There are not many direct flights to Siem Reap. Many airlines fly via other Asian cities and then connect to Siem Reap. We flew with Air Asia as there are not many other options from Brisbane, Australia. We had to drive to the Gold Coast Airport, which means spending another two hours in the car. Our connecting flight to Siem Reap was Kuala Lumpur LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal). This airport is always very busy and can get quite confusing. There are many check in counters, so queues can be quite long. It is common to get the feeling that you're going to miss your flight. Unfortunately our luggage didn't go straight through to Siem Reap so we had to pick it up in KL and re-check it again. LCCT is always busy, it filled with people flying to many Asian destinations for very low prices. If you are used to business class and nice airports, this airport and flying with Air Asia is definitely not for you. On the other hand, you get what you pay for. So it's really up to you if you want to spend money and be comfortable on the plane, or you keep more money to spend at your destination.
Another option is to take a train from Bangkok. There are two 3rd class only trains a day from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet. The morning train leaves at 05:55, the afternoon one at 13:05. The trip takes around five and a half hours. If you want to get to Siem Reap on the same day, you must catch the morning train. With the afternoon train you'll need to stay overnight in Aranyaprathet or Poipet. The train is slow but scenic -- if you have time on your hands it is worth doing at least once.
Just before landing at Siem Reap, we could see the rice fields from the plane, but because the rice season is only twice a year in Cambodia, many fields were dry and not nice and green as we are used to seeing in photos from this part of the world.
After landing, we had to apply for a visa on arrival. It is quite straight forward, just make sure that you have a passport size photo with you. You need to fill in the Arrival Card, Custom Declaration and Visa application and pay 20 USD to Customs. At the airport we were greeted by our driver and his supervisor, who took us directly to the hotel. The airport is only 10 minutes away from the city. We stayed at the Privilege Floor of Angkor Borei Hotel. As a VIP, you can check in at any time, which was really good for us as we arrived very early in the morning. We were offered breakfast, which was quite nice after the long flight. If you stay at the Privilege Floor, you have driver at your disposal 24 hours a day, free mini bar (re-filled every day), cocktails in the evening, free laundry and a mobile phone to call your driver when you need to be picked up from anywhere in the city or in front of the temple.
The easies way is to hire a tuk tuk for the whole day, which will set you back about 10-15 USD. In our opinion it is much nicer, even though more expensive to hire a car with a driver as most of them have air-conditioning, you don't have to breathe the dust that fills the streets, and the cars have a cooler with ice so that you always have cold water at your disposal.
Quad Biking Countryside Tours
Before we arrived, we did our research on what we want to see in Siem Reap so our first adventure was Quad Biking through local villages. If you haven't ridden a quad bike before, you will get brief instructions and off you go. Remember that there are no real roads through the villages and rice fields so in dry season you get covered by dust and in wet season by mud. Glasses, helmet and mask are a must. Be prepared to get very dirty in either case.
There are few companies offering Quad Bike Countryside Tours, so the choice is yours. They usually cost anywhere from 28 USD for 1 hour to 160 USD for full day.
We saw lots of kids playing outside on the little village roads but couldn't see their parents. All kids were smiling and waving so we stopped for a little "chat" and handed them some candy. They were more than happy to pose for few photos for us and were not scared or afraid of strangers.
And off we went through rice fields to another village. We saw a few water buffalo on the way
Rice fields were very dry in January, so there were not many opportunities for good photos which is a shame as we were planning to take a few shots before sunset.
Our assigned guide was telling us stories about how poor these people are and then insisted that we go and visit his old grandmother in his village. We didn't realise how far it was (and he didn't tell us). When we got there, there was no grandmother only his sister looking after few kids.
He told us a story about the father who died and left her looking after these kids. He said that if we give him some money, he will buy some food for them later in the day. We felt sorry for the kids, but knew that he probably brings all tourists over there and tells them heartbreaking stories to get some money out of them. You should be aware of these little scams but on the other side, they don't ask much and it helps them tremendously.
Zdenko wanted to take a few photos of kids playing under the house (because it is usually too hot in the sun) but one of them started to cry as she thought that his tripod is a gun. Not even full hands of candy helped.
We noticed lots and lots of plastic bags and bottles everywhere. Some villages were like big rubbish dumps. Usually they burn all their rubbish and you can smell it in the air. Visibility is also very low due to ash and dust. We don't know why they didn't burn all the plastic left littered throughout the streets.
On the way back, our driver was really in a hurry as we only paid for 2hrs and was driving very fast. At that point I felt quite unsafe as the roads were full of pot holes. Amazingly, the guide even suggested to stop by at his friends kiosk to buy some drinks.
Countryside quad biking is quite interesting and definitely worth doing. It's a great adventure driving through the remote villages and meeting the locals. As far as photo opportunities, we would recommend a sunset tour.
At the end of the day we were quite lucky to come across one green rice field but it was by the river near a fishing village. We only managed to get one shot as the sun was setting rapidly.
* All information on this website expresses our opinions and points of views and should not be taken as official guidelines.