Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s gin city

If you need any more proof of how much Cambodia has changed over the last decade, look no further than Seekers Spirits, Phnom Penh’s first artisan distillery, making premium gin distilled with local botanicals, and Juniper Gin Bar, serving gin-based cocktails (some featuring Seekers gin) at an elegant Phnom Penh rooftop bar. Finally, Phnom Penh has become a gin city!

Seekers Spirits Distillery Phnom Penh

Seekers Gin

Seekers was started last year by an English-Spanish couple, who hired Alfie Amayo, an English distiller living in London who was keen to move to Phnom Penh and work with local flavors and ingredients. He’s been here for almost two years now, and the result of his experimentation is sublime: a dry gin made with lemongrass, makrut lime, jasmine, green orange, pandan, Khmer basil, pomelo, galangal, coriander seed, palm seed, and cassia bark that is so smooth that Alfie invites visitors to the distillery to try it straight up, even on a morning visit like my own, when I happily stumbled across the bar during a visit to Toul Tom Pong. Continue reading

Review: Travel Mart direct bus Bangkok to Siem Reap

There’s a new direct bus going from Bangkok to Siem Reap (and vice-versa). It’s a new company called Travel Mart, and they’re less expensive than either of the other two direct buses from Bangkok to Siem Reap, so I was a little bit skeptical, but after I took this bus recently, I was pleasantly surprised. If you haven’t read my other posts, know that I have taken all of the various buses from Bangkok to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Bangkok many times, and I’ll give a rundown of how it compares to the the other buses on this route.

Travel Mart Bangkok to Siem Reap…at a glance

  • Schedule: 9 a.m., 1 a.m. (night bus)
  • Cost: $24/25 for day bus (720 baht), $31/32 for night bus
  • Travel time: 8 to 9 hours
  • Buy tickets: 12Go or BookMeBus
Travelmart Bangkok Siem Reap bus

The Travel Mart doubledecker bus that will painlessly take you from Bangkok to Siem Reap.

Travel Mart has two buses per day leaving from Bangkok to Siem Reap, one is at 9 a.m. and the other is at 1 a.m. and is a night bus. This post will concern my recent trip on the daytime bus, but I assume the night bus is pretty similar. The day bus has two pickups, one at Khao San Road at 9 a.m., and at Hua Lamphong train station at 9:30 a.m. Continue reading

Tips for taking kids to the temples of Angkor

The ancient temples of Angkor are the pride of Cambodia and a must-see for anyone visiting or moving to the country. Built about a thousand years ago, and scattered over an area of some 115 square miles, the thought of visiting the temples can be a bit daunting to parents with small children. But don’t worry, you don’t have to miss out! Here are some tips for visiting Angkor Wat and the other temples around Siem Reap with kids in tow.

Angkor Wat with kids

Taking kids to see the temples of Angkor

Do a little research to decide which temples you really want to see

You won’t be able to see them all! My suggestion would be Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm with a quick stop at one of Bayon’s Victory gates for a sampling of the different styles of temples. Angkor Wat, the largest of them all, lends its name to the archaeological park and is featured on the kingdom’s flag. It is still a site of religious pilgrimage today. Bayon is interesting in that it comprises some 200 large stone faces, smiling serenely. And Ta Prohm is overgrown with tree roots twisting around the ruins, giving it an Indiana Jones feel. Continue reading

How to get from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and vice versa) in 2019

Has anything changed on how to to get from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (and Siem Reap to Phnom Penh) in 2019? You bet! There are options to fit every budget, but some are nicer than others. Right now the road is in great condition and it’s a smooth ride, unlike in years past. The journey by road usually takes between 5 and 6 hours, depending on your mode of transport if you go by road.

Giant Ibis bus Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

Check out the view on a Giant Ibis bus between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Ways to travel from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

  • Taxi: Costs $65-100. Most comfortable option. Best balance of price and convenience. About 5 hours.
  • Bus: Costs $6-15. Smoothest ride and best views. About 6 hours.
  • Mini-bus/van: Costs $9-12. Faster than the bus, but more cramped. About 5.5 hours.
  • Plane: Costs $30-120. Fastest method, but domestic flights are unreliable. About 1 hour.
  • Ferry: Costs $35. Best scenery, if you sit outside. About 8 hours, sometimes more.

Continue reading

Review: Nattakan direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap (and vice-versa)

If you’re looking for the most painless way to cross the Thailand-Cambodia border overland, the direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap is the way to go. There are currently only three truly direct buses (meaning you leave your luggage on the bus while you cross the border and catch the same bus on the other side). Not having to switch buses takes a major headache out of the journey. Nattakan, the first company to ply this route, is the least expensive option. It had been a while since I took this trip with them, so I bought a ticket and tried it out.

Here’s the 2019 report on the Nattakan direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap:

Nattakan direct bus stop

At a glance…

  • Nattakan direct bus – Bangkok to Siem Reap
  • Price: $28
  • Leaves at: 9 a.m. (8 a.m. from Siem Reap to Bangkok)
  • Duration: 8 to 12 hours
  • Tickets: Buy a ticket online with seat reservation here or here
  • Also consider: Giant Ibis from Bangkok to Siem Reap

Because there are a few segments to this journey, I’ll break this post up into sections to make it easier to digest. Continue reading

The Phnom Penh airport train

If you’re looking to test out the Cambodian railway system but aren’t quite ready to commit to an 8-hour train ride to Kampot, the Phnom Penh to Phnom Penh airport train offers a manageable slice of life on the rails in the Kingdom of Wonder that takes just 35 minutes.

phnom penh airport train

Monks admiring the new airport train as it arrives at Phnom Penh Airport.

The train is a convenient way to get to the Phnom Penh airport, and although much faster than a tuk tuk or taxi during peak rush hour, it doesn’t necessarily save much time because the train schedule is more of a guideline than a rule, and almost every time I’ve taken it I’ve ended up waiting at the station for at least 30 minutes. Continue reading

Craft Beer in Cambodia

Craft beer has been brewed in Cambodia for more than a few years, but until recently, it hasn’t gained the traction it has in other countries, including neighboring Thailand and Vietnam. 2019 has seen a real upswing in the Cambodia craft beer scene with more breweries and craft beer bars opening, but also foreign craft beer brands trying to enter the market.

I’m Kimmo, the co-owner of Embargo, and in this introduction to Cambodian craft beer, I’ll be taking a look at the brewers and craft beer bars in Cambodia.

Riel Brewing at Embargo

Riel Brewing’s Coconut Brown Ale and Cerevisia Brewery’s Irish Red Ale at Phnom Penh’s Embargo.

Riel Brewing and Distilling

Probably the most promising brewery in Cambodia, Riel Brewing started brewing in 2015 and their engineering skills, passion for beer, and hard work has seen them constantly producing some of the best beers in the country. Not only do they make solid brews, they have their processes down to a science, so they manage to consistently produce very high quality beers — definitely not an easy task in a country like Cambodia where it can be a struggle to find high-quality ingredients. You can find their kegs in many bars around Phnom Penh, but also in Siem Reap and Kampot. They have recently started selling bottles, which means that even more venues will be able to serve their beers. