My heart beat too fast as I walked near the immigration desk. Cambodia is my first out-of-country trip and I did it alone. Fears of the unknown was running through my mind, which I believe is experienced by most if not all people who travel abroad for the first time. I was afraid that my passport would not be stamped after hearing some horror stories of people who were offloaded after their interview with the immigration officers.
And it was not a smooth experience. I was bombarded with questions, which fortunately I was prepared to answer. TIP: Be honest, answer the questions short and sweet. After what seems like forever, I finally got that dream stamp on my passport. I thought to myself, I could now post on Facebook that I was flying to Cambodia. 🙂
As of this writing Cebupacific has only 1 scheduled flight to Siem Reap. The travel time is 3 hours, Siem Reap is about 1175.3 miles away from Manila. SR is in the northwestern part of Cambodia and is known to be the home of The Angkor Temples. It’s a popular tourist destination, which has more than 4 million tourist arrivals based on the 2014 statistics.
I arrived in Cambodia at 9:30 PM (10:30PM in Manila time). I was welcomed by the Tuk-Tuk driver that I commissioned via Couchsurfing. In case you are wondering which currency to use in Cambodia, you may use their local notes, Riel but U.S. dollar is acceptable and in fact, preferred by the locals. It’s worth noting though that they don’t use US dollar coins and use Riel for smaller change. Most people can speak English so communication was never an issue.
I booked my stay in a mix dorm-type room at Luxury Concept Hostel for less than PHP250/night. The best thing about this place is its location; only a 10-minute walk from the Pub Street, the party central of Siem Reap.
The hostel is basic, clean, and quiet. I love the size of their bed, it was big, which I honestly didn’t expect for a hostel. It made sleeping much more comfortable. Private lockers are also available for all the guests. What I love most about this place is their roof-deck bar, which is ideal if you are looking for a relaxing place to drink. Everyone is welcome even those who are not staying in the hostel.
I’ve heard stories of being scammed in Cambodia and despite my best efforts, it happened to me. I was sold an overpriced bus ticket to SR-Bangkok, $25, for a connecting bus and van. For you to avoid this, I recommend that you book your ticket with the hostel you are staying. It was late when I realized I’d been scammed and that the rate for a connecting bus and van ride from SR-Bangkok ranges from $8-15 only. So if someone asks you a rate beyond that, don’t take it.
Because I didn’t have a decent dinner when I left Manila, I was too hungry when I arrived to SR. After I checked-in, I immediately walked my way to the Pub Street to look for food. As per my friends, food that costs $5 above is already expensive. I find that most food sold at the Pub Street though costs more than that, so I decided to find my food elsewhere but walking along the main road away from Pub Street. Then I discovered an eatery where most of the locals are eating. It’s located in front of the Burger King.
I ordered Fried Sling Beans with Pork and rice for $2.5. That’s the first Cambodian food that I tasted and it was delightful. No wonder most locals choose to buy their food there. It’s authentic Khmer food and it’s affordable.
What I noticed about their food is that they always serve it with vegetables and serving is big enough for 2 people. If you love veggies, you will absolutely love Cambodian cuisine. Food is not too flavorful but it is fresh and healthy.
In my first night, I just grabbed a few bottles of San Mig light for $1.5 as I tried to familiarize myself with the Pub Street. Party there starts as soon as the sun sets and most of the bars close at 1:00 AM so you better start drinking early.
Even without getting enough sleep, I was too energetic preparing myself for our small circuit Angkor tours. I even woke up earlier than my set alarm. My Tuk-Tuk driver arrived earlier than 5:00 AM so we left our hostel early to start our tour.
The road of Siem Reap is like a typical province in the Philippines. Even Cambodians look like Filipinos too. Because of this, it didn’t feel like I was outside my own country in the beginning. If not for billboards written in Khmer and hearing foreign languages, I would question myself if I was really out of the Philippines.
Before entering the Angkor Area you need to buy your Angkor pass. 1 day is $20 and a 3-day pass is goes for $40. (UPDATE AS OF AUGUST 2016 ONE DAY PASS IS 37$ AND THREE DAY PASS IS 62$). I suggest to come on queue early as the line becomes long quickly. Also, take care of your ticket as you will need to show it whenever you visit different temples.
I waited patiently together with thousands of tourists outside Angkor Wat. I was astonished when I first saw its beauty. It was like wow! Am I dreaming?! I couldn’t believe I made it there. I read somewhere that outside Angkor can be very crowded, I didn’t believe that until I witnessed myself the great number of people waiting for sunrise.
After witnessing the mind-blowing sunrise, I started to walk around Angkor Wat to feel its century old stones. One thing that ran through my mind was the kind of life people led in its golden years. But okay, I’m not here to discuss you the history of every temple I visited. Let’s leave that to your tour guide they are the best people to share the story.
