Siem Reap Cambodia Day 1: AirAsiaGo.com Package, Tonle Mekong Restaurant, Angkor Spirit Palace Hotel, Lake Tonle Sap, Killing Field, Pub Street and Le Tigre de Fapier
I gave a birthday surprise to Rachel by planning a holiday for her.. I browsed through many travel websites and AirAsiaGo.com caught my attention with an irresistible travel package. The package for two from Kuala Lumpur to Sieam Reap inclusive of air fare via AirAsia with luggage fees and airport tax, hotel transfer and personalized tour was less than RM 1,600 for two person (less than RM 800 per person).
I kept the destination a secret until we checked in the airport and Rachel was more than happy to know that we were flying to Siem Reap, Cambodia. It is our first time flying to Cambodia.
It was a pleasant flight with Air Asia from LCCT to Siem Reap even though the plane was full. The Siem Reap International Airport somehow reminds me of Bali International Airport maybe of its size or its architecture.
The great thing about getting the package from AirAsiaGo is you get a travel guide. The travel guide waited for us at Siem Reap International Airport. He picked us up together with 2 more couples and they bought AirasiaGo.com package too but we stayed at different hotels. The tour guide explained to us on our tour packages and he recommended a few more add-ons. In fact, he was really helpful as we didn’t book our Angkor Wat tour due to the confusion of the choices available at the AirAsiaGo.com website.
First stop after reaching Siem Reap was lunch. Since lunch was not included, we were offered to dine for a buffet lunch. For US$35 per person, we got the lunch at Tonle Mekong Restaurant and additional tour to Lake Tonle Sap and the “Killing Field”.
Angkor Spirit Palace Hotel
We checked in first at Angkor Spirit Palace Hotel. The two storey hotel offers Khmer influenced architecture and you get the immediate impression of staying in Cambodia. The hotel is located near the city centre and they offer complimentary “tuk-tuk” services for hotel guests.
Even though the architecture of the building was impressive, the room looks ordinary. Thus, the room was huge in size and it can easily fits another king bed. The hotel comes with a large swimming pool and it overlooks the paddy fields.
You can read our full review of the hotel at The Angkor Spirit Palace Hotel Review Siem Reap
The add on tour includes the buffet lunch at Tonle Mekong Restaurant. It is not a fancy restaurant and it caters to tourists. Thus, the restaurant offers multinational buffet lunch which includes mixed varieties of Asian and Western food.
After lunch, we went on a half an hour drive to go to Chong Kneas jetty. For those who wanted to go to Tonle Sap, you must take the long tail boat at Chong Kneas jetty.
When we were there, the tide was very low due to the hot season and there were also river widening work in process so the colour of the river turned brownish colour.
We never felt so lucky until we saw how they lived their life on this river. Dozens of local stayed on wooden boat home along Chong Kneas river. Some of the young ones were swimming around the muddy river as if it was a swimming pool. This was their daily life at Chong Kneas river.
Lake Tonle Sap
After cruising through Chong Khneas river, we reached Lake Tonle Sap and is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. The lake swells during raining season to twice its size . The colour of the water was brown in colour due to the river widening works at Chong Kneas river.
It was amazing to see that there are actually a floating village in the middle of the lake. Their life revolves around the lake and they have a school and even a church on the lake! Of course they have a small market and restaurant too.
The Killing Field is actually a memorial of the remains of the victims of torturing by Pol Pot can be seen stacking in this red brick tower. Thousands of civilians including monks were kill during the treacherous regime of Pol Pot.
This is a sad reminder of what this country has gone through in this few decades. We didn’t feel comfortable at the Killing Field and we didn’t stay long there. Looking at dead people’s pictures and skeletons were not our “thing”.
By the time we went back to Siem Reap, it was evening and the best place for dining in Siem Ream is the Pub Street. Pub Street is the most popular attractions in Siem Reap for its restaurants and bars. It was flooded with tourists as there are cooking schools, restaurants and bars at Pub Street.
You can get cheap beer and good food at a reasonable price as most of the people working in Pub Street can speak English.
Le Tigre de Fapier
Since there are so many restaurants in Pub Street, we picked a restaurant and chose to dine at Le Tigre de Fapier or Bengal Tiger. They serve authentic local food and one of the most popular foods in Siem Reap is the Amok. We had Amok Seafood for US$ 5.50.
Amok is a local Cambodian food that is a must-try dish for tourists like us. You can get it cheaper at roadside stalls or at smaller restaurants.
After dinner we hired a tuk-tuk to fetch us back to our hotel which is 15 minutes away. The tuk-tuk drove us past small and dark alleys and this reminds me of the smaller towns of Thailand.
From what we have heard, Siem Reap has gone through a huge facelift. The usually dusty Siem Reap due to its gravel roads are turned to tarmac roads now. We can also see that Siem Reap is adapting the tourism model based on Thailand. We have seen a few similarities here and there. Our first day and our visit to Siem Reap has been a learning tour.
Please check out our other Siem Reap adventure:
Siem Reap Cambodia Day 2: Angkor Wat, Bayon, Banteay Srei, Roluos Group Temples, Bakong, Preah Ko and Lo Lei
Siem Reap Cambodia Day 3 Part One: Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, Eastern Mebon, Pre Rup
Siem Reap Cambodia Day 3 Part Two: Sras Srang, Ta Prohm / Tomb Raider Temple, Ta Keo, Banteay Kdei, Prasat Kravan, Phnom Bakheng