Siem Reap & the Angkor Wat Historical Park.

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We previously wrote a piece on daily budgets for India, but didn’t write on for South East Asia – $25 (USD) per person per day, is a well reported figure online and we think is about right to cover backpacker style accommodation, basic food from cheap restaurants or street vendors and the odd beer. We thought it might be useful to note basic costs for visiting Angkor Wat on a backpacker budget.

 Visiting Siem Reap & the Angkor Historical Park will cost more than $25 dollars per day.

Park entry

There are three ticket options for visiting the Angkor Historical Park.

A one day ticket costs $20 (USD). A three day pass, valid to be used within a week is $40 and a seven day pass, which has to be used within one month is $60.

We used a three day pass for three consecutive days. We saw and did a lot we could easier have spent another day or two in the complex. A one day ticket would probably never be enough, you would briefly pass through all the popular/famous temples and not even see them properly, let alone visiting some of the quieter temples.

Transport

Angkor Wat is located 5-10Kms from Siem Reap, depending on where you’re staying. There are several transport options.

A car and driver are available for around $25 USD per day, often with air conditioning.

A tuk-tuk and driver are available for around $15 – 25 USD per day, depending on whether you’re staying in the main temple area, or planning to head out to places such as Banteay Shrei (32km from Siem Reap). Tuk-tuks are loads of fun and provide a nice breeze and respite from the heat and humidity. It’s your choice, don’t let a tuk-tuk driver choose you. There is a lot of competition in Siem Reap and people can be pretty in your face about offering you a ride… If you don’t feel comfortable with someone, you’re not obliged to use their services.

Moto Taxi’s are available for zipping around Angkor for around $10 a day, but are only suitable for one person. May cost more to travel further afield, and potentially more dangerous than a tuk tuk. May well invalidate your travel insurance also.

Bicycles are a great way to get around, but you need to be really fit, and able to cycle from the Siem Reap to the Historical park, as well as around it. You won’t get to go as far afield on a bike and you will have to put up with the heat and humidity, but I guess it depends on what you want to get out of the experience. The roads however are pretty good quality for cycling, and cheaper than a tuk tuk or private car.

Walking is another option, as with cycling you can’t go as far afield and will be in the sun all day.

With private cars, tuk-tuks and moto taxis make sure you are all clear on how long you are paying for, and how much – agree on a time period and a price before jumping in. It can save a lot of confusion and and potential confrontation at the end of the day. It would suck to have such a small thing ruin what should be an otherwise awesome experience.

Guides

Apparently an English language guide is available for around $25 USD per day, more for less common languages.

Personally, I’m not so keen on the idea of a guide, and many of the tuk-tuk drivers know a fair bit about the different temples anyway. The difference between a guide, and a tuk-tuk driver is the standard of English, but we found our tuk-tuk captain to be a informative, friendly guy. This is entirely down to luck though…

Money

Cambodia has a national currency, the Riel, however most places list prices in US Dollars and take dollars as their primary currency. To complicate matters further you may often receive small change in riels, not dollars.

It’s really useful to have an exchange app on your phone to work out costs. We use the XE app; it’s free and lets you store ten currencies and will exchange rates without an internet connection. Winner!

Make sure you have some small bills, a lot of businesses in Siem Reap wont be able accept or be able to give change for bigger notes. It’s not all about the benjamins.

Accommodation

Accomodation options in Siem Reap are endless, my guidebook suggests “There are now more guest houses and hotels around Siem Reap than there are temples around Angkor”, and a search on Hostelbookers showed more than 100 options. There is a lot of choice, and options to suit all budgets but the demand is there also, several hundred thousand (probably more…) people pass through Siem Reap to visit Angkor each year.

We stayed in a double with shower/en suite as we did in most places in South East Asia for around $20 per night. The standard was as good as anywhere else in Asia we have stayed, although maybe slightly more expensive. We specifically looked for a hotel with a pool. We thought it would be a nice way to end the days after tramping around temples soaked in sweat – it was one of the best choices we made on our South East Asia trip.

