We at TravelBud love to collaborate with people who enjoy teaching English abroad and are passionate about adventure. Traveling is one of the most rewarding experiences one can embark on, this is why we love to share travel stories that can inspire others to do the same.
Sian Owen is a 22 year old South African Business Science graduate and photographer. She specializes in wedding and lifestyle photography. She’s a small town girl with an incredible talent for capturing a moment through her lens.
In 2016 she took a backpacking trip through Cambodia and Vietnam with her boyfriend. This is the first in a series of blog posts where we are going to be showcasing her experiences through these phenomenal places. You’ll find suggestions on where to stay, how to get around and what to see and do in each place.
She started their trip in in Siem Reap, Cambodia and finished in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Here’s part 1 of her journey from Siem Reap to Battambang.
Sian flew in from Johannesburg, South Africa via Hong Kong then finally on to Siem Reap, Cambodia. “Siem Riep is a great place for every type of traveler, it’s a city growing with both local and international artists including designers, who are experimenting with traditional arts and culture, seeking to revive the ancient creative expressions of this region.”
Sian stayed at the Mad Monkey hostel, which she highly recommends to people, as it has a really cool vibe, with a an awesome rooftop beach bar where the whole dance floor is covered in beach sand.
It’s a really exciting place to meet other travelers and exchange travel experiences: “I met people from all walks of life that all share a common passion for adventure.”
“The best way to travel through Asia is to pick only your starting and your end point, the rest you can figure out along the way, asking people you meet as you go. This gives you a more authentic way of traveling, as you have no idea what you’re about to see or go through, which can be really exciting.”
Angkor Wat Temple Complex
This is arguably the most popular tourist attraction in Cambodia. It is known to be the largest religious monument in the world as it stretches 163 hectares, just one of the reasons why the world is so fascinated with it. It was originally built to be a Hindu temple but it later became Buddhist towards the early 12th century.
“I recommend organizing a tuk tuk driver, which you can usually get through the hostel. Ask him to take you to the ticket office where you can get a day ticket for $20 which allows you a sunset pass for the evening and access to all temples for the following day.”
“My favorite place to watch the sunset is in Phnom Bakheng temple, as there’s a very therapeutic feel to it.”
Important tip for girls: make sure your shoulders and knees are covered otherwise they won’t let you in.
“I suggest getting a guide to take you through all the magical temples, as they can quickly become overwhelming if you’re just wondering around on your own. The guides bring the place to life! You’ll pay roughly $35 a day for a guide, obviously it would be cheaper if you have more people.”
Another gem here is to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, “It’s best to leave your hostel at about 4:30am to get there early, before the influx of tourists come rushing in. This way you can get a nice spot right in front of the pond to take in the breathtaking scenery.”
Other cool spots to see around here are the Bayon temple which is renowned for having all the smiley faces. Then the Tomb raider temple which is made famous by the Angelina Jolie blockbuster – Lara Craft Tomb Raider.
The pub street strip is Cambodia’s answer to Phuket’s Bangla road. It has all the things tourists love about Asia’s nightlife, retro bars, daring street food and an abundance of neon lights.
The street itself is very short, so Sian recommends taking a turn into all the small alleys of the road, where you find the most interesting little gems. “If you like to mingle with other tourists and have relatively cheap drinks, a bar called ‘Angkor What?’ is where you need to be!”
Other highlights on this funky street include : Asana old Wooden House cocktail bar, The yellow Sub, Miss Wong cocktail and Yolo Bar.
Floating Village of Kompong Phluk
This is not the floating village everyone goes to Cambodia to see, but it is still worth a visit. Its a lot smaller than the more popular Chong Kneas floating village. There are definitely less tourists here so it gives you more authentic feel. There’s a $21 dollar entrance fee, and you can go an canoe along the village for $5.
After three spectacular nights in Siem Reap, Sian took a three-hour, $10 minivan trip to Battambang where she stayed for one night.
The Ganesha Family guesthouse is where Sian chose to stay, “it was a very relaxed vibe, the host really makes you feel at home.” The guesthouse has a bar, restaurant and quite a decent WiFi connection she says.
There are always people playing pool at the bar, whether you’re travelling alone or with a group of people, it can definitely be a cool place to socialize.
A great way to immerse yourself in local culture is with a cooking class at Nary’s Kitchen in Battambang, costing just $10. Sian tells us, “the class starts with a visit to the local market where you pick the ingredients you will use, this is an awesome way to interact with the locals.”
For anyone teaching English abroad or just travelling through Southeast Asia, this would be an awesome class to take. The highlight here was getting to eat all the food at the end and being able to keep the recipe book afterwords as a momento!
Other popular activities in Battambang are a ride on the open carriage Bamboo Train and a sunset visit to see the millions of bats at the Bat Cave leave on their nightly foraging flights – Sian unfortunately missed out as she ran out of time but these are two she definitely would have done if she could have.
Next on On Sian’s Cambodia & Vietnam Blog series, we’ll be looking at Phnom Phen and Koh Rong.
To see more of Sian’s amazing photography, here are her contact details :
Interested in Teaching English, volunteering or interning abroad? We’ll send you more info!