If you are interested in visiting Siem Reap soon, stay tuned, I’ll be sharing a Recommended Itinerary, Budget and Tips for this trip soon! 🙂
I’d been yearning for a solo trip to somewhere around Southeast Asia for a while now. Initially, I wanted to do a solo backpacking trip to multiple destinations around Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, but due to financial constraint and various commitments, I ended up picking only one destination for a short trip. I picked Siem Reap as I had always wanted to visit Angkor Wat. Also, based on my research, it seemed safe for a female to travel alone, and it’s an affordable destination from Malaysia.
As this was my second time traveling alone (read about my first solo trip to Washington DC), I was more prepared and less afraid before the trip. I booked my tickets and hostel online, gave my parents a brief itinerary of my trip (flight number and time, name and contacts of my accommodation, and a brief idea of where and what I’ll be doing there) and I was ready for my adventure.
The first day of my trip was spent resting and exploring around the city centre. After landing, I took a remork (Cambodia Tuk Tuk) to my hostel at the city centre. You’ll be charged a fixed rate from the airport counter for different transportation options and it takes around 25 minutes to arrive the city. After dropping off my luggage at the hostel, I walked around town to get a SIM card and checked out the local market.
The first thing I learned about Siem Reap was that the remork drivers are all overly friendly and pushy; the second thing I learned was that beer is cheaper than water. No joke. Everywhere I went, the drivers would be standing by the roadside asking if I needed a ride, one even rode down the street just to persuade me over and over again. As for the beer, see image of receipt below for reference.
I originally planned to head to the floating village at Tonle Sap Lake for sunset and dinner in the evening, but it started pouring around late afternoon. I ended up extending my nap at the hostel (didn’t sleep the night before due to early flight) and met up with another female solo traveller I met earlier that day for dinner and drinks at Pub Street.
I dedicated my second day entirely to the Angkor temples. At 4.45AM, Min, my pre-booked remork driver, picked me up from my hostel and off we went to get my 1-day entrance ticket and see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Despite the chattering of the crowd and loud introduction of some tour guides, I was glad to be able to witness the sun rise from the corner of the ancient temple. I went into the temple right after I caught a shot of the sunrise and managed to avoid the huge crowd that came in after me.
That day, I visited Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm and Banteay Kdei (those around the small circuit of Angkor complex). Min would drop me off at each location and wait for me at the dedicated parking spaces outside of the temples. I was actually pretty jealous when I saw him napping at a hammock on his ride while I was sweating my ass off climbing around and getting lost amongst the stones and moss and Buddha faces.
Despite my Christian background, I do like some of the Buddhist teachings and I find its history fascinating. Therefore, I really enjoyed walking around the ancient holy ground a lot, and even got a red bracelet as a blessing from a monk when I was there.
As it was also raining the rest of that day and I was exhausted from visiting the temples, I just rested and enjoyed cheap drinks at the hostel bar with people I met there.
Last day – ate more good food, did some shopping, got a hair wash, and went back home! I’d been eyeing for a nompang since I arrived, and was excited to hunt down a stall where a few local Cambodians were waiting just down the street. As expected, the baguette sandwich was. so. good. The skewered pork and pickled carrot was so juicy and the combination with the crunchy vegetables was amazeballs! ??
I decided to get a hair wash at one of the market beauty parlours as my scalp was itching from sweating too much the past few days.* The local hairdressers couldn’t speak English at all, so all I did was pointing at the shampoo, water, asked “how much”, and got the wash. I even managed to get my hair braided by showing a Google-d image! It’s definitely an interesting but good experience.
And that’s pretty much it, I then had lunch at my hostel bar and left for the airport on a remork (this time with a rain cover), with a fresh scalp, a beautiful braid, a red string bracelet, and a pashmina scarf feeling like a Cambodian princess. Hahaha jk, but yes I definitely had a good trip!
* Don’t worry, the temperature was around 31°C in May and it’s bearable, I was having an excessive sweating problem due to my antidepressants.
How I Feel About Siem Reap and my Solo Trip
Siem Reap is a culture-rich place filled with really kind and friendly people. While the town is not as developed as Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, with very little cars on the road and no high-rise building, most locals are equipped to assist you due to the surge of tourists in the past years.
The population was young, with the oldest range between 40-50 years old, due to the dying of most older people during the Khmer Rouge dictatorship in 1970s. I honestly didn’t realize that I didn’t see any white-haired, old people around until a friend I met at the hostel pointed it out. I guess besides witnessing the ancient history of the Khmer Empire, I also learned a lot about recent Cambodian culture and civilization.
As for myself travelling alone in the city, I never once felt unsafe as I was going around as an Asian female. The city centre and the temples were always filled with people, and except for the remork drivers and market vendors who hiked up prices because I was a tourist (just like everywhere in Asia), everyone else I met was really nice and helpful. I definitely had the much needed self-reflection time while exploring the city and temples on my own, and I’m just grateful for the privilege to be able to do that! ?