Food

At Angkor Historical Park there are a number of places you may be taken for lunch, the two we went to were overpriced and pretty bland. $6/7/8 for a pretty average stir fried meat, veg and rice. If you want to save your money, take your lunch with you, or arrange beforehand to go offsite for lunch.

 Weather

Cambodia is hot, and humid. Get out as early in the day as possible. Around nine or ten in the morning the humidity becomes pretty stifling when you’re trekking about and climbing up steep steps. We visited in early December, which was apparently the cooler season. November through to February is apparently the premium, cooler dry season but with that expect lots of tourists around this time and high levels of humidity.

Realistically, it’s mostly going to be pretty busy unless you’re prepared to visit in the wet season, or when the temperature rises to around 40ºc.

Practicalities

Wear decent shoes! The paths are uneven and stony, there is also plenty of gooey moss around. Girls, make sure you are well dressed. Long dresses and covered arms will ensure you won’t offend the many practising religious folks at Angkor. It also means you get to visit ALL the temples – Phimeanakas, for example had an enforced dress code when we visited and a sea of under-dressed girls were left at the entrance.

Plan ahead and try to visit the more popular temples when they are less likely to be busy – lunchtime for example,or dawn when almost everybody will be watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat.

 Siem Reap town

As this is an incredibly tourist driven city there are A LOT of beggars, mostly children. It’s heart wrenching to ignore children telling you ‘I don’t want money, just buy me some food’ they could well be part of a scam where they sell the products back to the shop and split the money 50-50. Also these children are often being used and exploited by a gang running the scams. As harsh as sounds if you engage with them, and give them money, they will not break the cycle, they will continue to go without an education, and will spend their entire lives destitute and begging. If you want to help, there are many places in Siem Reap and surrounding areas where you can volunteer your time.

The same can be applied to children selling souvenirs in the Angkor Historical Park. They are going to work instead of school – it’s a moral judgement as to whether you buy something from them, We bought some postcards from a boy; he was probably around nine, but I am absolutely sure he went to school as well. I spoke with him about his life, and I negotiated that he had to teach me some Khmer if I bought his postcards. I have no doubt he will do well for himself, he was clever and his English was fantastic but there will be children in similar situations who will spend their whole life selling crap to tourists, never breaking the cycle, whose children won’t go to school either.

The town itself is an unusual place, it’s got such a high concentration of tourists it feels almost like a European holiday resort, there are bars and restaurants everywhere, and it’s not hard to find somewhere to eat. ‘Pub street’ in the heart of the backpacker area is full of restaurants, I imagine prices are slightly inflated with comparable restaurants in the rest of Cambodia, We unfortunately cannot compare as we didn’t have time to visit any other areas of Cambodia.

Bartering

Siem Reap is full of markets, if you want to buy some souvenirs, or some ‘replica’ items there are loads of choices, barter hard and walk away if you’re not happy, there are a hundred other people probably selling the same thing.

With regards to tuk-tuks or drivers, and guides we’ve read online you can barter them down a little bit, but why would you? $15 to employ a driver all day, and for him to wait around for you whilst you’re busy pretending to be Indiana Jones (was it just me?) is a really cheap price for a westerner to pay. What difference is a couple of dollars going to make to you? What you pay them is probably their daily wage, and they all have families to feed just like anyone else – Don’t be a dick.

We didn’t attempted to barter with our tuk-tuk captain and he made every effort to help us, he told us what types of food we should try, and offered to buy our water for us at locals prices rather than tourist prices, he also told us everything he knew about each temple. He was awesome, we were really lucky and I would have felt a dick if I had tried to shave a few dollars off.

All prices are in US Dollars,and based on our visit in December 2012.

**Check out our other posts on Angkor, including temples here & here.**

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Instagram, our week in pictures 25th – 31st May.

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another week has disappeared and we are fortunate enough to say the Sydney rains haven’t joined us, yet.

