Transit Guide: Siem Reap to Koh Chang (Border Crossing)

Coming from Siem Reap, visiting Koh Chang in Thailand is a popular route to take before heading to Bangkok.

How to get there

Get ready for a long journey. Most people end up taking three forms of transportation to get there. It took us about 14 hours to get to Koh Chang. We booked the ticket from our hostel for $20 USD, including the ferry ride and pick-up. 

1) Siem Reap to Poi Pet Border 

We took a big bus to get there. It takes around 3-4 hours, including a long lunch break to get to the border. The lunch break was at the Tourist Passenger International Terminal. You can buy bus tickets, exchange money and buy food there. 

After this break, it'll be another half hour to the Poi Pet Border. You'll be given a sticker to show where you're next destination is (Pattaya, Bangkok or Koh Chang). There will be workers on the other side of the border to sort you out once you're done. 

Once you get dropped off, you'll need to head into the building that says "Departure" where you'll line up to get stamped out of Cambodia. Just note that you'll get fingerprinted here. 

After you get stamped out, you'll need to walk over to the Thailand border. It's a 10-15 minute walk to get there. You'll pass a casino along the way. Once you reach the border office, head up the stairs to the foreigner line-up. Depending on how busy it is, it can take quite a long time. It took us around an hour here. Just note that there's free wifi here. Just ask for the password! 

Now that you're done, you'll need to head down the stairs where the bus drivers will sort you out based on your stickers. It might take a while before everyone is done, so feel free to grab some food from the stands or head to the ATM just down the street. 

2) Poi Pet Border to Trat to Koh Chang

Now that you've been sorted into a mini-bus, the ride from here takes another three hours or so. We had a short 15 minute gas break in-between to pick up snacks and use the washroom. 

You'll get dropped off at the Centrepoint Ferry Terminal. Just head down to the dock and make it onto the ferry. There will be seating on the second floor. The ferry leaves about every hour or so and takes 45 minutes. 

3) Koh Chang to Lonely Beach

Once you reach Koh Chang, you'll need to take a songthaew to get to your destination. They head to every major beach on the island at a fixed rate. To get to Lonely Beach, it costs 100 baht and takes around 45 minutes. 

Ta-da! It's not so bad right? 

Happy Travelling! 

Travel Guide and Tips: Siem Reap

Siem Reap is a popular tourist town, located a short distance from the Angkor temples. 

Things to do

Explore Angkor and surrounding temples 

Honestly, the biggest attraction for this town are the Angkor temples. Spend a day or three exploring these beautiful architectural wonders. It costs $20 USD for a one-day pass or $40 USD for a three-day pass. You can get there by booking a tuk tuk for the day or renting a bike! 

Here are the top three you need to visit:

1) Angkor Wat

The infamous Angkor Wat is a definite must-see. It's best to see this one first, before the crowds come in. Most tours offer a sunrise or a sunset option.

2) Ta Phrom

AKA the Tomb Raider temple! It's a good second stop after Angkor Wat. 

3) Bayon

This is the main temple in Angkor Thom. It's known for the huge stone faces. 

Pub Street

Located in the centre of town, Pub Street is a tourist street filled with restaurants and bars. It's really nice to see at night since the lights are on. 

Old Market and Night Market

The Old Market, Psar Chas, is filled with produce. You'll see dried and fresh meats, as well as fruits and vegetables for sale. 

Head to the multiple Night Markets if you want to shop. From clothing and souvenirs to artwork and paintings, the night market has it all. We found shops selling tourist pants and tops for around $2 USD. 

Where to eat

Pub Street

Head to Pub Street for an abundance of food options. It offers Mexican, Cambodian, Indian and Italian cuisine. Although, Pub Street is pricier than the restaurants located further out. Typical pricing for Cambodian dishes were around $5 USD. International restaurants were pricier.

Night time is when the food carts come out. Try the ice cream, leek rice cakes and lot chaa. If you're adventurous, look for the cart selling fried crickets, spiders, snakes and water insects. 

