After spending a day in transit, we finally landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia at 9 in the evening for the final leg of our temple run vacation. A brother of the tuktuk driver we contacted beforehand met us at the airport and brought us to our hotel. (Airport service is free when you book a tour with him.)
After getting a good night’s sleep, we kicked-off our 2-day stay in Siem Reap with a visit to the untouched Beng Mealea temple and Kompong Phluk.
It is more than an hour away from the city but you’ll feel that the long trip is worth it once you see the temple ruins. Beng Mealea is simply gorgeous. We got there very early before the tour buses arrived, so it was pretty quiet during our visit. The temple is mostly in ruins, largely not restored and left to nature. Large trees and roots cover and are tangled with the temple walls. This brings out the Lara Croft or Indiana Jones side of visitors who feel as though they discovered the ruins while walking through a jungle. While visitors can explore the area by walking on wooden planks, we saw people being guided by caretakers clambering over stones and going into rooms and passages. Feeling adventurous, we followed them and explored the “secret rooms” off the wooden planks. Some of the places are off-limits so better ask the ever present caretakers for permission before going into the passageways.
A visit to Beng Mealea is definitely worth the 1 hour+ ride from the main Angkor attractions. Even if you’re not adventurous enough to climb and discover the hidden passageways, the spectacular view of the ruins from the wooden footpath is enough.
Lunch at Rumduol Angkor II Restaurant
Before heading towards Kompong Phluk, the tuktuk driver drove us to Rumdol Angkor II Restaurant for lunch. Food is preety average, nothing to rave about. Lunch cost us $27.5 for 4 people.
Before everything else I would like to put it out there that Kompong Phluk is a tourist trap run by vultures. We handed over a hundred dollar bill for the 60$ boat fee for 3 people. The guy at the counter said that they don’t have small bills for change and told us they’ll return the change after the boat ride. When we came back for the change, they claimed that they said no such thing. They weren’t fazed by threats to report them to the police. We found out later from the tuktuk driver that they are apparently backed up by the corrupt police. I guess we were caught off-guard by the generally friendly Cambodians we met before this. Anyway, instead of grumbling, best to charge this to experience and warn people about these lying scumbags.
The boat ride to the village took 1 hour. Upon reaching the said village, we were ask to alight at a pier and were issued tickets. Apparently, we had to pay $5 for each person and transfer on to smaller boats in order to tour the actual village.
While in the village, boats selling snacks and whatnots will urge you to buy food or school supplies for the children of the village. According to various travel forums, the children turnovers everything tourists give them to their parents for them to resell to other tourists, so it’s best to refrain from buying from them. After going through the village and the mangrove tour, we were asked to alight at another pier which will force you to go through a restaurant before going back to your big boat.
So, was the trip worth it? Even without being scammed by lying scumbags, no, it’s not worth it. The entire operation is run by people who exploit both tourists and the people living in poverty in the village. I doubt that the boat driver and canoe paddler gets more than 10% of the fees tourists pay. The tiny mangrove forest didn’t have much wildlife and all you can see in the floating village were adults selling wares for the children who were begging for food.
Tip: The Philippines have better mangrove forests (e.g. Sabang Mangrove Forest in Palawan, Bakhawan Eco-Park in Kalibo) and floating villages (e.g. Day-Asan Floating Villages in Surigao).
Siem Reap expense
|Breakfast at Taste for Life||2|
|Tuktuk: Beng Melea – Kompong Phluk ($60 for 3 pax)||20|
|Entrance Fee: Beng Melea||5|
|Lunch ($27.50 for 4 pax, including driver)||9.50|
|Boat Fee: Kompong Phluk||20|
|Boat Fee: Mangroves||5|