Sunday, 1 November 2015

Siam Reap with Kids

We recently travelled to Siam Reap, Cambodia with our three kids aged 11, 7 and 3. I've been waiting to visit Angkor Wat for almost 20 years and knew I would fall in love with the city. It was a wonderful break from the chaos of Saigon and I really enjoyed being able to cross the street with my kids without too much stress. The people are so friendly and genuinely love kids (which is how it usually is in most parts of South East Asia).

Siam Reap with Kids
Stop, drop & meditate. Exploring Angkor wat just after sunrise was incredibly beautiful
The locals really take care and look out for each other, including fellow Tuk Tuk drivers. It was really beautiful to be surrounded by such loving energy considering the sad history of the country at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Despite their hardships, they are always smiling and warm. 


Siam Reap with Kids
Visiting some local homes in Siam Riep on our tour with Dani from Bees Unlimited
The weather for our 6 day stay was great (in October), averaging around 30-32 degrees celsius without any rain (only a few light sprinkles which was refreshing). We stayed in a family friendly 2br apartment at Chateau D'angkor La Residence which was great being so central with a wonderful market that is open 3 times a week across the road where you can support the local artisans and various charities.

I have a few tips and recommendations for planning your trip to Siam Reap with kids:
  • Get your Visa prior to landing. The last thing you want to do with young kids is to queue for a visa on landing if your flight is full (the queue gets quite long as it was when we arrived). You can go to your nearest Cambodian embassy (there is one in Vietnam) or travel agent to arrange.
  • Bring Mosquito repellent (buy iherb or Amazon)
  • Light coloured long pants & tops for sunrise, sunset or country tours to reduce risk of bug bites
  • Bring some thin face cloths you can wet and use to cool down during your temple tours as it gets quite hot. We kept wet towels on the back of our necks while walking.
  • If any of your children have allergies (my 7 yo is allergic to nuts), make sure you bring your medication, epipens and prepare snacks as it make be difficult to find suitable food. There is a fair amount of peanuts and cashews served in restaurants. We tend to stick to plain rice (not fried rice), soup broths or western foods for my 7yo for this reason.
  • Bring closed shoes or runners as some of the temple surfaces are uneven and if you plan to do some zip lining crocs or flip flops may fall off.
  • Bring your childs passports with you everywhere if they are under 12 (if they look older or are close to 12. Our oldest was 11 years 10 months), they may get in for free in some places or get a discount 
  • Get Travel Insurance 
  • USD currency is used locally in Siam Reap and does not need to be exchanged
  • Tuk Tuks charge around $2 USD for a one way trip around the city centre or $3 for anything 10 to 15mins or more. They are a really fun way to travel around town, especially if you get an Autobot...
Siam Reap with kids
Temple visits with the kids
    Siam Reap with kids
    We got around mostly by Tuk Tuk

Here are some of the things we did (and ate):

Temples

We visited some of the main temples including Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm. 

Tips:
  • get a 3 day temple pass so you can visit at various times of the day (sunrise, sunset) and break it up as it gets quite hot. Cost $20 per person for 1 day or $40 per person for 3 days (valid for 1 week). Children under 12 are free (my oldest was 11 years and 10 months and just made it!) - bring their passports to prove their age
  • if you have young children, you can consider booking an air conditioned car or van for the day (about $15 - $30 USD) so you can rest in between temples with air conditioning - we did this after speaking to another family and it was the best decision!
  • freeze your water bottles the night before so you have a cold refreshing drink which you can also press against your face and neck to cool down
  • bring small face washers you can wet and keep on your neck to stay cool
  • bring hats, sunscreen and bug repellent
  • ladies - wear clothing below the knees and covering your shoulders to enter some parts of the temple (most parts of the temples are ok)
Siam Reap with Kids
Temple visits with the kids
Siam Reap with Kids
Ta Prohm 'The Jungle Temple' with giant trees wrapping their roots around the temples
Siam Reap with kids
Angkor Thom

Angkor Wat (at sunrise)

We arrived at 4.50am, and walked for about 3 minutes in the dark using our mobile phones for light. If you position yourself towards the left of the lake you will get to see the five towers. Find a nice spot on the edge of the lake and stay put! it gets really crowded and you can easily lose your front row spot to get a nice pic with the reflection on the lake.


Siam Reap with kids
This is what it looks like around the lake!

Tips:
  • choose early morning or late afternoon as unlike the other temples which has some shade, Angkor Wat is quite bare and gets hot quickly
  • for sunrise, go to the west gate (even if it is busier, you will get the sun rising behind the towers). For sunset, go to the east gate
  • bring your mobile phones to use a torch as it's dark when you arrive
  • wear long pants and shirt (light) to keep the bugs away or use some bug repellent
  • once you have your sunrise shot, move along to tour the rest of Angkor Wat before the crowds follow
  • if you have young kids, I suggest tag teaming with another adult. We had our 3 yo and my husband took the kids to get breakfast while they waited for me. Pitch black and lakes don't go well with toddler


Siam Reap with kids
Sunrise at Angkor Wat was an incredible experience. Get there before 5 am to get a front row shot across the lake
Siam Reap with kids
Walking through Angkor Wat just after sunrise
Siam Reap with kids
Racing off right after sunrise meant we got to enjoy many parts of the temple to ourselves
Siam Reap with kids
Beauty from where I stood

Tour local Cambodian homes and their crafts 

with Dani from Bees Unlimited $50 USD per person

This was probably one of the highlights of our trip (next to the sunrise at Angkor Wat). Dani is a wonderfully experienced guide and made the tour very exciting and interactive for the kids. We were constantly moving via Tuk Tuk and really got to see the beautiful country side. We got to visit local Cambodian homes and see their artisan crafts, sample lots of yummy Cambodian food, visit the market, experience traditional cupping and so much more. 