Meng's 

This little local restaurant was located two doors down from our hostel. It was very affordable. We managed to get two appetizers, two entrees and one dessert for under $10 USD. We were also given one free beer/soft drink included with our meal.

Where to Stay

HI Siem Reap

We stayed here because we noticed that the private room was cheaper than dorms. The basic private room is $15 USD and dorms are $8 USD/bed. Granted, the private room doesn't have A/C whereas the dorm does. We stayed in both the private room and dorms. Both were quite pleasant.  

They have a pool table and offer free breakfast (coffee, tea, eggs, fruit, toast, butter and jam). You also have access to their other hostel, HI Siem Reap Deluxe, which has a swimming pool. 

Happy Travelling! 

Exploring Angkor at Sunrise

Seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise is one of the most popular attractions, and it's definitely worth it. I mean, maybe not so much for the view since there's so many people in front of your. But because you can time it so you can beat the crowds at other temples. 

After realizing how big the area around Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom was, we decided it would be better to take a tuk tuk around the temples. You can book a tuk tuk for the Small Circuit Tour for around $18 USD for the day, including sunrise. Without sunrise, it's $13 USD. This includes seeing Angkor Wat, Bayon, Takeo, Ta Prhom and Banteay Kdei.

If you want go a second day and see the Grand Circuit Tour, this will cost around $20 USD for the day, including sunrise. Without sunrise, it's $15 USD. This tour includes Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon and Pre Rup. 

This pricing isn't so bad if you have four people with you. There's an entrance fee of $20 USD/day or 40 USD/3 days. We also heard that if you go past 5 p.m., the entrance fee is free. But you won't have too much time before sun down. 

For the adventurous with time, it's worthwhile to rent a bicycle and ride there. Renting a bike costs $1 USD, so it should fit your budget. We heard it takes about an hour and a half to get there. Just keep in mind that it's better to only see a few temples a day, since they're pretty far from each other. Unless you're a biking fanatic, the heat and distance might exhaust you. 

Our Experience

When you book the tuk tuk, make sure that the driver knows your route. We left at 5 a.m. and headed over to Angkor Wat to see the sunrise. Knowing how crowded these temples can get, we opted for leaving Angkor Wat after it started getting a little bright and went off to see Ta Prhom, the Tomb Raider Temple. 

Just note that most temples open at 7:30 a.m. So, it helps to time it so you don't end up waiting around at the entrance. Getting to Ta Prhom early was a great decision, since it was fairly empty there. We had the chance to take pictures without crowds of people. 

From here, we saw Takeo, Banteay Kdei, Bayon and then Angkor Wat again. As the day we went, the crowds started getting bigger and bigger. By noon, it was super packed. We finally templed out and called it a day. 

Angkor Wat

The things we do to get a good picture.

Ta Prhom

Takeo

Banteay Kdei

Bayon

Happy Exploring! 

Transit Guide: Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

Siem Reap is a popular town, since it houses the infamous Angkor Wat. 

How to get there?

We booked a bus from our hostel out of convenience. It cost us $11 USD, including pick-up from the hostel. However, since we left on Lunar New Year, we didn't get the free pick-up. But, an employee from the hostel took us on a tuk tuk to the bus stop for free. 

When you book, there will be different options for busing companies. We heard the Mekong Express is the most reputable company, but it costs a bit more ($15 USD). Since it was fully booked, we ended up going with Capitol Express. 

The ride takes between 6-7 hours, with several stops along the way for food and washroom breaks. You'll get dropped off at the bus station in Siem Reap. 

Happy Travelling! 

Travel Guide and Tips: Phnom Penh

As the capitol city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh is a bustling city.  

Things to do

The Killing Fields and S-21 Prison

If you want learn more about the dark history of Cambodia, you should visit both of these places. About 30 years ago, the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia and carried out a genocide. The Killing Fields and S-21 Prison was where thousands of people were tortured and killed. There's an entrance fee of $6 USD for each attraction, including an audio tour. You'll need to take a tuk tuk to get there. 

