Phnom Penh’s changing faster than I can keep up, so I’ve given this post a well-deserved update. Remembering a time when Phnom Penh didn’t have a “proper” movie theater makes me sound like an old-fogey, reminiscing about the days gone by when locals would watch movies in small shops with a dozen chairs and usually two or three screens loudly blaring different films at the same time. These days, there are a half-dozen places in town to see English-language movies in Phnom Penh, from giant theaters showing Hollywood blockbusters to smaller theaters that screen documentaries, independent and foreign films.
The Major Cineplex at Aeon Mall is a serious, big budget movie theater showing films in 4-D. Yes, 4-D.
There are two major cinema chains in Phnom Penh, as well as a few smaller movie houses (more on them after the jump). Before you go, know that Cambodian movie-goers are keen on 3-D and 4-D movies, so if you’re looking to watch a “regular” film at one of the larger cinemas, check before you get a ticket or you may end up wearing 3-D glasses and having cold air blown on you to simulate winter while your seat is violently shaking. Movies often sell out at the large theaters, so reserve a ticket in advance.
Looking for movies about Cambodia? The 10 best movies set in Cambodia Continue reading
Kampot, known as a sleepy provincial town for so long, is rapidly shedding that image. Once known as the town with “nothing to do,” Kampot is now a vibrant destination with a whole range of food and entertainment options.
Sleepy Kampot isn’t so sleepy anymore!
It’s always been a favorite escape for many Cambodia-based expats, thanks in no small part to the relatively quick journey from Phnom Penh using either National Highway 2 or 3, as well as the fairly regular, if slow, train service. And with the unfolding developmental disaster in Sihanoukville, there has been a steady influx of Western refugees looking for a (somewhat) quieter life. Continue reading
There are lots of ways to get from Cambodia to Thailand, and it all depends on how much time, money, and patience you have. In this post, I’ll cover the best ways to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok whether you travel by plane, direct bus, mini-bus, taxi, or casino bus. Flying is always the most convenient, but going overland is less expensive and more of an adventure!
If you’re heading the other direction, how to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap.
At a glance…Siem Reap to Bangkok
The direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap (and vice versa)
Direct buses from Siem Reap to Bangkok
The easiest way to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok is by direct bus, although it’s not the fastest. Direct means that you don’t have to change buses at the border or haul your luggage over the border — it stays on the bus while you get your visas. While many buses advertise themselves as direct buses, there are only two companies that are true direct buses: Nattakan and Giant Ibis.
Nattakan/Transport Co. Ltd direct buses that go from Siem Reap to Bangkok. You can purchase tickets online for $30 plus a $1 booking fee. The procedure is simple and you’ll receive an e-ticket that you can either print out or present on your phone when you arrive at the bus station. The bus leaves at 9 a.m. every day and take between eight and ten hours to arrive. Read our full review with photos of the Nattakan direct bus. Continue reading
Phnom Penh’s most beautiful and striking feature is its long, lush riverside, but in the city center it’s mostly clogged up with wild traffic, “happy pizza” restaurants, and tuk-tuk drivers peddling vices. The Balé, a new 18-room luxury hotel located around 15 kilometers outside the city center, is the first property we’ve seen to take full advantage of the city’s riparian beauty, which explains why expats and wealthy Cambodians have been flocking here for “staycations” ever since it opened in early 2018.
Banyon tree in the courtyard of The Balé (pronounced “Bah-LAY”) in Phnom Penh.
The hotel is located on the Chroy Changvar peninsula, part of a miles-long tangle of islands and sandbars that clog the Mekong and its sister river, the Tonle Sap, as they roll down to Phnom Penh. The peninsula has escaped the frenzied pace of development in Phnom Penh proper, because it has for years been connected to the mainland only by a single bridge donated by the Japanese government. This is changing, though, with the construction of new bridges (one is smack next to the Japanese bridge but paid for by China, which is now competing madly with Japan to purchase influence in Southeast Asia through gifts of infrastructure).
Well-connected local businesspeople have been jockeying to buy up swaths of Chroy Changvar for massive “satellite cities,” the price of land is skyrocketing, and all sorts of amenities are springing up that would have been unthinkable five years ago, from sushi bars to luxury condominiums. Still, until now most of the accommodation on the peninsula has been mid-range or budget hotels, aimed squarely at the local market. The Balé is a symptom of the new wave of development here, even as it takes full advantage of its early-adopter status by positioning itself as an oasis of calm amid the frenzy. Continue reading
2018 update! It appears that Bassaka Air has stopped running flights with less than 24 hours notice. And unfortunately, it is the same manager that I had to argue with for weeks over a refund (read on below for more details) that appears to be in charge of this customer service debacle. If you have been affected, I would suggest requesting a chargeback with your credit card company as soon as possible rather than hoping that Bassaka eventually delivers, because if you wait too long it might be too late.
And in the meantime, check out our post on how to get from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and vice-versa) and find an alternative. A taxi may be the safer choice!
2016 update: There’s been an influx of new domestic airlines in Cambodia in the last year. Usually domestic airlines don’t seem to last more than a few months in Cambodia, so we haven’t bothered reviewing them. In the last year I’ve flown Bassaka Air’s Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route several times — here’s everything you need to know.
Bassaka Air currently flies from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. They also have a Phnom Penh to Macau route — the airline is meant to ferry Chinese gamblers to the Kingdom of Wonder — with flights going to Macau a couple times a week. Tickets are ridiculously cheap compared to the previous route monopoly-holder Cambodia Angkor Air, with flights on Bassaka starting at just $19 each way and averaging less than $50.
The trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap by bus has improved by leaps and bounds recently. The road is fully paved now, and the trip now takes between 5 and 6 hours. This can feel like an eternity when traveling with some of Cambodia’s less illustrious bus companies, as they stop to pick up and drop off passengers all along the way. But Giant Ibis Transport is different. As I write this, I’m sitting on a new Giant Ibis bus, connected to the onboard WiFi and wondering how I ever managed this trip before they came along.
Check out the view on a Giant Ibis bus between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Giant Ibis at a glance…
- Price: $15
- Schedule: 08:45 and 09:45 a.m., 12:30 p.m.
- Time: 5 to 6 hours
- Buy tickets online
- Full review below