Sam the private taxi driver in Cambodia

In Cambodia, the most common mode of transportation will be tuk tuk, motorbike, private taxi and bus. If you are here on tour package/group, you probably would have this part sorted out.

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Tuk Tuk @ Cambodia

I could only comment on tuk tuk and private taxi in Cambodia as I have used both services during my 1 week trip. Tuk tuk is considered as an affordable mode for sightseeing or to move around in the city during your visit in Cambodia, especially in Phnom Penh where the traffic can be quite hectic.  I have taken the tuk tuk several times for short distance travelling which are mostly within the city. It is safe to travel by tuk tuk but some drivers seem to have aggressive style of driving (or maybe that’s how they drive in Cambodia). Anyway, please have a face mask on standby or a handkerchief / scarf as the roads is quite dusty (dusk & sand). There have been few snatch cases reported for those who travel via tuk tuk so it’s always good to be cautious and do hold on to your bags.  Initially I thought this was not even a concern but whenever we take a tuk tuk, the driver always reminds us to place our bags and mobile phones away from the side/traffic.

I am not that adventurous hence we moved around using a private taxi. This taxi was introduced by the hotel which we stayed in Phnom Peng, Rambutan Resort (you can read on my post here: https://brownboyspeaks.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/review-of-rambutan-resort-phnom-penh-cambodia/).

The driver, Mr Sam was a very nice guy who speaks good English. This was a major factor for us to consider his service as he was easy to communicate with. We went to all the places using his taxi so it is safe to say he is very familiar with Phnom Penh and Siam Reap. From our experience, if Sam doesn’t know something or perhaps not familiar with the place you wanted to go (which happens rarely) he has good initiative in checking it out with his friends or with the locals which makes it easier for us.

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Our private taxi in Cambodia!

Overall, he was very informative and easy to deal with. He communicates to you regularly, very punctual, honest and to somewhat professional in his dealings. Sam gives good advice on what to do or not to do, how to deal with the locals, how to negotiate or how much can we negotiate etc.  This definitely made our trip better as we didn’t face any issues during our travels.

By the way, here is the photo of Sam’s taxi. It’s actually very comfortable and very clean. We actually travelled from Phnom Penh to Siam Reap in his taxi and it was very comfortable journey. You will know what I mean when you travel on road to Siam Reap. I don’t think it would have been an okay journey if I would have taken a bus! Furthermore, the weather in the month of July was very hot. So getting into a car with air-conditioner is a bonus for us. If you guys are coming over to Phnom Penh (where he is based), I would highly recommend him. Opps.. sorry I dont have his picture though.. You probably would be wondering how much does it cost? Well, it would be more than for what you would pay for tuk tuk. Sam gave us a good rate as we hired him for nearly a week. We did some rate-fact-finding with the hotel and found out his rates were better (lower). You can always contact him to find out more… 🙂

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Mr Sam, private taxi

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Mr Sam, private taxi

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Khmer Angkor Kitchen, Siam Reap, Cambodia

This restaurant is located around the Angkor Wat temple area, Srah Srang. It is one of many restaurants which cater to mostly tourist. Our guide suggested to us to try out this place. You can sit in an air conditioned or non-AC area. We sat on the non-AC area located on the 1st floor, its overlooking a large pond, nice scenery. We were here for lunch so it was rather hot but windy. They do have ceiling & stand fan all over the place which is a good thing.

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Menu

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Spring rolls (very similar to the Vietnamese ones)

We ordered for spring rolls (similar to Vietnamese, I didn’t really like it), Khmer chicken curry and a spicy chicken dish along with rice. As for drinks, we had coconut water which is pretty common in Cambodia and ASIA. In case you don’t know, Coconut water helps in reducing body heat.

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Khmer Chicken Curry

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Tadaaa… this is how the Khmer Chicken Curry looks like!

Our food was prepared in a decent amount of time despite the lunch crowd. The food tasted good and no complaints. As for the price, it is pretty ‘standard’ in that area. A dish would cost you around 6-8USD, this is just an estimate as it could vary on what exactly you order. The staffs are friendly and courteous.

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One of the prettiest coconut i ever had!

The washroom area is considered ‘ok’ in term of the cleanliness. I have seen far worse. Overall the restaurant was clean. We did enjoy our meal here.

 

Visited in July 2014. How would I rate them? The atmosphere 4/5, Service 4/5, F&B 4/5.

