South East Asia – 5 – 4 days in Siem Reap

After spending 5 days in Hanoi we flew to Siem Reap on a VietJet flight. The flight cost £75 and only took 1 hr 45 minutes. Siem Reap has a very different vibe to Hanoi, the touristy places were a lot more westernised but outwith the tourist places you saw an unbelievable amount of poverty. Cambodia is a fascinating country that is home to the largest religious monument in the world (Angkor Wat) and some of the most untouched islands with the clearest waters. However, the people of Cambodia have been badly damaged by the recent terrors of the Khmer Rouge that only goes back 40 years. This means that many relatives within current families have been directly affected by Pol Pot’s brutal ruling which turned into the biggest mass killings of the 20th century.

Day 1 – Evening

We arrived at Siem Reap airport in the evening and had already organised with the airbnb hosts a tuk tuk transfer to make it easy! As I said in the last Hanoi blog post, the Airbnb we had there was incredible! So we also found our next place on Airbnb but it turned out to be more like hotel apartments! IT WAS PERFECT!!! The room was super big, big bathroom, nice amenities, free bottled water, a drink on arrival and the staff were some of the nicest people we’ve ever met.

If you would like money off your first Airbnb use my personal code when booking!

After settling into our room we headed towards Pub Street (main strip) which was only a 10 minute walk away from our airbnb. Pub Street was so much fun! It was so different to what we had seen in South East Asia in terms of the range of clubs and restaurants. I suppose it was less authentic but it was fun to go out to a nightclub again! All the restaurants served pretty much the same food (Khmer curry and rice dishes) as well as international cuisines such as Mexican. We noticed straight away that it was more expensive in Cambodia for 2 reasons. 1. It was more touristy and 2. They also used US Dollars.

After dinner we wandered up and down Pub street looking for the best places for music and drinks.

Avoid COCKTAILS and everything that can be made with ice…you do not want to know where the ice in your drink has probably been…..we saw it getting cut….

Day 2

We woke up and had a super relaxed morning by our jungle pool before exploring more of Siem Reap.

In the afternoon we checked out the Psar Chas (old market) and the Art Market. The Psar Chas also was the food market…..only go if you are NOT SQUEAMISH….dead animals….not quite dead yet fish…..the lot.

As we wanted to start off our visit to Angkor Wat by watching the sunrise over the temples tomorrow we had to get a ticket today. We asked a tuk tuk driver to drive us to the ticket office tp buy a 1 day ticket for 37 USD. You could also buy a 3 day ticket but as magical as the temples are sure to be we may get a little templed out by day 3!

We were keen to book another food tour through Airbnb as we enjoyed the Hanoi one so much. When we researched into the Siem Reap food tours we noticed that they highlighted that they went to the Road 60 area. Therefore….being the cheapskates that we are, we decided to grab a tuk tuk and go it alone.

NO NO NO….DO NOT DO THIS. DO NOT GO THERE WITHOUT A GUIDE!

The funny thing is when we told the driver where we wanted to go for food he asked us multiple times if we were sure we had the name of the place right. Should have been a sign but no….we stuck to the plan and went anyway. Considering we come from very well developed countries we tried our best to only eat in local places….even if it included eating with chopsticks, on the floor, on small stools…you name it we did it! That is the kind of travelling we all liked best and love trying different things! Road 60 was a different story I’m afraid. It was really nice to see the local community just chilling and doing there thing, but the way the flies were landing on every single bit of food, we decided to take a pass on eating there.

Our tuk tuk driver was an angel and stayed to take us back into the centre. He gathered that we hadn’t eaten too much and offered to take us to his favourite restaurant!

After dinner we walked back to Pub Street, dodged the karts selling fried insects such as tarantulas and tried this banana rice snack instead which was amazing (many karts selling this)!

Day 3

I am NOT an early bird by any standards but I knew waking up at 4am would be worth it this day! We had prearranged the tuk tuk with our lovely driver Sophorn (whatsapp is +855 66 532 326 if you would like to get in touch during your visit to Siem Reap – 23USD for a day at the temples) the night before to make sure he would be ready at the villa for 4.30am.

After a dark journey to the temples we were dropped off in a car park by Sophorn who told us that the entrance to the temple that we were to see at sunrise was nearby.

Bring a torch and wear closed toe shoes…..you cannot see what is on the ground and we saw a dead rat….wouldn’t want to risk wearing sandals!

It was 5.15am and we were one of the first people waiting at the gates, awaiting the opening of the largest religious site in the world (5.30am). It shocked us how warm it still was at that time in the morning so only wear enough clothes to enter the site (covered shoulders and knees).

Before travelling to Cambodia I already had such high expectations for Angkor Wat and it did not disappoint. Exploring the ancient temples just after sunrise was one of the most magical and otherworldly experiences I have ever had!

 

Angkor Wat

Phimeanakus Temple

Bayon Temple
Bayon Temple
Ta Prohm Temple – Featured in Tomb Raider

By the time it got to around midday we were so hungry from walking around the temples (it is seriously exhausting). We went to the Banana Leaf restaurant within the attraction, it was okay, quite expensive but what you would expect from a tourist attraction! Not that we were prepared to do anything else besides getting ourselves out of bed at 4am, but it would have been amazing if we brought stuff with us for lunch….

