Short but sweet times in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
We only had a week to spend in Cambodia before meeting my dad in Bangkok and wanted to spend most of it in Ankor Wat to explore the ruined temples. With that in mind we only had 1 day to spend in Phnom Penh. Had we had more time, we would have loved to stay in Cambodia longer and in Phnom Penh at least for another night or 2 to explore the many streets, markets and little cool shop here.
We liked the relative child friendliness of Phnom Penh with play grounds for the kids, outdoor gym by the river where families hung out and the open and friendliness of the Cambodian people. As it is the capital, outside the main tourist drag there are also many quirky little shops and cafes where the locals go.
We enjoyed the cheap street food, got some bargains in the central market and spent time playing about with the kids. Everyone travels by tuktuk here which is a very cheap, quick and comfortable way to get around. You pay for everything here in dollars in cash and her change back in Cambodian real.
Heading into Siem Reap for an Ankor Wat adventure
After a day here we got the 6 hr bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. We had 5 nights booked here in Jasmin home stay . A tiny room made up for by a good sized pool and good breakfast. After a full day of recovering from the past few days of travelling by the pool we were ready for 3 days exploring Ankor Wat.
3 days exploring magical Ankor Wat
Once in Siem Reap we found that here are many ways of getting to and round Ankor Wat. You can go by tuktuk, bicycle, scooter, bus tour etc. On our first day around Ankor Wat we opted for a private tuktuk to take us to some of the smaller temples.
We left at 9 and were back for lunch at 1 with a dip in the pool afterwards. This worked out beautifully.
First day in Ankor Wat exploring Ta Prohm and one of the worlds largest swimming pools
Our first stop if the day was Banteay Kdel, a smaller and moderately interesting temple with some stones to climb on. Pretty quiet with few hawkers, stalls and tourists so a good place to go if you want to avoid the really touristy ones. Outside this temple is the Kings swimming pool, a good spot for a sit down and a drink before continuing to the next stop.
Next we went to Ta Prohm , definitely one of my favourites. Beautiful light makes the ruins overgrown by ancient trees look almost magical, like a real life fairytale. It is not very big, but pretty busy with people queuing up to take photos by the main sights. We spent around an hour here marvelling at the amazing trees snaking their way over the ruined temple high up in the sky. Its good to be here in the early morning or late afternoon to catch the best light.
Before heading back to the hotel our tuktuk driver took us to Ta Nai, a small and very secluded temple that was barely marked on the map. Completely unrestored and not as spectacular as the previous 2, but both Ingrids and Scott’s favourite as they could climb around on the rocks and ruins like little monkeys.
A quick stop for lunch near Ankor Wat where we discovered that the very expensive prices on the menus here were actually negotiable so rather than paying $7 per dish as set out in the menus we paid a very resonance $ 3. Happy days.
Sunrise at Ankor Wat – an Ebike adventure
On day 2 we wanted to go and see Ankor Wat by bicycle. However, wandering around Siem Reap the night before we didn’t find any bikes with a packet holder seat for Scott or a good small one for Ingrid so in the end we decided to rent electric bikes instead. First practice run in the dark back to the hotel was a bit exciting. Me with Ingrid on the back and Paul with Scott in front of him we felt ready for the ride in the dark to Ankor Wat the next morning to catch the sunrise.
On our little bikes in the dark we joined the train of hundreds of tuktuks heading out to the ruins to see the sunrise. The road was a bit bumpy in the dark, but it was such a nice feeling riding the bike effortlessly with the breeze in my hair and Ingrid hanging on just behind me. Im glad I didn’t actually have to pedal in the end!
The sunrise in itself was a bit disappointing to me. A huge crowd with iPhones in the air blocking everyone’s view and unfortunately clouds in the sky blocking the actual sunrise…. It was well worth it, we all still enjoyed it but not the spectacular sunrise we had hoped for. To avoid the sightseeing crowds lingering here after the sunrise we headed straight for Ankor Tom instead with a plan of properly visiting Ankor Wat again just be fore sunset.
The Bayon temple is a beautiful temple full of magical faces quite similar to Ingrid and Scott.
By 9 o’clock we were finished ready to head back to our hotel for a delicious breakfast of baguette and eggs….or so we thought.
The sheer wight of Paul and Scott on 1 bike meant Pauls bike ran out of battery on the way home. Luckily the bikes were equipped with charging cables so after finding a little house by the road side, we spent 30 min there with the bikes plugged into the owners garage… Once topped up we just made it back before breakfasts closed.
Ebikes around Siem Reap and Ankor Wat
We made to most of the bikes this day and so after a swim and a rest we took the bikes into central Siem Reap for a late lunch in one of the many cheap eateries around the central market. A quick change of batteries at the ebike shop and then we were off to Ankor Wat again. The afternoon was much better for Angkor Wat sightseeing. Fewer people around and a bit cooler too. 1 hr of exploring then we decided to head back to Siem reap before it got completely dark.
Grand tour by tuktuk on our last day in Cambodia
Day 3 here was our last day in Cambodia with our fight for Bangkok leaving at 10. As we had bought a 3 day pass to Ankor Wat we decided to spend the last day here doing the Grand Tour to the less famous.temples farthest away in the Ankor wat area. I’m glad we did this tour as we saw one of my favourites, Preah Khan, and a small but magical temple in a lake.
Ankor Wat – a family adventure I highly recommend
Ankor Wat is a really great place to explore as a family. Many temples are not restored and so make interesting playgrounds where the kids can run and climb around without being told off. Its easy to get around by tutktuk and by doing 3 half days rather than 1 or 2 full days, you can make sure everyone are enjoying themselves not getting tired or bored.
It was a good decision in the end not to cycle. We met quite a few people on bikes completely exhausted by the bike ride getting there not enjoying walking around the sights as a consequence. I also recommend the Ebikes as a safer option than scooter if you travel with smaller children.
We were totally happy about one week in Cambodia and glad we made the effort to get here. It truly is a wonder of the world that anyone can enjoy.
Siem Reap town is not that interesting. We avoided the very busy pub street and the main tourist drags and at at our usual favourite places just outside the centre.