Travel time: 01/2011, 04/2007
www.canbypublications.com: A very informative website for Angkor, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Kampot, Kep, Koh Kong and Battambang with detailed maps, hotels and tourist information. They also publish a free magazine monthly which is available on site.
Border crossing Cambodia -> Laos / Visa on arrival (2011)
The border scam starts at the Cambodian border as the custom control ask for one dollar "stamping fee". As they have name plates at their uniform just pull your notebook and start note down their names. They will ask immediately what you are doing. Tell them you are going to complain about the fee at your embassy and they will disclaim the stamping fee.
At the Laos side the custom control will first ask for two dollas additional to the official visa fee for "overtime work" and at the next window for two dollars "stamping fee". Do never pay any of this "fees" as it is highly illegal to give money without official reason as this is bribery. Best is to come to the border with a larger tour group (tourist bus from PP or Siem Reap) so everyone has to wait and there will be a major delay. The bus will definitly not leave without you and it's the business of the bus company to deal with the custom controll if they like to run tours between the borders as they know the scam very well.
In our case we grouped together and were nine people refusing to pay any bribe and after nearly one hour of waiting we got our passports stamped and took off without bribery.
What was most shocking me was the circumstance that the Laos officers where not willing to tell their names as they had no name plates sticked to their uniform as the Cambodian had.
Illegal advice: If you cross the border with a tour group just queue at each custom control for a while and go back to the bus. Nobody controls if you really have the Cambodian departure stamp or a Laos visa = Save money and trouble.
Angkor Wat (2011)
Visiting hours for the temple site is 5.30 am to 5.30 pm. Usually you have to leave the area after sunset at latest.
One day: 20 $
Three days: 40 $
Seven days: 60 $
No need to bring a passport photo anymore as they have digital cameras now. With the three and seven day pass you have the option to use the pass at different days or consecutive. Ask for different day useage as it cost the same but you have the option.
Angkor Wat is a must for everyone who love ancient sites and nature, even when you are someone avoiding the "beaten track". Stay a minimum of two days, for photo shootings without any visitor better calculate seven days or come in the monsun season: No visitors, a good contrast of wet and dry stone and fresh air after the rainfall.
Discover the area by bicycle if you are used to: You are independent, travel slow enough to recognice everything, no time pressure, park everywhere you like and at some sites you even can enter the large temple compound with the bicycle. The locals at the food stalls will welcome you more friendly and the bargain is more easy when you travel by bicycle. Roads are in fairly good conditions and most drivers keep distance while overtaking. Only the one day trip to Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean are something for real cycling addicts despite the fair condition of the road (it's a great cycling trip :-)) but keep in mind that you need also for that temples a pass.
Good Giant Rock SE hardtails are available at Travel Loop travel office @ Sivatha Sreet, #3A, Khum Svaydang Kum (phone +855 63 963 776) (map) for 8 $ per day (bargain possible). www.travelloops.com.
Do the tourist program first to get an overview of the sites: The first days stick to one of the many guided tours at the entrance of the temples for free a tour and site information and than visit the most impressive sites anti-cyclical to the tour groups for self-exploration and nice photo shootings.
The road to the remote temple sites like Kabl Spean is now completely paved and in good condition.
Balloon at Angkor
It's 1 km west of the Angkor Wat entrance towards the airport on paved road. For 15 USD you get a view from 180 meters hight for approximately 5 minutes. At a good day of visibility it's realy worth a visit. Also if you want to watch the sunset from here instaed of other crowded places. But come early or book in advance by phone: +855 12 520 810. At morning it's mostly booked by tours. Map
Download Battambang.zip as gpx file with some PIO´s for your gps device.
You may not beleave that this is the second largest city in Cambodia as it is very layed back here. Not much to discover but just relax.
The Royal Hotel @ Psar Nath Market (phone 053 952522) has very clean, large and nicely furnished rooms with fan and cold shower for 9$ or AC and hot shower for 15$ and free WiFi everywhere. On the roof top is a restaurant serving breakfast from 6 AM and beer up to 9:30 PM but keep open longer if some guests are still around or just have a nap in one of the hammoks. The english speaking staff is very helplful, can organize bus or boat tickets for 1$ commissioning and rent scooters for 5$ a day. Take a room to the rear side as they are cooler and less noisy.