Weve mostly been trying to get a chance to check out the Vivid Sydney events. During the cooler off season Sydney puts on a great sensory spectacle of lights, music and installation art – It was pretty good; even with a million people camped out with their tripods taking picture after picture of the Opera House.

 

 

Sydney had been in the grips of fog from the start of the week, and I took this picture of the Westfield tower from our break room at work, i’m pretty lucky to have a view over Hyde Park at the best of times, but with the fog it was awesome.

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The fog

And just some general, everyday pictures of us doing hipstery things such as taking pictures of our food at a ‘Vietnamese tuckshop’ and checking out some art & galleries in Sydney.

Check out last weeks post here, & come join us on instagram, our usernames are @jessica__smart & @btone6seven.

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Sydney’s best parks, reserves and outdoor spots.

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One of the nicest things about Sydney is the amount of green space everywhere, little spaces of calm amongst the city. With so many nice views and a great climate it makes for a good way to spend an afternoon reading a book, or like a lot of sydneysiders a quiet place to hang out and eat lunch.

These are our favourite spots.

Observatory Hill

My absolute favourite place in Sydney to kill time. Sat on the opposite side of the harbour bridge to the opera house it offers a differing view of the Sydney Bay. The view takes in Balls Head, Blues Point, Lavender Bay, Luna Park, ‘That Bridge’, and all the lovely rooftops of the old terraces in The Rocks.

I discovered this space the first time I came to Sydney, and have been coming back ever since. I never get bored of the view, it’s just beautiful with enough background noise from the Harbour Bridge traffic. It’s also close by to lots of lovely old buildings in The Rocks, one of the nicer places to wander around.

Accesible from Kent Street, next to the tennis courts; Watson road (off Argyle Street) or the footpath under the Harbour Bridge from Cumberland Street.

Botanical Gardens

OK, so it’s always full of people whatever the weather but for a good reason! Dating back to 1816, and on the site of the first colonial farm in Australia, It’s full of plant species from all over the world, beautifully manicured gardens, some great sculptures, and wedding parties. There’s also plenty of wildlife including Ibis and Flying Foxes who sleep hanging from the trees in large numbers.

Several Entrances, most accesible from The Sydney Opera House.

Clark Park sercret gardens

Hidden away between Lavender Bay and Clark Park, lies a little green field of calm. Regenerated  by Wendy Whiteley, wife of the prominent and now deceased Australian artist Brett Whiteley. The land belongs to the railway company and was a dumping ground until transformed into a communal garden.  Superb harbour views from the top (as usual) and a secret grotto down the stairs with sculpture art, beautifully designed gardens and picnic tables.

Take a walk along lavender bay past Luna Park, and go up the stairs nearest the toilet block.

Paddington Reservoir

A tiny little space lies in the remains of an old reservoir, a sunken garden. It’s a clever design concept in trendy Paddington, with a tranquil space in the lower, sunken gardens and a grassy reserve on top of the remaining chamber. A great example of modern regeneration and clever, urban architecture.

It’s not a big reserve, but well worth a look if you’re headed to the Paddington Markets, or the Australian Centre for Photography which are all on Oxford street and within minutes of each other.

Nearest the junction of Oatley Road & Oxford Street, known as ‘The Walter Read Reserve’ on Googlemaps.

Blues point

Blues point is on the northern side of the harbour. Nice big green spaces overlook the Harbour Bridge & parts of the rocks including the Walsh Bay Wharfs. It’s a nice spot to sit in the sunshine and relax, or take a picnic. It’s also the home of one of Sydneys more controversial buildings. The Harry Seidler designed Blues Point Tower. Loathed by many locals, it was the first building in a plan of many tower blocks for the area that were never built; it now stands alone, and seemingly out of place on the harbour front.

It’s a nice walk from Milsons point, through lavender bay and onto Blues point.

Most accesible by driving. Can walk from Milsons Point train station, through Lavender bay. one hour (ish)

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Others good spots include…

Hyde park – A favourite with the backpackers and the city workforce. Lunchtimes are busy on a nice day. Also home to the Anzac memorial, giant chess and lots of Ibis.