Bring lots of water, light snacks and sun cream!

At night we tried an Asian fusion restaurant that was close to the airbnb called Lilypop which I would highly recommend!

Day 4 – Morning before the bus

We woke up with a bittersweet feeling about leaving Siem Reap and our beautiful airbnb! For breakfast we found a vegan cafe that was also closeby called The Source Cafe. The smoothie bowl and pancakes were insane!

We repacked our backpacks again (which were getting harder to carry by the minute) and headed to the Giant Ibis Bus station by tuk tuk. We booked our tickets online before arriving and they cost 12 USD each for the 7 hr bus journey to Phnom Penh. After taking this bus, then choosing another bus company for our next journey, I would recommend you (where possible) to stick with the Giant Ibis company as they seem the best for safety and comfort (they even gave us water and a pastry)!

To conclude this long blog post (that I hope you have enjoyed reading) I would like to say that depending on how long you want to visit Angkor Wat for should depend on how many days you should stay in Siem Reap. Personally, I think we stayed slightly too long in Siem Reap considering we were only visiting Angkor for 1 day. However, the airbnb we found was incredible which allowed us to fully enjoy our time there! On our travels we had already recommend to so many people the airbnb/villa that we stayed in because the pool was beautiful and the staff were so friendly (they even left us a little present and thank you card on our last night)!

As usual, any questions just contact me through email, wordpress, facebook or instagram!

Scottish Highland Escape

Day 1

As much as I love Edinburgh it is always good to travel further north. Scotland is wild and whimsical. That’s why thousands of people travel, from all over the world, to visit this small welcoming country. Whether it’s a home from home, as so many people are lucky enough have a little Scottish blood somewhere in their roots……whether it’s to seek the Loch Ness Monster or brave a piece of haggis with breakfast (without googling the ingredients)…. Scotland is a thriving destination.

I have visited Aviemore and the Cairngorms many times on family holidays but have only discovered it’s true charm after living in a city for a few years. The rustic villages and surrounding woodland makes it feel like you have travelled so much further than a few hours out of the capital city! As well as being able to relax and take things at a slower pace than 9-5 allows Aviemore is also a hot spot for outdoor activities. It has many horse riding, quadbiking and water-based activities that really let you explore the Highlands in a unique way.

 

We rented a car from Europcar and picked it up from Edinburgh airport which was easy then we were on our way. On the way to Aviemore we decided to stop off in Pitlochry along the way. This turned out to be one of the trips highlights as we found this quirky cafe called Cafe Biba which served an extensive range of pancakes (always a foodie)!IMG_3228

 

After rolling our way out the cafe we walked around the village and journeyed up to visit the 4* hotel and popular wedding venue, Atholl Palace.  The location of this hotel is perfect, hidden away within the trees really enhances the fairytale-like atmosphere of the place! IMG_3219

After travelling another hour up North we checked into our well situated Airbnb  . I honestly can’t rave about this website enough! It is so easy to use, accurate, well-priced and bursting with insider tips on the local area. This time we stayed with Yvonne in her cosy ensuite room in the Spey Valley. I know there are some sceptical people over the whole Airbnb situation, I was one too! However, I did not know that many rooms were just as private as a hotel room, with your own bathroom and entrance facilities (some even have their own mini kitchens). On the 2 occasions that we did meet the hosts they were very warm and welcoming.

On our first night in Aviemore we had dinner and drinks at The Winking Owl . This restaurant is owned by the Cairngorm Brewery Company  and is full of unusual craft beers such as the Nessie Monster Mash and the Sheepshaggers Gold Beer… Aside from the beer the place has a lovely atmosphere and serves hearty dishes!

Day 2

On the second day we drove 20 minutes to Loch an Eilein. This has always been my favourite spot in the area as you can walk around the whole loch (1.5 hrs)! This is one of those places in the world that really makes you feel lucky to be surrounded by so much nature – time stops.

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After our walk we headed back to the car (£2 for parking) then journeyed up to the Cairngorm Mountains. We were incredibly lucky with the weather this time! It was a complete winter wonderland, everywhere was covered with snow and the sky was clear blue.  It took around 30 minutes to get from the loch to the Glenmore Forest Centre where we had lunch watching the loch below.

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When we got to the Cairngorms we headed to the car park to ride all the way to the top of the mountain on a funicular train. This is definitely a must whether you are there to ski or not! The view from the top is breathtaking….. but make sure you layer up….my hands felt like they were frozen solid…. If you don’t want to spend too long in the snow there is a cafe and bar at the top of the mountain with panoramic views that are hard to beat!

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That evening we decided to indulge at the most popular restaurant in the whole of Aviemore – La Taverna .  In my opinion no trip to the area is complete without at least one trip to this place! They are known for serving their pizza and pasta buffet all night everyday of the week – make sure you eat lightly throughout the day 😉 La Taverna is always busy so make sure to book in advance!!!

Day 3

On our way back to Edinburgh we stopped off in Dunkeld to break the journey up a little. Dunkeld is a town that is sometimes also known as the “Gateway to the Highlands” and is situated between Perth and Birnam. We didn’t have much time here but we did manage a beautiful walk along the riverside and admire the 13th century Cathedral.