First Direct Flights between Europe and Cambodia

Story here. Air Finland from Stockholm to Phnom Penh.

This will be of interest only to a few, but this is a very good development. Before, if you wanted to fly to Cambodia, you had to transfer from a nearby country, such as Thailand. Angkor Wat alone is worth a trip to Cambodia – you could spend a week there easily – but the country has a lot more to offer, and it really needs tourism revenue.

I see great stopover potential here.

That’s awesome! I’ve wanted to go to Cambodia for years, but I’m just not motivated enough to figure out a way to get places if it’s somewhat inconvenient. Good for us impatient people who like travelling.

(Not that I’ve been trying to get to Cambodia; I spent about ten hours trying to figure out where I should go for my winter break only to wimp out because so few airlines fly into Sofia, so I’d have to connect multiple times to get anywhere I wanted to go and it was expensive and really complex. I finally said fuck it and decided to go to Turkey, because I can get there on the bus.)

I don’t know the airfare for that flight, but I suspect you can still get a better deal by connecting to Cambodia from a neighboring country, such as switching to the budget AirAsia, which is actually a good airline. Also, Bangkok Airways will fly you straight from Bangkok to Siem Reap, the main town near Angkor Wat. But it’s a beginning, and I hope this leads to better deals in the near future.

Angkor Wat has been on the must see list ever since I saw it in National Geographic. And Macchu Picchu. And lake Titticaca, but that’s different.

Angkor Wat is well worth the effort. People don’t realize how spread out the place is. Different ruins over miles and miles. We’ve spent four or five days there, and that’s about right I think. But many spend a week or more and still don’t feel that’s enough. Whatever you do, DO NOT get rooked into these crappy tours that show you Angkor Wat in a day and a half – or even in just an afternoon! Ridiculously outrageous. We simply hire a “remorque-moto” driver to drive us around the ruins for a few dollars a day and explored on our own. (A “remorque-moto” is a kind of open-air motorized carriage, essentially a trailer with seats pulled by a motorcycle.) You’ll need to hire a proper car and driver for the farther areas, though, and new ones have opened as the landmines are cleared (but don’t step off of the trail). The town of Siem Reap has a small Western community and lots of decent and affordable accommodation.

Note: There are NO landmines at all in the main area of the temples.

Having never traveled to Asia, I must admit it I am a bit intimidated by the prospect of it. the beyoootiful Ms. Kuboydal looked into it for me last year and claimed it was not out of the question financially. Is there a 'best ’ time of year to enjoy it?

Yes, I’d say about this time of year, the “cool” season immediately after the rainy season ends in about early November. From mid-February to May or June, it’s still dry, but the heat is at it’s most brutal. From June to early November come the rains, but actually they can be quite pleasant. But sometimes NOT so pleasant. (We got drenched there one October.) I’d recommend mid-November to mid-February. Still green then, too, from the recent rainy season, not dry and dusty-looking like during the hot season.

I recommend you look over the Tales of Asia website run by Gordon Sharpless. He’s an American journalist who lives in Cambodia and Bangkok (or at least, he used to keep a flat in Bangkok; I’ve not talked to him for some time.) Gordon is a very nice guy. We have one of his photos of Angkor Wat framed and adorning our wall here at home. Although his website does not mention it, I guess in a sense of fair play, he also owns the Two Dragons Guesthouse advertised there, which is in Siem Reap near Angkor Wat.

As an avid planstman, I think I would enjoy it best when the native flora was most floriferous. I have heard that many of the giant Ficuses have been cut back and the jungle, in general, pushed back. Is it still a sprawling otherworldly remant of another age overgrown with tropical splendor?
The actual conversation we had concerning our possible visit was spawned from an NPR
article I heard claiming that the Wat was now the safest place in Cambodia because the tourism dollars were so valuable.

Yes, that area is very safe now. And the Ta Phrom Temple in particular has been left overgrown, with spectacular tree roots winding throughout the place. Google it and take a look.

You are my hero for the day. Thanks for the great links.

'Q: What’s up with all these kids trying to sell me junk?

