Cambodia

When We Were There: June 23 – July 8, 2009

Places We Visited:
Siem Reap, Battambang, Phnom Penh

View all of our posts about Cambodia here.

Exchange Rate: $1 = 4,000 Cambodian Real

WHAT WE DID

Siem Reap

We did what all tourists to Siem Reap do, visited Angkor Wat ($20 for a one-day pass, $40 for a three-day pass). We also attended a great 4th of July party and went on a bike ride to the Western Baray where we went for a swim, all courtesy of a friend we had living there. Unfortunately, we also got sick in Siem Reap with what very well might have been swine flu, so we spent a good many days just laying around.

Battambang

We took a day long boat ride to get from Siem Reap to Battambang. Once in Battambang, we took a cooking class at the Smokin Pot ($8 per person), and we took a day trip by tuk-tuk into the countryside, visiting temples, caves, villages, and the bamboo train ($20 for tuk-tuk for two for full day).

Phnom Penh
We got a depressing but important history lesson on visits to the Killing Fields ($2 admission) and the S-21 prison ($2 admission). We also visited the National Museum ($3 admission), which houses many artifacts from Angkor Wat.

WHERE WE STAYED

Khmer Inn (Siem Reap): The rooms at this friendly family-run place are very large and comfortable. They also come with A/C and TV, thought the wi-fi wasn’t working when we were there. The bathrooms are also large and nice with hot water. It’s not in the heart of town but is a very short walk away, so it’s nice and quiet. $10 for a double room with private bath, refrigerator, and TV.

Bus Stop Guesthouse (Battambang): Run by a talkative Australian guy, the Bus Stop seemed to be the only place in town without a mafia of overbearing tuk-tuk drivers in its lobby. Our room was small but clean, quiet, and comfortable. $12 for a double with private bathroom, breakfast, TV, refrigerator, and wi-fi.

Golden Mekong (Phnom Penh):
A small hotel favored mainly by locals it seems, the rooms here are nice but standard. The staff is working on their English (as evidenced by the nightly English lessons in the lobby), but it’s a bit rough right now. They try hard and are friendly though. $17 for a double room with private bath, TV, refrigerator, and wi-fi.

PLACES WE ATE

Blue Pumpkin (Siem Reap): With its comfy upstairs lounge, free wi-fi, and delectable deserts, Blue Pumpkin is popular with tourists. The food’s pretty good too. I found the gazpacho irresistable on a hot day. The icecream is excellent too. $10 for lunch for two.

Khmer Kitchen (Siem Reap):
We tried fish amok for the first time here, and also enjoyed the cashew chicken. They offer a number of pumpkin dishes if that’s your thing. $9 for dinner for two.

Taqueria (Siem Reap):
Craving some Mexican food we popped in for dinner. Jeff’s fajitas were pretty good, but the quesadilla could have used more filling. It was hardly more than two tortillas held together with a bit of cheese. $14 for dinner for two.

Common Grounds (Siem Reap):
This restaurant, which plows its profits into community projects, serves some outstanding soups, sandwiches, and salads. The potato soup was as good as what we find at home, and the chicken salad was also tasty. $12 for lunch for two.

Karo (Siem Reap):
More of a local place than the many Western restaurants around town, Karo serves up delicious Khmer food at cheap prices. I really enjoyed the stir-fried green beans. $6 for lunch for two.

White Rose (Battambang): We were very happy that our hotel was right next door to this restaurant as it was cheap and delicious. My favorite thing were the shakes though, which were the best we’ve had in Asia, and hard to resist at a whopping $0.75. $7 for dinner for two.

Cantina (Phnom Penh): Still in search of good Mexican food, we each had a burrito here. They were good, a bit in the style of Chipotle or Baja Fresh, but could have been a bit bigger. $12 for dinner for two.

NOTES

*When we went to Angkor Wat, a three-day pass was good only for three consecutive days. As of July 1, however, this has changed so that the pass is good for any three days in a week. This is a better idea, because there’s a ton to see at Angkor Wat, but three days in a row is enough to exhaust all but the biggest die-hards.

*We highly recommend our Battambang guide/tuk-tuk driver. He goes by Nick and can be found hanging around the Smokin’ Pot most days. If he’s not there, you can ask the staff there for him and they’ll find him.

*The cooking class at the Smokin’ Pot is one of the best deals in Asia. In other countries, the classes seem to run at least $20 per person.

*Don’t just visit Siem Reap/Angkor Wat. It’s hardly authentic Cambodia. Or if that’s all you do visit, try to visit the other side of the river from Pub Street for a more local feel or rent a bike and ride out of the central area. It’s an entirely different feel.

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