Aussie XL Cafe, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Hey, this place looks familiar? That was what I was thinking when pass by this cafe. We were walking around street 51 which is famous for numerous restaurants and very tourist friendly. We were looking for a place to have dinner so we thought of giving Aussie XL a try.

As soon as we walked in, the staff attended to us. We were seated and handed the menu. There were some posters on the wall showcasing their Trip Advisor awards. I realized it was ‘familiar’ to me because I would have read about it online. Funny how our brain remembers something that we didn’t think of remembering? Hmmmm

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Aussie XL menu

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Aussie XL menu

Anyway we ordered our drinks and some local food. I had the Khmer chicken curry and my partner had the Chicken Tom Yam soup. Both dish served with a portion of rice. They a good spread of offering here, from salads, local food, burgers, pizza, roasts etc.

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Khmer chicken curry

We didn’t had to wait for long for the food to be ready. When we were there, only few customers were there. A bunch of people was watching TV as it was world cup 2014 season.

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Chicken Tom Yam

The Khmer curry was quite nice. It was not spicy. The tom yam soup was not spicy too and tasted bland. Perhaps this is how they do it in Cambodia? Maybe. Anyway we are so used to the Thai version of tom yam which is obviously spicier. The portion is sufficient for one person.

The food, I got to say, it tasted average for me. The service was good. Cafe looked fine and seems like a nice place to chill out.

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Visited in July 2014. How would I rate them? The atmosphere 3.5/5, Service 4/5, F&B 3.5/5.

Where at: No. 205A, Pasteur (St. 51), 12302 Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Killing Fields Choeung Ek, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

For those who have been to Cambodia, the term Killing Fields is very common there. In fact, it is one of the to-do list in Cambodia. The entrance fee is about USD5 or 6 per person (sorry i cant seem to recall how much it cost) but it comes with an audio guide. The audio comes in many languages. I listened to the english version which was narrated by an ex-survivor of the killing field which was awesome and heart moving.

The Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the communist Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979, immediately after the end of the Cambodian Civil War (1970–1975).

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Buddhist stupa that houses the skulls.

Analysis of 20,000 mass grave sites by the DC-Cam Mapping Program and Yale University indicate at least 1,386,734 victims of execution. Estimates of the total number of deaths resulting from Khmer Rouge policies, including disease and starvation, range from 1.7 to 2.5 million out of a 1975 population of roughly 8 million. In 1979, communist Vietnam invaded Democratic Kampuchea and toppled the Khmer Rouge regime. Cambodian journalist Dith Pran coined the term “killing fields” after his escape from the regime.

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Buddhist stupa

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Close up on the skulls placed in the Stupa.

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Buddhist stupa

Choeung Ek, the site of a former orchard and mass grave of victims of the Khmer Rouge – killed between 1975 and 1979 – about 17 km south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is the best-known of the sites known as The Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge regime executed over one million people between 1975 and 1979. Mass graves containing 8,895 bodies were discovered at Choeung Ek after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. Many of the dead were former political prisoners who were kept by the Khmer Rouge in their Tuol Sleng detention centre.

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One of the many mass graves.

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Mass grave site. The colorful handmade wrist band probably is a well wishing sign for the soul to rest in peace.

Today, Choeung Ek is a memorial, marked by a Buddhist stupa. The stupa has acrylic glass sides and is filled with more than 5,000 human skulls. Some of the lower levels are opened during the day so that the skulls can be seen directly. Many have been shattered or smashed in. Human bones still litter the site. On May 3, 2005, the Municipality of Phnom Penh announced that they had entered into a 30-year agreement with JC Royal Co. to develop the memorial at Choeung Ek. As part of the agreement, they are not to disturb the remains still present in the field.

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Apparently this tree was used to torture and kill innocent women and child.

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Passing through the mass grave site.

Towards completing the tour of the site, I had to sit down for a while to take it all in. I still cant believe that such cruel mass murder had happened in late 70’s. Its was not as scary as I thought it would be. However it was very sad and a small part of me was angry that it had happened. I cant imagine how the locals would feel. But honestly I think they are also trying to move on from this. Every time when we speak about this with a Cambodian, you can sense the emotional feeling through their tone. I’m glad that they are in much better place now.

Apparently this has been made into a movie, called The Killing Fields. What you seem the movie?

 

Visited in July 2014.

Credits: Wikipedia only for some facts and figures. All photos are taken by me.

