Some people on Braden’s team decided months ago that they were going to travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia to complete a half marathon at the beginning of the December. That was just the motivation he needed to decide to run his first half marathon, and just the motivation I needed to decided it would be a bit lame to just cheer at the finish line, so I signed up for the 10km option. What a great extended weekend! Braden’s brother flew in from Kuala Lumpur, a bunch of Braden’s coworkers were there, and a few friends from Hong Kong came too. In addition to the race we did a fair bit of exploring and adventuring in and around Siem Reap. The only downside to our trip was we waited to long to book flights and, due to the popularity of the Half Marathon, there were no direct flights left. We had to fly via Vietnam both ways, which was very Hanoi-ing (see what I did there?) The only thing I would have changed with this trip is to have been on top of our booking to ensure we got direct flights. Read on to hear about our Top Ten for Siem Reap.
10. $0.50 Draft Beer
This is, of course Braden’s addition to the list. On the Beer Index, Cambodia rates very high (or low) depending how you look at it. Braden couldn’t get enough of the cheap beer and since the official currency is basically the US Dollar (with a bit of local currency – the Cambodian Real -peppered in as change) it was easy to navigate prices.
9. Wandering Pub Street
We quickly realized we are too old for Pub Street when we sat down in a restaurant next to a club on our first night. The walls were literally shaking and our ear drums were ready to explode. Though it’s an absolute “must see” and hard to avoid, it wasn’t our thing. We enjoyed, instead, the streets approaching Pub Street and running parallel.
Some of the favourite places we checked out were Laundry Bar, Gelato Lab (so amazing, and $1.50 for a delicious scoop), and Sister Srey Cafe for delicious brunch. Food and drinks are so cheap in Siem Reap.
8. Hanging out at the Pool
Our hotel had a beautiful outdoor pool on their grounds. I would say it’s a “must” to have a pool at your hotel here to cool down and relax in the afternoon. We would have liked a bit more sun on our pool in the afternoon, but who can quibble about a detail like that?
7. Going for Massages
Cheap cheap cheap massages abound in Siem Reap! We treated ourselves to a pre-run foot massage for $3 on the street, and a post-race body massage in a shop. The foot massage on the street was not excellent, but provided some of the best commentary of any of our trips. The girls speak minimal English and only that required to complete a massage. My conversation went something like:
Girl, “Missy, you like?”
Me, “Yes, very nice.”
Girl, “Pressure okay?”
Me, “Yes, thank you.”
Girl, “Where you from?”
Me, “Hong Kong.”
Girl, “Your face no look Hong Kong.”
Me, “Ummmmm! You’re right!”
Ever wanted to go for a massage with your brother-in-law and husband…in the same room? Hahaha! Just a little bit weird, but we made it work. Only issue: Braden kept falling asleep and started to snore.
6. Stay in a Boutique Hotel
The attentive service we received at Mane Boutique Hotel and Spa was second to none and the grounds were lovely. The staff were so lovely and willing to do absolutely anything to make us happy. The breakfast included was full of options and delicious.
5. Hiring a Personal Tuktuk Driver
Braden’s parents were in Cambodia a few years ago and met Ton, a tuktuk driver, as he was taking them to see some temples. They took a shine to him, asked him about his goals and, before they knew it, had helped him purchase and refurbish a used tuktuk. This helped Ton make more money, as it’s his own and no longer needs to pay rent to use one. Braden’s parents have stayed in touch with Ton and had told him we would be in town. He was so excited to see us, and met us at the airport with a “Welcome Alison & Braden” sign. So sweet. We loved being able to call him to take us places. If you find a tuktuk driver that you like, get his number or make plans for the next day right away.
4. Bike Riding
Our hotel was awesome and had bikes we could use for free, which was amazing and another perk. The frames were made from bamboo, which seemed novel at quaint at the time. When we got on and started to ride, we realized they were difficult to adjust and the bamboo had so much flex that we were wobbling all over the place. It took a few blocks to adjust, but we settled in and got used to them pretty quickly. We just went up and down the streets and found ourselves on a dusty trail in the local village. We loved seeing the more authentic side of Siem Reap.
3. Temple Exploring
We spent a day exploring temples and opted for a one day ($20USD) pass. We saw Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Tah Prohm. Angkor Wat is surely the most well known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but I think my favourite was Tah Prohm, as it felt like something out of Indiana Jones being so overgrown with trees and vines. There are scores more we could have seen, but knowing we would be running through temples too we decide not to temple ourselves out. We also heard it’s spectacular to see the temples at sunrise, which many people do, but since we already had one pre-dawn wake-up planned on race day we gave ourselves a bit of a break.
In hind-sight we probably should have hired a guide for at least one of the temples to learn some history and hear some details. We would have loved a few educational notice-boards to help explain more about what we were looking at.
2. Run Though the Temples
What a highlight! We loved completing such a unique run in a beautiful setting. This was Braden’s first half marathon and he loved having so much to look at. The course was so flat, which obviously made it easier, but man oh man was it hot. Even though we started at 6am, we were sweating by the first kilometer.
1. Quad ride at Sunset
Our friends suggested doing a quad tour, something we hadn’t considered and signed up for last minute. It turned out to be one of the highlights of our weekend! We booked a sunset tour with Siem Reap Quad Bike Adventure on the recommendation of our hotel which was an excellent suggestion. We spent a solid two hours out and about, traveling to a Buddhist temple, through villages and rice paddies with a view of the sunset, with the last leg being quite dark getting back to their office.
Aside from my slight mis-steering in to the middle of a huge mud puddle everything went super smoothly. We loved that it was just the four of us with two guides. And for $60 per person we thought it was money very well spent.
If you’re concerned about space in your passport / don’t want to wait in a line for 45 minutes, and don’t mind paying an extra US $10, you can apply for an e-visa here in advance. You can print out a piece of paper, fly through the line-up (like I did) and then wait for your husband to wait in line, thus actually saving no time. I ended up with two small stamps in my passport, whereas Braden has a full page occupied with a sticker that was only good for one visit.
We loved seeing a new part of Southeast Asia and exploring Siem Reap. We highly recommend visiting if you’re in the area!