodian currency.  We soon realized that everything is quoted in and invoiced in USD.  I'm not sure what people from other countries do...  My advice is to just get $20 in Riel and bring lots of smaller bills in USD ($1, $5 and $10).

View of Siem Reap from above.

When we got outside we were immediately hit by heat - not as humid as Vietnam, but oppressively hot.  We had booked a room at the FCC Angkor and they arranged for a driver to pick us up.  There was also a hostess who gave us jasmine (or gardenia) scented frozen towels - so refreshing!  It was a 20 minute drive to the hotel and during that time we deduced that neither the hostess nor the driver spoke very good english.  They would have "scripted" conversation but if we asked any questions we were met with silence or completely unrelated answers.  Oh well...  At least they were nice.

During the drive through town we noticed that the streets were pretty quiet, only a few motorists (and no honking - yeah!).  Buildings tended to be pretty low, with dusty roads.

Front facade of FCC.
  Randomly, in the sparseness would be a grand resort - it was a bit odd and out of place.  It was a pleasure to finally arrive at our hotel - we had a garden view room with twin beds ($130 per night, double occupancy; breakfast included) - it was very nice with dark mahogany woods, a modern bath (very balinese) with the rainfall showerhead, cool a/c, and comfortable beds.  The saltwater pool is also very pretty and nice.  We were rather hungry so opted to have lunch at the hotel.  The bar/restaurant area was lovely with upstairs, downstairs sitting - very open-aired, colonial.  Service is friendly but again the english wasn't that good and there were often miscommunications. 

For lunch, A had a grilled fish in bamboo - very nice; I had a fish laksa (a bit too rich and creamy for me) and duck dumplings - literally the most disgusting things I've had in a long long time.

Our outdoor sitting area.
  DO NOT ever try these - they are gross!  They even look sort of gross. 

After lunch we decided to check out the Old Market  - it was stifling hot!  It was also eerie how there were barely any tourists shopping - literally about 100 vendors to one tourist.  We quickly realized that the prices ranged drastically - essentially if these vendors thought you had money they would try to scam you.  The same item could be quoted from $2 to $10.  If you started walking away, the price would immediately drop 50%.  If you said, "the other guy said it was only $[X] - they would immediately match."  It was rather annoying, and since I had already shopped so much in Bali and Vietnam, I really didn't feel compelled to buy more or to reward such blatant behavior.

Our room at FCC.
  I do have to note a lot of the handicrafts seemed better than those in Vietnam (where a lot of the quality was surprisingly poor), but Bali is the best.  Tip: Be careful when bargaining with them - they will try to trick you.  I would use my own calculator or write out the numbers just to be safe.  It wasn't like Bali or Vietnam where if you came to an oral agreement, they would stick to it.  Here, they will change the numbers in the end if they feel they can get away with it.   I also noticed that they played games with the currency exchange rate - since everything is quoted in USD, if you want to pay in Riel, they have to convert it for you, but the shops and hotels use wildly different rates.  For example, at the airport, the exhange rate was 3780 - in town and in the hotels, it ranged from 4000 to 4300.
Cool bath - great rainfall shower.
  Sort of an unethical practice.

The heat was really getting to us so we stopped at the Red Piano for a small snack.  This was the restaurant/bar made famous by the crew of Tomb Raider - the crew (along with Angelina Jolie) would often frequent this place when they filmed the first Tomb Raider film.  It's a pretty nice place - I had a glass of wine and some samosas - pretty tasty.  (Again, it was eerily quiet - there were only two other people here ... where are the people???).  Refreshed, we headed back to the FCC.  I enjoyed the wonderful pool - so nice after the dusty heat, while A slept. 

For dinner, we were lame and ate at the FCC again - mainly because we were too lazy to leave the hotel.  To be honest, the food at the FCC is pretty mediocre - just go for drinks.  I had a decent burger, but a great rose. 

Tomorrow we have booked a driver to take us to visit the temples - hope it isn't too hot ....

sybil says:
fokker. heehee.
Posted on: Apr 20, 2008
mga_galang_paa says:
Very informative. More power!
Posted on: Apr 20, 2008
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Man reading outside because of the…
Man reading outside because of th…
Flying to Siem Reap.
Flying to Siem Reap.
View of Siem Reap from above.
View of Siem Reap from above.
Front facade of FCC.
Front facade of FCC.
Our outdoor sitting area.
Our outdoor sitting area.
Our room at FCC.
Our room at FCC.
Cool bath - great rainfall shower.
Cool bath - great rainfall shower.
Our little kitty neighbors.
Our little kitty neighbors.
Upstairs dining area of FCC.
Upstairs dining area of FCC.
The most disgusting duck dumplings…
The most disgusting duck dumpling…
My fish laksa - much better than t…
My fish laksa - much better than …
The saltwater pool.
The saltwater pool.
Closeup of pool.
Closeup of pool.
Our first tuk tuk ride - heading i…
Our first tuk tuk ride - heading …
It was sort of dark and depressing…
It was sort of dark and depressin…
Ahhh - a glass of wine at Red Pian…
Ahhh - a glass of wine at Red Pia…
Samosas - quite good.
Samosas - quite good.
Temple in Siem Reap - crazy plasti…
Temple in Siem Reap - crazy plast…
Dipping my toesies in the pool.
Dipping my toesies in the pool.
Dining at the FCC.
Dining at the FCC.
A teeny baby gecko.
A teeny baby gecko.
Siem Reap
photo by: genetravelling