Koulen 2 Restaurant, Siam Reap, Cambodia

We were recommended to come here as it consists of free-flow of food buffet style and Apsara performance which is a Cambodian traditional dance performance. It will cost you USD12.00 per person which we thought is OK price, excluding drinks.  There are other similar concept places suggested by our guide however some are more expensive, some needs advance booking, some has elaborate performance etc.

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The Koulen Restaurant

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The Koulen Restaurant

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One of the decoration pieces in the restaurant.

We only decided to come here in the noon so our guide managed to squeeze a reservation for the two of us. We arrived here at around 6.50pm which was considered early. It is a huge restaurant with a stage for the performance. Most of the tables in front of the stage are reserved. We were seated near the entrance. This is not an air-conditioned restaurant but it is well ventilated. The buffet supposed to start at 7.30pm onwards however we were told that we can enjoy our buffet at around 7.15pm. Thank god, I was so hungry that evening!

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Me waiting patiently for the buffet to be ready! haha

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The stage at Koulen Restaurant

I was satisfied with the buffet; I mean you have salad, soup, fresh fruits, tempura counter, main course (chicken, beef, pork and seafood), rice, pasta and desserts mostly are cooked Cambodian style. I think it’s not fair to compare the buffet spread here to the hotel buffet spreads as I think the standards are different especially those western chain hotels. Well, you do get to see the traditional performance for about 30+minutes which is also include of the price that you have paid for. Generally the restaurant and buffet counter looks decent and clean. At times they are a bit slow in topping up the food. Sorry guys, I didn’t manage to take some photos of the buffet spread.

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Apsara performers

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Apsara performers

As for the show, it was ok. Some of the dance performances are very elaborate with beautiful colorful costume. Some of the performance seems like a folk dance which was interesting to see. Just like in many other countries, very small amount of people who are still interested to learn and perform ‘traditional’ dances. I hope places like this will be a good venue to support the local performers.

Visited in July 2014. How would I rate them? The atmosphere 4/5, Service 3.5/5, F&B 4/5.

Where at: No. 50 Street Sivatha, Mondul 2, Svaydangkum, Siam Reap, Cambodia

Golden Banana Boutique Resort, Siam Reap, Cambodia

Got to know about this boutique resort from TripAdvisor. I did some fact finding and found out it is managed by the same people who manages Rambutan Resort in Phnom Penh. So I thought, give it a try. We enquired and made our booking via online for both resorts hence enjoyed some discount. Yeay! The GBR is slightly more expensive than the Rambutan Resort in Phnom Penh however GBR is slightly older resort. After a long journey from Phnom Penh (8hours journey via private taxi), we arrived safely in Siam Reap. We reached the Golden Banana Resort in the evening so we decided to check-in and freshen up as we were quite excited to explore Siam Reap.

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Chill out area next to reception.

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Patiently waiting for the room to be ready!

Registration seemed easy as we have given most information when we booked earlier. Similar to Rambutan Resort, the staff takes time to explain on the hotel where about, hotel policies, the surrounding tourist attractions areas and provided us with a map. The resort can arrange a tuk tuk or taxi, should you need one. We did use the tuk tuk / taxi service here as we came by a private taxi from Phnom Penh who will be our dedicated transporter in Siam Reap.

We got a room on level 2, called Sandlewood. The stairs to go up to the room seemed scary to me, it’s not very wide so you need to watch out when you climb up. On the day we arrive, it has rained earlier so the steps are slippery as it was wet. The room was clean and spacious. The room could have been more spacious if it is not for the slightly odd room shape. It has open a closet, bath with rain shower, a 21” TV, air conditioner, mini bar, jug kettle, coffee & tea amenity, 2 bottles of drinking water (refilled everyday) and FREE wifi throughout resort. The bed was very comfortable and comes with soft & hard pillow. We have a nice balcony facing the swimming pool which has an outdoor bathtub.

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The Sandlewood room.

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The Sandlewood room.

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The Sandlewood room.

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The Sandlewood room.

We had some problem with the air-conditioner so we informed the staff. They came very quickly and tried to sort it out but apparently it was not sorted out. We have problem with the AC whereby it is not cold at all and kept switching off approximately every 2 hours. The whole night we kept waking up to switch ON the AC! Grrr!

The room comes with complimentary breakfast at the pool side. If you want, you can have it in your room but you need to make prior arrangement.  The breakfast is not buffet style but set menu which comes with juice, coffee / tea, dessert and your choice of main breakfast menu. It is priced at USD5 per person.