Bradfield Park – underneath the northern end of the Sydney Harbour bridge, near Milsons point station with nice views of the city at dusk, often busy on nice days.

Shark Island – Ideally located in the middle of the harbour, with no city ferry service. Access via private ferry, kayak or water taxi! See more Shark Island pictures from NYE here!

What’s Your favourite? Have I missed anything?

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Chiang Mai : Muay Thai experience.

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I had been to Thailand before, but never gotten around to seeing any Muay Thai. It’s a particularly touristy thing to do, especially in the bigger cities but nonetheless I wanted to experience a Thai boxing event.

As expected it was a tourist heavy crowd, the air thick with cigarette smoke and humidity. Promotions girls teetered around selling beer, and Thai men stood ringside in the betting area.

The fighters enter the ring, and begin their pre-fight rituals involving Wai Khru Ram Muay and this fantastically hypnotic music. The fighters will bow and pray in respect to their teachers and Buddha.

It’s quite an experience to see the Wai Khru Ram Muay, when you think how many centuries it’s been performed and is still being performed in modern times. To the untrained eye it looks a bit like showboating and flexing, but after a quick read up it’s an entirely respectful traditional dance.

Muay Thai is brutal, it’s not like boxing where big guys can just smash down their opponents, it’s incredibly technical, involving a range of techniques. Fighters use, elbows, knees, kicks, punches and grapples to land hits on their opponents and they all seem to be incredibly lean, muscular men.

It’s a really enjoyable, if slightly violent spectator sport. It doesn’t have the gaudy fanfare of boxing, The fighters seem very respectful of each other and their sport.

One small, but quite essentially Thai thing to point out is to be aware of ‘toilet massages’. A quick Google search has informed me it’s fairly commonplace in Thai nightclubs and sporting events, but as a westerner it’s a bit strange that one, possibly even two or three teenage Thai boys will start massaging your legs, back and neck whilst you’re relieving yourself. Most peculiar.

Please feel free to share your ‘toilet massage’ based anecdotes!

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Adelaide : Central Markets

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Adelaide has got a great feel to it, we should like to go back one day.

 

Check out my other Adelaide photo’s here!

 

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Kuang Si Waterfalls : Luang Prabang

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We had such a great time in Laos, it surprised us in every way.

We expected it to be a lesser event surrounded by Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia but we were so happy to discover Laos, and especially Luang Prabang.  The food was delicious and apart from getting REALLY bored with people relentlessly trying to sell me drugs in Luang Prabang, Laos people were friendly.

We spent four days in Luang Prabang, and could easily have spent ten more. I loved the pace of life, the fact there is little to do and mostly that you don’t have to worry about being run over by a moped every five seconds like the rest of South East Asia. The population is only 50’000 and they’re all too busy running guest houses and awesome restaurants to be playing Carmageddon (I really hope someone else played this game!) on the streets.

One of the highlights of our trip to Luang Prabang was an afternoon at Kuang Si waterfalls. 

Firstly, it’s beautiful and its relaxing and superfun, but if anyone thinks you’re headed off to your own private little hideaway you’re going to quite disappointed, It’s pretty busy!

The water is so clean, so blue and also so cold! It’s also full of little bitey fish  which took great interest in my scabby knees from when I fell down off the kerb outside Chiang Mai train station the week before.

It’s a great way to spend an afternoon and there’s even a rope swing  which always makes for a great spectator sport.

** Top Tips : Watch out for the moss around the busy pool with the rope swing, it is so slippery and don’t put your towel down, or sit on anything or you’ll end up with slimey mess all over your lovely stuff. We learn’t the hard way, twice.

We arranged for a shared minibus, it worked out pretty cheap, only downside was prearranged arrival and leaving times. we found two hours at the waterfalls to be plenty. You can also get there by tuk-tuk, hiring a moped or cycling. It’s a fairly long way, and anybody who cycles is pretty much crazy in my opinion.

You can also see my Luang Prabang gallery here.

Sydney : Dusk, the perfect excuse not to get up for sunrise.

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