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Cambodia in November

I will be in Cambodia this November. We are spending the first part of the trip in Siem Reap. I am trying to figure out what to do next before we continue on to Japan.

My thought is to either fly from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, spend's a few days there, then fly to Japan, OR, instead of Phnom Penh, go to a part of Cambodia where we could relax by the beach for a few days. Then return to Siem Reap airport to catch flight to Japan. I would appreciate any thoughts from anyone that is familiar with Cambodia.

My main interest are the ruins of Ankor etc. My wife would appreciate some down time at a nice calm beach, but is not opposed to Phnom Penh either.

When I look at ideas for Phnom Penh I see the palace and the Killing Fields museum as must sees but I don't feel a particularly strong desire to go here, so I am hoping for some thoughts to guide my decision. We have 3-4 days to play with, so any advice from someone that has been here would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by
5450 posts

Having been to Siem Reap in November, 2018, I can tell you that the weather is like American August every moment of the day. It's essential to get out early and see a couple of temples before the heat of the afternoon. You can do this at any level of luxury, from backpacker to fat cat. At our retired age, we liked having a car and driver because we got air conditioning between temple stops. Whatever transportation you engage (I would NOT bicycle) learn enough about the temples you go to that you can have them pick you up on the other side, to avoid backtracking. You must personally appear (typically, at 5:30-6AM) for the photographic temple pass. You may want to get in the SPECIAL line (and I do mean, line) for 3-day passes. Half the people in front of you want 1-day passes, and will exit the line before you get to the window. You certainly don't want to buy two one-day passes for 2 days.

Two full days and nights in Siem Reap are sufficient, seeing four or five temples. It is in fact possible to stay for a week, and never see the same magical temple twice. But that's not necessary for ordinary, non-academic tourists.

I have no opinion on Phnom Pen, but just from the incredibly touristy experience of Siem Reap, I confirmed the opinion of friends who've seen more of Cambodia about how warm and friendly the people are. You'll be surprised to learn that the largest group of tourists in Siem Reap is from China.

I'm always surprised when people from the East or West coasts of the U.S. want to go to the beach. Why spend your vacation time at the beach? Except for the t-shirt vendors, most beaches (I'm not counting incredible rock formations) look about the same. Yes, I've been to some of the really famous beaches of the Carribean. But I live in a state that has a winter ... ...

Posted by
7668 posts

I encourage you to go to Phenom Penh for a few days.You can go to a beach another time. Eat at Romdeng, one of the Friends Restaurants where they hire and train street kids in the hospitality industry. Romdeng is in an old French Colonial mansion, terrific food and atmosphere. You will be able to visit the Genocide Museum and The Killing Fields of Pol Pot which I recommend. There is a wonderful open air national museum and the Royal Palace. We also visited Siem Reap, Ankor Wat. We went in early October, and it was very hot and humid.

Posted by
503 posts

I just returned last week from Siem Reap. As mentioned by others, it is very hot, very humid all day long so early temple visits are a must if you manage it. I loved Siem Reap and found the night time in town a fun experience. As far as where to go after, it really depends on what calls you. I've not been to Phnom Penh and other than the Killing Fields museum, I don't think I would enjoy it. After the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap and before you get to Japan a nice, relaxing visit to a beach might be just the thing. If your wife is looking for some nice, calm down time I don't think you'll find it in Phnom Penh.

Posted by
121 posts

My husband and I just returned from Siem Reap and enjoyed Angkor Wat temples very much. It was hot and humid in mid January but mornings were pleasant. We then flew from Siem Reap to Sihanouk Ville to rejoin our cruise. The beaches at Sihanouk Ville were one of daily cruise excursions offered but fellow passengers reported dirty beaches. The town of Sihanouk Ville has a new commercial sea port to facilitate building factories and walled in casino hotels/malls currently under construction and financed by the Chinese. The infrastructure of the town appeared to be struggling to accommodate the new commercial growth with the anticipation of casinos and its derivatives to provide much needed jobs. This seaport was a poor choice by the cruise line, in my opinion. If your wife wants a beach experience I would look at Thailand which is easy access via air from Siem Reap.

Posted by
1654 posts

I also loved Angkor Wat and echo the comments about the heat and humidity - even if it is "cool" for the locals, it's steamy and tiring. Pace yourself if you can and definitely hire someone to drive you around (in a car or tuk tuk, just so long as you're not walking!)

I have not been to Phnom Penh so I can't comment on that choice. If your spouse really wants a beach, try Vietnam on the way. You can fly direct to Da Nang, and visit some beautiful cities (Hoi An was my favorite) and beaches. This does require a visa so you'd have to plan accordingly.

Posted by
121 posts

I agree with CL, hire a driver for Angkor Wat temples. We had a guide and a driver who meet us at airport. When we departed a particular temple, our guide called the driver to meet us at exit and drive us in air conditioned car to next temple while providing cold water and refreshing cool towel (imagine large Handiwipe, individually wrapped and kept cool in ice chest along with plenty of water). It was so appreciated as air is mostly calm with few breezes and red dirt/dust everywhere except during monsoon season. No mosquitoes, etc during the day but definitely in evening. You will need a hat, sunblock, sunglasses, and closed toe shoes as the tours involve climbing uneven and irregular shaped stones along with some wooden steps. There are vendors outside each temple entrance selling food, drink and tourist items. Our guide took us to a restaurant within the compound of temples for sampling of Cambodian dishes. He did not join us for our meal but was served in another an area set aside for the guides. The same guide and driver took us to Tonle lake (large fresh water lake near Siem Reap) to visit floating fishing villages. While enroute we saw a monk offering prayers for a villager who had passed away, the family preparing for the celebration of life, and children playing during the ceremony.

Posted by
121 posts

Regarding the photographic pass for Angkor Wat, our guide took us to get our temple pass. We did not have to wait in line as there was a separate window where he purchased our tickets and our photos were taken at that time.
Regarding visa for Vietnam, research this online with Vietnam government as we were arriving Vietnam via sea, rather than land or air. The visa cannot be facilitated online like the visa for Cambodia. You will need to download a form, complete it and mail it to nearest Vietnam Consulate along with passport photos and cashier check. I called the consulate in Houston and talked to personnel to confirm my actions before proceeding. Both Cambodia and Vietnam accept US$. I took plenty of small bills and used credit cards where accepted.

Posted by
225 posts

Just throwing this idea out there as I have not researched beach areas in Cambodia. We were in Vietnam and Cambodia for the month of January. We were being told by many people who either had just been there or heading there to check out Phu Quok- its a Vietnamese Island but off the coast of Cambodia. I looked it up and it looks beautiful. We will try to hit it next time we're in the area. We LOVED Cambodia.

Posted by
7668 posts

We loved Cambodia too but it did pull at our heartstrings with the relatively recent Pol Pot atrocities. Our guides had all been affected by it.