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The balcony and outdoor stone tub.

 

On the next morning, we left the hotel very early at around 4.15am as we were going to Angkor Wat for the sunrise view. We informed the resort on the night before so they prepared light breakfast for us which were few baguettes, butter & jam and fresh fruits. The following days, we had breakfast at the resort. The concept is pretty similar with Rambutan Resort but over here, you need to ask for everything. They only serve you with coffee/tea and your main choice of breakfast. You need to ask for the juice, yogurt, fruits, etc. Seems weird to me. Why don’t they practice as how they practice in Rambutan?

On the second day, the room AC was still having the same problem despite being told by the reception staff that the problem has been fixed. After a while, I couldn’t take the heat anymore especially after doing our 1st round of Angkor temples hopping. We informed the staff again and they came to check on it. The manager (sorry, I can’t recall his name) but was a nice guy. After checking, he said it is sorted out as managed to reset the AC. After about 30minutes, the same problem occurred; AC switched off on its own! I explained to him again on what has happened since yesterday with the AC and he immediately rang someone from the air-cond company to come over to check the AC. The technician came pretty fast to check on the AC but by then, I was really tired and frustrated. Here we are after a whole day doing temple hopping and now we are having some AC problem for couple of hours when we are supposed to relaxing! I requested him to get us another room. He immediately checked and offered us a room at the other building which has a functional AC but doesn’t have a pool view. I had no choice. We packed our stuffs and went to another room. The staff was helpful in taking our luggage. I was hoping I wouldn’t fall down on the stairs while moving to the new room.

The new room is called Butterfly Pee. Everything is same except there is no view. When you are at the balcony, you will be facing the wall of the other building. On the right there are some local houses I think. On the left is another wall. I am more than happy to get this room as everything is functional but I was just wondering, is this what happens when you have advance booking, especially booking more than one hotel one the same chain?

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Swimming pool

The location of GBR is very good. It is few minutes’ walk to the Hard Rock Angkor (café & shop) which was just opened in mid-June! We were so excited to visit Hard Rock, more on that in my next post. Back to this resort, it is about 5 minutes’ walk to the old market, Pub Street and the night market. In terms of the resort location, it is very convenient spot.  You can walk around for food and perhaps some drinks. Also shopping for souvenirs and local goods are very convenient. The Siam Reap road traffic is less chaotic than Phnom Penh.

Oh yea, there is another hotel with similar name right next to this one. When we reached the hotel, one of the staff checked with us on the exact hotel name before ushering us to the reception, which was a good thing. We were actually at the wrong hotel. Changing the name will be a good idea for everyone. And, another thing, what do they mean by “Strict child policy”? Don’t get me wrong, one of the reasons why I booked the hotel as it ‘seemed’ like an adult hotel hence no kids around but obviously I was wrong. I find it a bit too noisy.

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The view of the resort from Sandlewood room.

So did I enjoy my stay at Golden Banana Resort? Actually I did. The bed and pillows are comfortable and its clean. It is located on the good area for us to explore the town, especially in the evening. I was unhappy with the whole problem with the AC and with the fact that they fully booked hence getting another room was a challenge. The staffs are generally pleasant.

Prey Pros Restaurant, Kompong Thom, Cambodia

We made a stop here while traveling to Siam Reap. Since we have been traveling from Phnom Penh since morning, we were quite hungry so stopped here for lunch. As per our driver, this is one of the ‘better’ places to stop and well like by tourist.

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So, what’s here? It’s a restaurant, restroom area and a souvenir store. The restaurant serves local Khmer food with locally sourced produce. When we arrived, there were not many people at this place. So we place our orders. We have Chicken wrapped in lotus leave, morning glory vegetable and fried noodle with egg. The food tasted okay. I didn’t really enjoy the vegetable as it came in a bowl, like a soup. I had the impression it would be like a stir-fry dish. The vegetable soup is heavy with local spices which I find rather too strong for me. The chicken was ok and was my favorite dish there. The noodle was okay but it was too ‘wet’ for my liking. The price is reasonable.  The view is interesting an it is overlooking a lake.

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The restroom is clean but if you are very concerned with hygiene, do come with wet wipes (perhaps one with anti-bacterial).

The souvenir store does have a variety of souvenirs which you can find in the Siam Reap town. The prices are reasonable. If you would buy them in Siam Reap, perhaps you can bargain. I don’t think you can do so here. I didn’t buy any items here so I wouldn’t be able to comment much.

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