Siem Reap, Cambodia

Arriving to Siem Reap- KBV to REP

Day 23: 5/4
I arrived in Siem Reap lastnight; I was overwhelmed with an euphoric energy, too. As soon as I landed and set foot outside of the airport I was ecstatic. It must have been a combination of things, especially relief. I was relieved to have no issues obtaining a visa on arrival. I think Australia has me scarred. I also arrived late and wasn’t sure if the visa desk would be open or how long the line would be… etc. I got through so easily, the entire journey from Krabi airport to Siem Reap airport went seamless.
It was really an easy journey once I got myself checked-in on time. Cambodia has been a treat already! I arrived to my hostel with so much welcoming. People were still up and hanging out in the common areas and it was comfortable while also quite lively. The bed is super comfy too- I pretty much just settled in, showered and tried to keep the zipping to a minimum. I stayed in Lub’d hostel.

First Day- getting my bearings

A narrow street in Old Market Siem Reap, red and yellow chineese paper lanterns hang around the entrance to Miss. Wong cocktail bar. A man is walking toward me carrying a bag to his motorbike.
Miss Wong- cocktail bar.
order: Apricot & Kaffir Lime Martini

Day 24: 5/5
I fell asleep before I could even begin typing the entry for day 23. I wrote day 23 on the 24th and then went on a short hiatus. I’m now on a bus to Phnom Penh- it is May 9th. On the 5th I went to a restaurant I had picked out. Supposedly it was only a 3 minute walk from my hostel; it actually took me 20 minutes to walk there. I was turned around from Google Maps and by the time I found it I was beyond sweating and smelly. I can’t even remember what I ate but I remember having an avocado smoothie. Regardless whatever I ordered there was great. On the way back I went the correct way and not only was it shorter but I passed the temple I planned to visit. In this heat and the street view of the temple it wasn’t worth it. I went to the pool instead.
While I was at the pool I met 2 girls- Sophie and Rozz. They were from the UK and were leaving Cambodia within 2 hours of us meeting. They were also ‘solo’ travelers touring with a group. This was the weekend of their Cambodian tour, days deep into travel- so the strangers of their group were now close and they were no longer ‘solo travelers’. Before they flew out I met another travelers from their group named Sam. We talked a bit and then he went to the movies- apparently he has been traveling in this group for some time. I believe this was his last destination in the group so he extended his stay to leave and return home while the girls continued touring with the group itinerary.
I continued to do my own thing. I went to the night market and a speakeasy; a pretty famous speakeasy yet it was SO hard to find. I was on a mission- this is an intimate cocktail bar known to have an impressive collection of small batch gin and specializes in infusions. Miss Wong cocktail bar, I finally found it. I ordered an Apricot and Kaffir lime Martini. I easily navigated my way back through Old Market, through the Night art market and back to my hostel. When I got back I planned my itinerary for Siem Reap; my hostel offered a few tours and things so I wanted to arrange my schedule based on those events.

A multicolor neon sign: "ART CENTER NIGHT MARKET" lights the sky. Beneath the sign are 3 carts- 2 facing forward selling fruit.

Exploring all of Siem Reap

Day 25-28: 5/6- 5/9; Always Lub’d, no longer solo
The last 3.5 days felt much like a trip I took to New Orleans in 2018. I found my tribe and the rest was a blur. The hostel offered a free walking tour from 09:00-10:00. I originally had a spa appointment but the owner asked me to come in later, at 12:30. No problem, this would allow for a broader tour to TRULY get my bearings. When I initially signed up my hostel said it might not happen, “we need at least 5 people” they told me. It happened with 3- myself and 2 guys signed up. The guys were also from the states and we were all solo travelers. They did not come together- Nathan is a travel photographer from Richmond, VA.- he is 32 and is traveling in the opposite direction of me; and David is exploring Southeast Asia in the same direction as me and will be rushing home in July to be best man in a wedding- he is 26 from Milwaukee, WI. The 3 of us together were a bit awkward but friendly; I asked them if they’d signed up for any other activities. Both of them had only just arrived the night before and said they had not. I told them about the the sunset bike tour and asked them to signup if it sounded like something they’d enjoy- this was a $9 tour and required 15 total participants to operate… again I was the only one signed up. It turns out they were interested too and signed up when we returned from our walking tour. The hostel said to just come an hour ahead to see if enough people had signed up and if not we would be refunded.

Sunset bike tour to a lotus field- Siem Reap

a white flag blowing in the wind between lotus fields.