If the water level is not too low you can take a boat to Siem Rep for 15$. The trip is very sceenic as you can see a lot of fishing and live on the the river from the "sun deck" while passing trough sometimes very narrow winding channels. Have a lunch break before the channel gets wider and the cruise faster.
Download Kampot.zip as gpx file with some PIO´s for your gps device.
Kampot is a sleepy small town at the Kampong river. Only little traffic = less noise, everything is in walking distance and the choise of bars and restaurants will meet most travelers expectations. Only the nightlife is limited. The locals are very friendly, helpful and most of the younger can speak some English.
Sen Monorom Guesthouse @ 1 Usaphea Village, opposite the Canadia Bank (phone: 033 932846) has large clean single rooms / double rooms which are nicely funished with own bathroom single / bathroom double. 8$ with fan or 15$ with AC, hot shower and fridge. The lady at the reception speaks English and can organize everything. It is around 300 meter from the farang strip, an ATM and an early breakfast restaurant serving rice with pork or chicken (1.5$) are just around the corner.
The trip to the Bokor mountains with their ruins on top is worth the 18 - 22$ even when 30 people are grouped together. Wild Orchid Adventure Tours (phone: 092 226996) opposite the Magic Sponge guesthouse is the main tour operator at Kampot as the road from the bottom to the summit is now private. Guests will be transfered with several mini busses to the checkponit where the private road starts. Here most of them had to change onto the rear of an old truck which carries up half the way. For some it's fun for some others just uncompfortable.
After half of the way up the hill you will be dropped for a 1.5 hour hike through the dense forrest (take some of the provided water bottles with you). Unlikely the road workers are using dynamite to build the road no animals are left at that area of the national park but still the hike is enjoable if you have the right shoes. The guide will make two breaks in between where he explains a little about the Bokor national park. At the end of the hike you will be picked up by the truck and transfered to the old casino at the top of the mointain where you have appr. 1 hour to spend before a diecend lunch (Amok) is served at the entrance of the building.
After the lunch break head down to the old church and the nice view point next to it. Hint: To avoid the crowd head down to the church immediately after arrival while the others inspecting the casino. Return for lunch and when the others are going to the church inspect the casino.
After the return to Kampot a 2 hour river sunset cruise is on the program. Stock up with your favorite drinks as non are served on the boat itself (for the moment).
Highly recommendable even with a larger group.
Kampot - Sihanoukville: Mini buses with AC for 5$ leaving between 8 and 8:30 AM. A larger toursit bus for 3.5$ leaves around 9 AM. All have pickup service and the trip takes around 2 hours. The tourist bus final destination is the GST Guesthouse.
Phnom Penh (2011)
Download Phnom Penh.zip as gpx file with some PIO´s and the Lonely Planet walking tour for your gps device.
The capital of Cambodia has much less travic than Saigon or Bangkog but also less to discover. It is easy to find a suitable accomodation as competition is high and at most time of the year they are not fully booked. At the river front there are all sorts of restaurants located including some sideroads with red lighted bars.
The Yung Hout Gesthouse at 136, Sangkat, Phsar Thmei 3, phone 012 661 321 has very simple and not so clean rooms with own shower for 7$ with fan or 15$ with AC and hot water. The most cheap rooms have no windows and no bath room. The area is close to the main market and only some minutes away from the riverside in a not very crowded area. Give the cleaning staff some dollars and they will clean up, provide fresh blankets and cover. Free WiFi.
The price and location makes it recommendable.
It is not that easy to reach the killing fields of Choeung Ek (admission 2$) without guide as the sign where you have to make a left turn away from the main road can be overseen very easy even when you travel by bycicle. If you came from the south you will not see any sign at all.
THE SHOP at #39, 240 street offers a variety of very delicious sweets and nice coffee. The small counteryard offers a nice athmosphere.
G. S. T Express Bus runs a slow bus to Battambang for 10$ which takes some 6 hours and will make a lunch stop on the way. The distance between the seats are not too bad. It starts at the main office at the west end of the main market and has a stop some 1km from the center of Battambang.