Angkor Thom and Bayon
The tour is about to end when I encountered another scam. By then I was trying to make myself think that I experienced all these schemes so other people can learn from it. Anyway, this happened during my last temple run at Banteay Srei. Someone approached me to take my photo then he kept following me, showing what he believed to be a perfect view to take some pictures of.
I knew then that something would happen, that maybe this guy would ask for something in return so I prepared $2 to give him as a tip. At the end of the road, I said “Thank you for taking photos of me, please accept this $2. Guess what, a look of disappointment appeared on his face and he asked me to give him $35. I said “What? Are you kidding me? $35?! That is even more expensive than my tour and Angkor pass for 1 day. I told him that I wouldn’t give him $35 because I didn’t have that amount of money.
He didn’t want to let me go and even said that because I’m Filipino he would give me a discount, so instead of $35 I could pay him $15. At the back of my mind, I was thinking “should I be thankful that I’m a Filipino at this point?” I still said no. When he realized that I didn’t have dollars with me he started asking for other currencies like Baht and Ringgit. I reiterated that I didn’t have any of those. Lastly, he asked for PHP1,000. In my firm voice I said no and told him, “I’ll give you 2 dollars, take it or leave it.” He then took it then ran away. It was a scary moment but I didn’t show him any fear. I think it’s important that you show scammers that you are not afraid of them.
I informed my Tuk-Tuk driver what happened. He told me that I should have called him or I should have told the guy that we should talk in front of a police officer. I realized he had a point but it was too late already. So in case the same thing happens to you, have a presence of mind and do not give in.
If morning is for temple run, every night is for bar hopping. I admit that I overspent with alcohol in Cambodia, but please don’t judge me! #IamnotAlcoholic. Who doesn’t love the night life? I’m single and ready to party! But I didn’t see the wild side of Pub Street, so to speak. Even so, going out at night allowed me to meet some wonderful people, making my Siem Reap tour extra special. To save more money, try their draft beer for only $0.50. Beer and cocktail prices range from $1.50 above.
The following day, my itinerary was canceled due to the holiday. Supposedly, I would visit a charity organization who is teaching underprivileged Cambodians. It saddened me that it didn’t push through because aside from the temples, volunteering is one of the reasons why I wanted to visit Siem Reap. I was planning to spend my whole day with the kids to teach them English, serve lunch, and donate money. Anyway, hopefully, I could do it next time.
Luckily, I met Vincent a fellow Filipino traveling in SR. I missed speaking in Tagalog so meeting someone in another country who speaks the same language as you were such a joy. At least for 2 days, I enjoyed his company walking around the old market of SR and having food trip.
The bad experiences didn’t make me love Cambodia any less. In fact, I’m thankful that I’m safe. I learned that regardless of how much preparation you do it’s still possible to encounter troubles along the way. How funny that I wasn’t able to escape it.
Cambodia will always have a special place in my heart and I wasn’t disappointed that this is the first country that I chose to visit outside the Philippines. I’m thankful for all the lessons that I learned on the road; to be more street smart. Every temple that I visited amazed me and you can never go wrong with their food. Cambodians, just like us Filipinos are people full of hospitality.
[…] discovered my love of hostels when I started backpacking in Cambodia and Thailand. Hostels in these parts of the Southeast Asia Region are unique, budget-friendly, […]
Hi! Would you mind sharing which organization you were supposed to volunteer for? Thanks!
Thank you for checking mg article. Its been 3 years I think since I visited Cambodia. I totally forgot the name of the NGO. But they are focus on education. I remember my plan back then is to visit and teach English and donate some money for supplies and food.
[…] of our neighboring countries who made it this year. There were Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Cambodia. Further down the list, I was hopeful I’d see my dear country, the Philippines, so imagine my […]
What an amazing trip for your first time outside of the Philippines. Cambodia is on my bucket list. I am sorry to read about all the scams that you fell for but hopefully by writing about them you are preventing many people from falling for the same scheme, including myself.
Nice post and great photos, Angkor Wat and Cambodia have been a dream destination for us for some time now and hope to get there soon. Thanks for sharing this lovely post.
Thank you for checking this article. Hope you will visit it soon 🙂
[…] friend (Travelosyo) discovered Luxury Concept Hostel and booked his stay for his trip to Cambodia. That’s how I […]
[…] Cambodia: A solo travel to the Kingdom of Wonder! December 24, 2015 […]
wow your amazing, going there alone? what a nice adventure.. parang wala yata akong guts mag travel na ganyan ka layona mag-isa. But thank God your safe.