Royal Palace 

As the residence where King Sihamoni lives, the Royal Palace is a big attraction in Phnom Penh. Spend the day walking around the Silver Pagoda or the compound with the Chan Chhaya Pavilion. The King's living area is closed off. There's an entrance fee is $6.50 USD. Remember to dress respectively (knees and shoulders covered). 

Shooting Range

Ever wanted to shoot a gun? What about a bazooka? The shooting range here offers a ton of different options if you're into firearms. They also offer the option of shooting a live chicken or cow, but I really don't condone it. 

Central Market & Night Market

Head here if you want to shop. The central market is opened during the day with options for clothing, souvenirs or produce. The Night Market opens around 5-6 p.m. Make sure to bargain for the best prices! 

Where to Eat

Along the river

Along the river are tons of restaurants you can try out. Check out the menus at the front of each restaurant to find out the price range and type of dish. Just note that eating here is pricier. If you want a decent meal, it's roughly $5 USD. 

If you're craving pizza, we noticed many restaurants here offered it. If you're itching to try Cambodian food, we loved Lok Lak! Amok is another Cambodian favourite.  

Try a local Stand

Eating locally is much cheaper, but it's harder to find a place with an english menu. There are also a few vendors at the night market. 

Where to Stay

Me Mates Villa

We stayed at this hostel, which is located near the Royal Palace. They offer female and mixed dorms for $6 USD with pretty big beds. They have a bar, restaurant and pool table in the hostel. We found it strange that they give you a towel, but not soap. It's not bad for the price. 

One Stop Hostel

We had a friend stay at One Stop Hostel, which offers dorms for $7 USD. They offer free coffee and tea. It's located right by the river, near the speedboat dock. So, it's really convenient to stay here if you're going by speedboat. 

Happy Travelling! 

Visiting the Killing Fields and S-21 Prison

This is a dark story. It's hard to imagine what took place thirty years ago. If you're in Phnom Penh, this is an absolute must if you want to learn more about the history of the country. 

For a little background story, you need to understand that the Khmer Rouge was a communist group led by Pol Pot. He was responsible for the deaths of over 2 million Cambodian people. He created killing fields and prisons all over Cambodia, where civilians were tortured and executed. If anyone was from the government, intellectuals, artists, minority, foreigners or religious, they were targeted. Many people who were taken to either the prison or killing fields never made it out. There were only a handful of survivors. 

If you want to visit, the best way to get there is to take a tuk tuk. We booked one from our hostel for $16 USD/tuk tuk, which took us to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. 

The Choeung Ek Killing Fields 

There's an entrance fee of $6 USD which includes the audio tour. You really need the audio tour, or you'll be missing out on the whole story. It's very informative and also includes stories from survivors. The memorial stupa is the last stop on the tour, so just head to station two to start. 

All of the buildings weren't maintained, so there will be a sign instead of the original building. During the tour, you'll learn more about Pol Pot, the executioners as well as the major landmarks at the field. You'll see the infamous Killing Tree and learn why they killed babies and their mothers. You'll learn how executioners killed people and see the mass graves where they threw the bodies. Finally, at the last stop, you'll see the Memorial Stupa which is filled with 17 levels of skulls. 

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

This was previously known as S-21 Prison. It was originally a high school, but modified into a prison once Pol Pot became leader. There is an entrance fee of $3 or $6 USD if you want the audio tour. The audio tour is definitely worth it, or it'll be hard to understand what you're looking at. 

The museum has four buildings: A, B, C and D. Going through the tour, you visit each building and learn the history behind it. Building A has the rooms where prisoners were tortured and pictures of the bodies of the last prisoner. However, the most eerie, was going through the prison cells in Building C. The audio tour will provide more information of the rooms you walk through as well as survivor stories. 

Please be respectful!