Siem Reap (2011)
Download Siem Reap.zip as gpx file with some PIO´s for your gps device.
The city center around the "Pub Street" starts getting bustling one hour after sunset when everyone refreshed after a long day out at Angkor looking for a cool "happy hour" beer or just strolling around. It's very touristy but still most of the locals have a smile left if you do so. Take care of your belongings after midnight until sunrise while walking around the pub street / old market area as there are thieves in numbers around.
The !Viva! Hotel (phone: 077 478 633), www.ivivasiemreap.com is located at a side road next to the old market less than one minute walk from the pub street and has very nicely styled rooms with AC, TV, hot shower and bed with good mattress for 15 $. The rooms are very clean and new towels are provided every day. Basic bycicles are rentable for 2 $. Map.
Perfect location, nice rooms, highly recommendable.
Around the corner of the !Viva! Hotel is the Neth Socheata Hotel (phone: 063 963 294), www.nethsocheatahotel.com, map. Opposite is a quick laundry service.
Ei8htrooms Hotel at 138 Village Stheoung Thmey, Commune Svaydangkum (phone: 063 969788), www.ei8htrooms.com offers nice stylish looking rooms (now 16 in different styles) for 10 to 13 USD. Friendly staff, calm road. It's only two minutes walk to the old marsket. Map
Land Mine Museum
It's a terrible road to the museum but its nothing like the experiance of Mr. Aki Ra, the initiator of the Land Mine Museum and active member of the land mine squad for third world countiers (as the exibitions indicated). The museum itself was a little chaotic like the road to it but when I compare my experiances to the incidentally visited actuall website www.cambodialandminemuseum.org the owner Mr. Aki Ra improved a lot.
Siem Reap -> 4000 Islands (Laos)
For 15 $ a pick-up service (Tuktuk) will bring you to the small bus (less than 15 cm space between the seats) starting at 5:30 AM from Siem Reap (usually with one hour delay) to the junction of road no. NH7 (3.5 h) to catch the compfortable VIP-Bus from Phnom Penh heading towards Vientiane. Expect a lunch stop for 30 minutes around 1:30 PM and the arrival at the Cambodian border around 4 PM.
After the trouble at the border (see below) you arrive at Ban Nakasang around 5:30 PM to pay additional three dollars for the boat transfer to Don Det which you may reach at 6 PM.
Seam Reap Airport: The Passenger Service Charge at the airport is 25 USD per person. All credit cards are accepted.
Download Sihanoukville.zip as gpx file with some PIO´s for your gps device.
This is the place for beach & party lovers. From silent unspoiled beaches to bustling shack dotted almost next to each other. The same for the accomodation: Party mile or silent with sea view is your choice but stay away if you expect an authentic Cambodian holiday.
The Cozy Guest House (phone: 092 460071) at the Golden Lions roundabout has clean simple rooms with fan and TV, own bathroom with hot shower for 8$ (no bargian possible). It is near the party location but quiet silent. As there are constructions going on to build a bar with dance floors it may change in the future.
Until then recommendable.
The Dive Shop Cambodia (5 star PADI) at Serendipity Beach Road (phone: 034 933664) offer full day trips to Koh Rong island where they have a base for dive excursions and overnight stay. Starting at 7:30 AM with a 20 minute transfer to the peer at Sihanoukville. The boat which has seen their best days long time ago takes 2 hours to Koh Rong where the dive equipment is stocked up. The wetsuits are also in a well used shape but all other equipment was in good condition.
The tranfer to the dive sites takes around 30 minutes. Visibility in mid of January at flat sea was around 7 meters. At the location Corner Bar are fish schools from small fishes and groups of middle size fishes.The location Back Door had less fishes but more seldom once. Between the dives the boat retruns back to the base of Koh Rong (Dive map) to have a simple lunch. It's 65$ for two dives and the dives usualy are limited to one hour dive time.
Paramout Angkor Express (phone: 034 933 618) runs a tourist bus to Phnom Penh which has that much space between the seats that even the longest leg can be stretched. Including pick-up service at 7 AM it's 5$ and the trip takes 4.5 compfotable hours including a lunch break. The bus has also toilet on board but it's that tigny that you may not get off anymore.