With a few hours hanging around in the airport in Bangkok I booked our accommodation using Agoda this was the first time we hadn't pre-booked anything and it worked out quite well. The Mansion Siem Reap ended up being the perfect hidden gem of our stay in Cambodia. Whilst not in the centre, the hotel provided a collection from the airport on arrival on a the Cambodian version of a the Thai Tuk Tuk called a Rickshaw. The hotel also provided one complimentary drop off to the town centre on the Richshaw per day which was highly useful and cost effective appose to paying more to stay right in the town. The hotel was glorious with a beautiful pool, gorgeous all white room and a wonderful bunch of staff to top it all off.
The thing which Cambodia is most well known for is the infamous city of Angkor Wat. There are a number temples to be seen, Angkor Wat temple being the main and most popular. The temples were out of this world and we knew we would include them as part of our itinerary no matter the cost. We booked a private rickshaw to take us to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat and it was honestly one the most incredible things we did during our stay in Asia. Up at 4am we sat across the lake with the view of the sunrise over these majestic temples, everyone silent and taking in the view you just cannot put a price on it. Speaking of prices a day tour of the temples would set you back at $20 per person and a private driver for the day would be $25 allowing you to see as much as possible to get your moneys worth. We were actually there the same time as Beyonce was visiting, can you believe that! So gutted I didn't casually bump into her and make her become my bestie. I actually met one of my Instagram followers whilst in Siem Reap and her Cambodia boyfriend Yut has a tour company business which offers unique experiences and tours including walking, cooking and religious tours sadly Yut was fully booked for the day we wanted so helped to arrange a driver for us as well as arranging a water blessing with local monks which was one of the highlights of the trip. Sarah and Yut are now friends of ours and If you are looking for a walking tour with a guide then I can whole heartily recommend Ayana Journey's. Just over dinner Yut talked us through so much of the history of Cambodia and what it has been like for his people and his country so I can only imagine how great he would giving a tour around Angkor Wat!
KHEMER POTTERY CLASS
Ever since watching Ghost when Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze got hot and bothered over a pottery stool and some clay I have always wanted to have a go at making my own pottery. Whilst this class was certainly far from that film Dan and I had such a giggle making our own cups, bowls and mini vases. Molding clay is actually way harder than it looks, you need to be able to keep the spinning wheel going using your leg whilst using your hands to shape your piece of pottery. Mine started off an absolute mess and Dans cup looked more like a stick. It honestly was so fun and we were able to bring home this really great souvenir that we knew we had contributed to. Plus the money you pay for the class contributes helps to fund education classes and training opportunities for the disadvantaged people of Cambodia as well as keeping the traditional technique of Khmer Ceramics alive. We opted for the $20 class which allowed us to make 4 items and keep 1 each, they are fired and set then delivered to your hotel/hostel the next day in a lovely bamboo package easy for you to get back home on the plane.
Kulen Mountain Waterfalls
This was perhaps my favorite thing about Cambodia, simply because it was the first real waterfall I had ever seen and we got to see a little more of the authentic side to Cambodia. We paid for a day trip through our hotel which actually worked out to be around $50 for two of us which also included a stop off to the town of Kulen Mountain, the water falls and the Landmine museum which I would recommend everyone visit. The mountain is around an hours drive outside of Siem Reap and the waterfall is said to have major spiritual significance to Cambodian people who believe the water is blessed and sacred. The walk up and down the to the waterfall is certainly interesting to say the least, the steps down are so steep and most certainly wouldn't pass a health and safety check in the UK, still its manageable and when you reach the bottom it is worth the effort. The small town in the mountain was full of people trying to sell you stuff but they weren't forecful with their sales which was good plus they sold these amazing Red Bananas which can only be found on the mountain. They have this sweet and sticky taste to them which is just so delicious, we bought a whole bunch of them for our lunch! My advise in regards to booking this trip is asking in your hotel or hostel if anyone would like to join up to make a group for a private car, that is what we did and it much nicer than the usual tour bus jobbies because you leave before all the rush. Also just be careful in the water as the little fishy nibble which Dan did not like at all! haha.
Some additional notes about Cambodia:
It is nothing like Thailand,at all and many people find Cambodia a shock to their system. the food is different and the people are different, still lovely but different. Cambodia is still a very poor country, as the terrors of what they lived through are still very much part of their history. You will find children begging in the street, and when I mean children I mean sometimes as young as 1 years old running around Pub street begging for milk. Please do not give these children money as you are contributing to something much, much darker this is a con for the adults to make money and it does nothing but ensure children remain on the streets. If you see children begging elsewhere and you want to give money, then do so wisely, perhaps by food to give instead.
If you want to avoid the touristy areas then avoid Pub Street at all costs its full of aggressive sellers and basically full of English style restaurants. We ate out with friends who live in Cambodia in more local places and we much preferred this to the experience we had on pub street. Check out Mr Grill and Mei Cafe which are both incredible places to try Cambodian food. Overall there is a lot to love about Cambodia. so ignore the blog posts which you may read about Cambodia being dangerous, over priced and touristy it is no worse than Thailand for all those things and there is a lot more to love about Cambodia.