I really recommend contacting Dani before you arrive to ensure you get in as he usually imits his tour to about 2 Tuk Tuk's per tour. 

Tips:

  • Bring suitable snacks or lunch if anyone has food allergies 
  • Bring water 
  • Come on an empty stomach if you are game to try everything! Dani makes sure everyone is well fed and we were so full by the end of the tour (Breakfast and Lunch is not included in the price but the cost is minimal)

Here are some pics of the tour:


Siam Reap with kids
Our first stop was to see how tofu was made
Our breakfast stop at the Psa Leu (Upper market), local Cambodian noodles with chive dumplings and fried egg.

Siam Reap for kids
My 3 yo loved the Cambodian noodles for breakky
I bought some grilled bananas to snack on as I didn't eat the Cambodian noodles for breakfast and they worked out to be the perfect fuel to keep me going. There are lots of different options to choose from no matter what your eating style
Siam Reap with kids
Some delicious looking local Cambodian doughy treats (I passed on these but my oldest loved them!)
Siam Reap with kids
Vietnamese warm tofu with ginger syrup, so warming and delicious. Worth the treat.
Visiting the herbs & spice section of the market where they are all ground and mixed fresh
Siam Reap with kids
Roadside crispy crickets - surprisingly tasty
Siam Reap with kids
Basket weaving
Siam Reap
Traditional Cupping on my 7 yo

Siam Reap with kids
After our cupping, we bought some locally made scarves from our upper
Siam Reap with kids
Freshly made rice paper rolls
Siam Riep with Kids
We got to visit a home and listen to the beautiful traditional Tho and the kids all had a turn

Flight of the Gibbon - Zipline Tour

This was an incredible experience for my oldest son (11 years). My husband took him while I took my younger boys horse riding and to mini golf. The price includes a one day pass to the temples so if you plan on getting your own temple pass, let them know so you can get a discount. Children under 16 get 25% discount and the minimum age is 6 years old. You spend about 2 hours on the course, zip lining from tree top to tree top with a short abseil at the end. Lunch is included. 

Siam reap with kids
Flight of the Gibbon Tree Top Zipline Tour

Siam Reap with kids
Flight of the Gibbon

Horse Riding at The Happy Ranch 

While my husband took our oldest zip lining, I took our younger 2 horse riding at The Happy Ranch. I don't know much about horses, but they all seemed well taken care of and the guides were very friendly and supportive as it was the kids first time on a horse. By the end of the guided walk my 7yo was asking to trot faster!

Tips: Book a day ahead or in the morning in case they get booked out


Siam Reap with kids
Horse riding at The Happy Ranch

Miniature Golf at Angkor Putt Putt

We also did a game of miniature golf while the older boys were zip lining. 

Tips: Go early evening or late afternoon if the heat is a problem for you or the kids. We went at 12pm and had the place to ourselves, the kids enjoyed it so didn't seem to notice the heat until the game was over (there are umbrellas scattered around for shade). One game was also enough for my little ones.


Siam Reap with Kids
Miniature golf at Angkor Putt Putt

Angkor Balloon

Another fun thing to do was go up in the tethered air balloon, we chose to go at sunset. Ring ahead to book and also keep in mind that its dependant on the weather if you will get an amazing sunset. This is another place to remember to bring your passport if you child is almost but not yet 12 as they pay half price.

Angkor Balloon

Made in Cambodia Market

We only discovered this beautiful market as it was directly across the hotel where we were staying (Chateau D'angkor La Residence ). Made in Cambodia Market is a community market that allows local artisans to sell their crafts and food items. It's definitely worth a visit.

Open from 4-9pm every Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday


Siam Reap with Kids
Recycled materials turned into bags, rugs, shoes and so many other clever items
Siam Reap with Kids
Like these!

Siam Reap City Centre

There are lots of things to do and eat in the main area on Hospital road, Pub street and the surrounding lane ways. Here are some of the things we did:

Fish Massage

There are a few fish massage places where you can dip your feet in the tank while the fish feed on your dead skin. Sounds gross but it's quite fun for the kids as it can be quite ticklish
Siam Reap with kids
Fish Massage $2 for 15 minutes

Massage

Our favourite spot to get a massage was at Body & Soul spa. I loved that they used only organic coconut oil and essential oils for their massages. It was clean and the staff were super friendly.

Night Market

There are two night markets in the main centre where you can buy souvenirs, clothes and food items. It's a very lively atmosphere, with lots of fruit shake carts, food carts with crickets and snakes and lots of eager tuk tuk drivers. We bought some local style pants and shirts for around $2-$3 each for the kids.


Eating

There are lots of options for dining with local khmer food including curries, western options and Vietnamese cuisine. We tried a few restaurants around Pub street and a few other cafes we looked up. One of those cafes was Mei cafe, which we quite enjoyed. I was too busy eating to take pictures and log the other places! but I found most places offered nice local Cambodian curries and other local dishes as well as western dishes.

Chicken curry at Mei Cafe
For our next trip I would love to do an exclusive tour with Wildlife Alliance. For USD $150 per person (taken as a donation) you get to go an interactive tour and get close to some of the endangered animals and areas closed to the public. 

I hope you enjoyed this post! if you have any feedback or updates on any of these activities please let me know in the comments. Happy Travelling!

May xx



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