A day in Siem Reap on the cheap
My friend Julian recently visited Siem Reap as part of a tour package. Given he had already been to the temples, I wanted to provide him with a memorable experience, which of course didn’t break my minuscule budget. For most of the day we were on our motorbike, which reduced the costs a tourist would be faced with. If you decide to take a tuk-tuk around, it would probably cost about $35 for the whole day, as these destinations are in opposite directions.
First on his list was a trip to Human and Hope Association, so he could see the organisation he supports in action. We probably have one visitor a month come to visit HHA, and those visitors have to abide by a strict visitor policy so we protect our villagers and don’t turn our community centre into a tourist attraction. Julian donated some Khmer books (a favourite for the students) and bought some of our gorgeous handicrafts. Our Director and Vocational Training Manager explained to him in detail about our projects so he had a full understanding about our holistic approach to development.
If you were interested in visiting Human and Hope Association, visit this page to read about our visitor policy and donation needs.
Cost: $0, though you will want to bring along some cash for an optional donation (it costs us money in salaries to welcome visitors) and to purchase our wonderful range of handicrafts
Phnom Kroam is a mountain on the road out to Tonle Sap. There is an Angkorian temple on the top of the hill that was built at the end of the 9th century, during the reign of King Yasovarman. Its sisters are Phnom Baking and Phnom Bok. If you drive around the bottom of the mountain you can see the lake (depending on the time of year), visit a pagoda and feast on a local prawn snack.
Cost: $0, however if you want to go up the mountain you will require an Angkor Wat pass, costing $37USD from 1st February 2017
If you are driving on a motorbike, you might accidentally miss the lotus farm; we certainly did. I have visited the Samatoa Lotus Farm several times in the past, and was very impressed, which is why we visited there again. However, I am not sure why, but the workshop has gone downhill since the last time I visited. Gone are the guided tours, the wonderful displays of products you can purchase and the different silks on the wall. It is now a dark and disorganised workshop that you are in and out of in under five minutes.
If you wanted to see a view like above, however, then it is worth the visit.
We took a self-guided tour through Artisans d’Angkor. In the past I have had both guided and self-guided tours, and prefer self-guided. The reason being that the guides don’t seem interested at all, plus we are rarely offered them!
During the tour you can check out the mulberry trees, silkworm farming, cocoon unwinding, preparation of the silk threads, ikat technique (tie-dyeing of the threads) and silk weaving. It gives you a great insight into the time and effort required to make silk, which is why a stop at the boutique at the end of the trip is essential. It won’t be ‘on the cheap’, as this post implies, but you will understand the prices when you see the quality of the products. I would recommend a trip here just for the boutique alone!
Cost: $0 + a trip to the boutique
West Baray is a rectangular handmade lake with a temple, called West Mebon, in the middle. You could actually spend a whole day lounging around in a hammock, eating food and enjoying the scenery. If you do decide to go in the water though, be careful, as I have become very sick in the past. The best time of year to go is when the water is high.
Cost: $0, however if you wanted to lay in some shelter you are looking at around $5USD
Although the guide in our free tour was robotic and unable to answer questions very well, I do always love a trip to Senteurs d’Angkor. They make everything from sugar palm leave boxes to natural soaps, scented balms, aromatic candles spices, coffee and teas. At the end you can sample some hot or cold tea and coffee (I chose iced ginger tea, and it was divine). They also offer the option to purchase a sugar cane juice for $1, which Julian and I were very excited about, however they were out of stock. A bit strange, as it was the only thing on the menu!
The shop is worth a look at, though of course you are unable to take the packaging back into Australia as it is made from sugar palm.
Cost: $0 + the many dollars you will want to spend in the shop
Gosh, I love Phare, and I am not just saying that because I work there. Their shows are so energetic and engaging, and the audience goes wild for the acrobatics. Phare is a social enterprise that provides gainful employment opportunities to graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang. These highly shows come complete with live music and are held under a big top. This enterprise supports the NGO in Battambang, so when you go for the show you are also contributing to free education for underprivileged Cambodians.
We were fortunate enough to get Seat A tickets, which takes the experience to a whole new level. Make sure to put a donation in the box at the end and take a photo with the very friendly (and photogenic) artists!
Cost: $18USD for Seat C, $25USD for Seat B, $35USD for Seat A (highly recommended if you want to take high quality photos). Also recommended is some fresh popcorn ($1USD a bag) and a cocktail at Phare Cafe ($3.50USD)