A: Deal with it. Most of these folks live within the Angkor Archaeological Park and have a lot of restrictions placed upon them as to how they can farm, build their houses, keep their chickens, hang their laundry, and so forth. The villages within the park existed in some form during the time these temples were built and the kid trying to sell you a cold drink may be a direct descendent from someone who built Ta Prohm or served as a concubine to Jayavarman VII. If anyone has a right to exploit these temples for personal gain, it’s these folks. Unfortunately, due to the fact that regulations significantly curtail what they can do in their villages and that life is inherently unfair, these folks have been screwed every which way and selling souvenirs and cold drinks is about all they can do. That said, go easy when it’s time to buy a drink or a t-shirt. Save your hard bargains for somewhere else. There is absolutely no reason why you should try to knock 500 riels off the price of a bottle of water from someone who makes a profit of $1.50 a day. Even more so when you consider you’ll probably drop $10 in a bar later that evening never considering to bargain the price with the British bartender serving you the drinks. If there was ever a place to pay up or shut up, it’s here.’

This is the kind of website one is looking for for travel info.

My pleasure, Sir.

Yes, good ol’ Gordon. He’ll tell it straight.

I noticed that the beverages in the tea and coffee room at his absurdly well priced hotel were distinctly of the large cold beer type, I have been working in the international beer exchange rate theorem as a prime indicator of vacation affordability (February 2007, .87 for cold beer brought to you on the beach in Rio de janeiro, up from .75 previous visit.) what would a ballpark estimate of a cold beer served, not just purchased, in Cambodia be?
(Potential future utterly mundane pointless thread may be imminent)

Angkor Wat is everything it’s supposed to be, Sihanoukville has a nice unspoiled beach and the wilds of the eastern jungle is worth the trip, but for me, Phnom Penh was the best part of Cambodia. It’s dirty and loud and has this no-law-western-boomtown feel. The locals and the expats are the best part. I’m still not sure if years of exposure to Cambodia makes you a little crazy or you have to be crazy to live there but they are anything but dull. I spent 5 months all over Asia and if I could take any one of my friends for one day just to experience something incredible Phnom Penh would be on the short list. Everyone here should see it before tourism ruins/changes it.

I remember Beer Lao being round $1, it’s really much cheaper than that of course but any place your likely to go that will serve it cold (and believe me you’ll want that) isn’t going to make it any cheaper.

That’s SE Asian imports mind you, you aren’t going to find a great selection of international beers outside of Siem Reap. For a hot day I recommend whiskey. Johnny Black is surprisingly cheap.

Beer Lao is not a bad brew at all. It entered Thailand a couple of years ago and is threatening to displace our national Singha, at least among us expats.

As for Cambodia, the local brew is Angkor Beer, not bad stuff in a pinch. (They’ve “borrowed” the motto of Thailand’s Singha: “My Country, My Beer.”) Most beer is anywhere from US$1 to $2 for a large bottle, depending on type of place. Not hard to find beer for a buck, though. Along the riverfront in Phnom Penh is a good place for imports, and not just beer. I remember a wonderful single-malt bar there with loads of whiskies we don’t see in Thailand. Drinking is much cheaper in Cambodia than in Thailand, because of the absence of the heavy taxes we have. What you’ll be served for a buck or two in Cambo will cost you maybe $3 or $4 in Thailand. And the liquor stores! My eyes popped to see prices on hard liquor half what we pay here, or less! The downside is that while Phnom Penh is a great place to visit for a few days, I’ve been told it gets very boring if you actually live there, and thus alcoholism among the Western expats starts becoming rather epidemic.

Fantastic news. Getting books to people there has been an adventure in intra-Asia weight restrictions.

“It’s a holiday in…” No. I can’t do it. It’s too bloody easy. However, that IS an interesting site.

Johnnie Walker, in my extraordinarly inadequate travel exeprience, seems to be frightneningly inexpensive abroad (from the ole US.) There were wee kids in Rio selling shots in the streets for a buck+. Too hot for that, mind you. Antarctica is always a better idea (kinda like PBR on steroids.)