I tell you this to not deter you from making plans around last minute events. I find most longterm and budget travelers tend to lean more into the ‘type-B’ personality. When we returned back to the hostel and they signed up for the tour- DAY OF, the total with me and them was maybe 6. It seemed to me that it wouldnt happen. I walked to the desk an hour before and all of a sudden there was a big group of people. And this is where we met our tribe.
There must have been about 20 of us total- some people who came together but mostly more solo travelers; the ones that would complete our tribe were Sara and Michael.
Sara is from Orlando and currently lives in London- she is 39 and just quit her job as a special needs teacher. I like Sara a lot, she is very open-minded and has a great spirit. And Michael; Michael is a 47 year old black woman with a lot of sass trapped in a gay italian mans body- he is hilarious and we hit it off immediately! Originally from Wilmington, and with current property in Boston- he is a full hearted nomad. He claims Boston as home while he is abroad, he has apartments there he rents out, I don’t know when he plans to go back home and I’m not sure how long he has been traveling; he truly plans day of and just goes as he pleases.
Our tribe of 5 had a magical dynamic that worked so well together. We named ourselves Always Lub’d, pronounced ‘always lubed’ because our hostel name is Lub’D and we noticed Michael thought it was pronounced ‘Lube D’- it kind of just stuck. Fun fact: Sara, Nate and David are all scorpios… the mellow kind?

lotus fields- closed buds.
Lotus field- sunset bike tour.

We were about inseparable the days following the bike ride. We bonded over sore butts and 50 cent beers. We met other people as well and still saw Sam at the pool and sometimes out at night. We also cliqued with the hostel staff. The 5 of us were seeking similar adventures and dependable- therefore, I got to do everything on my itenerary and even more!! After the bike ride we changed, hopped in the pool and made plans. We were planning for our temple tour the following day; we would meet here frequently to make plans. Tonight, we also needed to find dinner and have a drink with Piksah for his birthday. Piksah is one of the employees and was a guide on the bike tour.
We planned everything out and wound up trying Footprints Cafe for dinner. After dinner we all went to Xbar to meet up with the rest of the hostel in celebrations for Piksah. We had free shots using promotional flyers from the street. Then Nate and I competed in Foosball a bit. We were a team and played against a Cambodian girl and Switzerland guy- they were! Nate and I really were just watching them.. unable to react in a quick enough time to do much else. It was a lot of fun but we had an early morning. We needed to be in front of the hostel by 04:30. I didn’t sleep that night- the others had about 2 or 3 hours of sleep. We would be going to Angkor Thom.

Angkor Thom- the temples

Angkor Wat and palm trees are silhouted with the sun rising behind the temple.

We all made it to our pick-up on time. We rode one van, to a bigger bus, and then to the building to purchase our temple day pass. I originally wanted to take a private tuk tuk in a different order than the main tours but we ended up doing the typical sunrise Angkor Wat tour. If I picked again, I’d still have stuck with my original plan. I never stay with the host anyway. In the end, we kind of did both.
Between the morning tour and private tour we went to lunch. David sat this one out. Sara and I had both been trying to get to ARTillery for a meal. This was our chance, I’d highly recommend it too!

me walking through Angkor Thom.

In the end, because we had purchased a 1 day pass, we hired a private tuk tuk to go back and see more. We climbed the huge hill to see Phnom Bakheng; we arrived around 16:00 so they still had sunset passes- there is a 300 person limit. The thing is we weren’t staying for sunset. I had wanted to go here for sunrise because it’s known for sunset, typically the limit is reached- 300 people crowd the top floor of the temple. Anywho I got to see the temple and got plenty of exercise- as if I needed more, in case the bike ride and Angkor Wat stairs weren’t enough. Please walk, bike, or motorbike if you can to the top of the hill- DO NOT RIDE AN ELEPHANT!
Phnom Bakheng would be very peaceful in the morning or during the day. There’s absolutely no way the sunrise isn’t just as beautiful as the sunset. The temple sits ABOVE everything so you can see out in all directions. After this temple we went to a smaller, less known temple. We had this one all to ourselves. A great change from the crazy crowds at all the others.
It was also adequately shaded and with no soliciting locals; at most of the temples local children and elders bombard you- even following you onto your bus to try and sell you things. We stayed at the abandoned temple for quite awhile. Our tuk tuk tour guide tried taking us to another but it proved too difficult to drive to. We were stuck in sand and ended up walking the rest of the way. This one was also nicely shaded and empty of people but we could not watch the sunset from here and it was soon happening. We hurried back to the tuk tuk to make it to sunset. We found ourselves back where we watched the sunrise- Angkor Wat. We came in a different gate, I didn’t recognize it.

A small person meditating- carved into the stone making Ta Prohm temple, moss growing around it.

Angkor Wat is so big. I am still confused as to which part of the temple we were sitting. I know we didn’t go to the 3rd floor. I’m still not entirely convinced that was in fact where we were but it looked the same. It was too cloudy to see the sun set yet it was still peaceful in comparison to the sunrise commotion. The guards told us it was time to pack up- the temple was closed. The posted signs stated we had 30 more minutes, this meant we missed the full sunset! Strange. We all still had a pretty great time and saw so much.