Thank you Melisa. Sa una lang naman nakakakaba. Pero pag nandun kana. You will definitely enjoy it 🙂
So happy I stumbled upon your blog! It was quite a long read but worth it. Huhu thanks so much for the tips. My friends and I are leaving for Cambodia this January and this was very helpful. I shared this to them too. Thank you! 🙂
Thank you for your time in reading my article. Enjoy your trip to Cambodia:)
Salute you on your Solo Travel- Cambodia looks really great on your photo. I only seen the Temple on TV few weeks ago on Survivor Second Chance Cambodia. Pretty amazing! Thanks for wonderful photos shared.:)
Thanks Melgie appreciate that 🙂
Nice travel in cambodia! I love to visit the place too in the future. Nice exotic view!
Nice place to visit. I wish I can travel like this soon. Would love to visit Cambodia too.
Its a very affordable place to visit 🙂 looking forward to see you here 🙂
Looks as if that sunrise for Angkor Wat was truly magical, would have been a good spot to be.
Amazing sunrise 🙂
mm I like the Angkor Wat..
and the umbrella street …
wasn’t the ride in tuk tuk scary?
Nope not scary lucy 🙂
Awesome post! Must make Angkor Wat a priority in 2016. About time!
Great post! First time solo and in Cambodia… and how you learned to confront the scammers. Way to go! Have an amazing 2016!!
Thanks Leticia! Have an Amazing 2016 to you and your family 🙂
Sounds like you had a pretty crazy time over there and it can be intimidating so go to places like this. Thanks for sharing your experience.
I’m glad you like the article. It was indeed crazy but it was fun! hahaha
Oh yes, scamming! We went from Bangkok to Cambodia and were so keen on not getting scammed, it also was not funny anymore. In the end we only got scammed for 5 dollars at the immigration office. Anything else we avoided. Which actually gave so much stress I rather had a more expensive bus ticket and some relaxing time then 😉
Hope you can tell me more on what happened at the Immigration office. Sounds interesting…
I do admire people who travel, and I wanna go places someday too. Perhaps when my kids are older. 🙂 Keep on traveling because you’d never know whom you’re inspiring with your travel stories.
Hi Mommy Kristine,
I cant wait for your kids to grow older so you can travel together 🙂 That will be totally awesome!
I love Cambodia – your pictures take me back 10 years to our first trip…!
Ohhh wow! Thanks Victoria. Does it look the same 10 years ago?
Good on you for taking your first solo trip. I have heard great things about Cambodia and hope to visit soon. Asia, as a whole, is fascinating.
Indeed, There are really a lot to see in Asia. Where are you located?
Great photos, I haven’t been but hopefully in the next couple of years I will explore here!
You will love Cambodia 🙂
Well you surely ran into quite a few scams. I am glad I read about your bad experiences so when I travel to Cambodia in March I don’t have to go through the same!
I never thought that I could go through a lot, I believe I’m prepared enough but I wasn’t, well charge it to experience hehehe. Goodluck! on your upcoming trip to Cambodia. You will surely love it.
The hostel looks great. We are in our mid-thirties and haven’t stayed in too many, but now that we are going to travel long-term we are going to stay in more to help save on costs. The rooftop bar sold me 🙂 Sucks about getting scammed, but at least us (your readers) can learn from it!
Wow great to hear that you are travelling long term.. That’s my goal one day 🙂 Hope you can escape from it 🙂
Haha, if you didn’t get scammed in Cambodia then you didn’t have an authentic experience, if you ask me! Well done for travelling solo. I found the access process really easy, but I crossed at the Thai border.
Hahahaha at least I experienced an authentic experience. But that’s quite scary though.. heheh after my 4 days in Cambodia I also crossed the boarder going to Thailand. That’s pretty easy. 🙂
Cambodia is such a wonderful place to go to, and it’s perfect for soul searching too! I bet it was fun traveling alone, that’s a nice learning experience too.
Thank Elizabeth 🙂 Hope you join my giveaway too 😉
Beautiful photos, it looks like an awesome trip!
Thanks it was indeed awesome. Hope you join the giveaway too 🙂
Oh, this is the second time I am reading about scams in Cambodia. I probably will not have the patience to go through that. I will have to find a way of booking a tour that takes care of everything so I do not have to be exposed to all the opportunities for scamming!
You can arranged a tour with the hotel/hostel you are staying with or contact vinith. Click the link on my article to connect on his facebook page. I can guarantee that he can make your Cambodia trip hassle free. Anyway, you may comment your favorite or next target city to win an exciting giveaway 🙂
Cambodia made up for everything that went wrong in my Vietnam trip. I love so many things about it: Luxury Concept Hostel, the temples, their local delicacy called amok, Pub Street, and of course the kind people.
I’m sorry that you got scammed, I know the feeling (alam mo yan!). And you are right, you should show the scammers that you are not afraid of them.
HAHAHA. I know right. I thought I will learn from you. I thought Im prepared enough. I was wrong friend hahahaha. Don’t forget to comment your next target city for a chance to win a giveaway 😉
Oh yeah, Chiang Mai.