From left to right: Nate, Sarah, Michael, David, Me- sitting on stairs at one of the abandoned temples from our private tuk tuk tour.

After the temples we went out for dinner. We chose The Chef 1950 on pub street. David and I split a pizza. This was the first dish I’ve had that was more American than Asian. Sara and Nate both ordered alligator dishes so we got to try them as well. I don’t recall what Michael ordered… maybe just fresh spring rolls which he also shared. David and I also split the fried spring rolls- they weren’t very good though.

Artisans Angkor- solo outing

A female artist carving stone in the workshops.

The next day was a day of being solo again. I also had fantastic sleep and didn’t want to get up, I had plans though… I started the day going to see the Angkor Artisans and silk farm. I arrived in time to hop on the free shuttle to tour the silk farm. The silk farm is outside of the Siem Reap workshop compound. I learned about the entire process of making silk and about noaturally colored golden silk of Cambodia.
I came back and visited the workshops in the compound, too. I saw artists sculpt wood: teak, rose and another. I watched them carve stone: sand and soap. And I watched them paint silk and watched another person punching metal designs- that was quite loud. I browsed the store to support the artist and the program here. I guess I didn’t have enough sleep though; I foundĀ $140 worth of things I’d like and had no credit card. They held it for me so I grabbed a tuk tuk to drive me to my hostel, back to the store, and then again, back to my hostel. When I arrived to my hostel I left my backpack and grabbed my purse. Then when I arrived back to my hostel I couldn’t pay my tuk tuk because my cash was in my backpack- essentially I was running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. Eventually everything was sorted and I went in the pool where Sam joined me. I hadn’t heard much from ‘Always Lub’d’. Turns out they all had a relaxing day and mainly sat in cafe’s planning their next moves.

Saying goodbye to new friends

David and Sara planned to hit Battambang, Cambodia together. Michael figured he would book a bus to Kampot. Nate was working and joined us later- we found out he had planned to go to Battambang as well. As they planned more Michael and I went to get massages and a late lunch- The 3 of them (David, Nate, and Sara) are going to stay together for 3 more days in Battambang while they explore. Michael and I had lunch at Khmer Family Restaurant and then had a massage at the place directly across the street.
This was our last night together.
The Battambang 3 had an 08:30 bus to catch. I would catch my bus at 12:30 and Michael would leave much later. We decided on another dinner and to do our own little bar crawl. The guys and I went to browse the street market while Sara packed. We waited for her to join us before we picked a restaurant, a Mexican restaurant- Cafe Latino.
The tortilla chips had an Asian flair to them… maybe they’re fried in fish oil? I can’t even remember what I had here. I know it was a Khmer food, not Mexican. I think a chicken and basil dish. David had a curry and the other 3 split a pizza and nachos. They said the pizza was good, David didn’t like his curry and mine was nothing to rave about but I also finished it, so it wasn’t that bad either. This wasn’t my favorite restaurant. After dinner we decided to let the flyers lead the night.

a neon yellow wheel lit up in the Seam Reap river- moss floats on the top of the river. Beyond the neon wheel is a wooden mill-like wheel.  Trees over hang the river, some with red buds.
Michael sits on a lion at the top of the bridge crossing over the Siem Reap River.

We started at Xbar where we ran into the hostel’s organized pub crawl. Next, we made our way to the bar Yolo which wasn’t really my favorite. My stomach began to turn on the walk there, too. Somehow we found ‘Little Pub Street’ which was a nice change. We were looking for UP2U but they were closed so we went next door. We stayed there for a little before heading back to Xbar. We ended up having free drinks pretty much everywhere. I originally wanted to stay up by the half pipe but ended up on a beerpong table. My partner and I were “on fire”- he wouldnt let me leave until we lost.
Afterward, Sara left and David came down to dance with Michael and I while Nate stayed up at the ramp ‘macking’ on some girls. We had a great last night. At some point David and I left to go back to Lub’D where we ended up staying out by the pool talking while we waited all the way until Nathan returned. First we saw Piksah, then Sam, then Michael. Nathan was the latest, he came in around 04:00. Once we were all back safely we said our goodbyes and went to our separate rooms.
Michael and I would have brunch in the morning. We went to Chef 1950 again. Their breakfast is amazing!! When we came back and I had a lot to pack. I also realized I had to tuk tuk to another accomodation to catch my bus and I almost missed it. I made it to my bus and was extremely exhausted. I never got off at the rest stop, instead I mostly tried to sleep and watched a weird movie on Netflix. 

From left to right: David, Sara and Micahel- sitting in the tuk tuk on our private hired tour. Nate and I not pictured- on the bench across from them.
David, Sara, Michael.

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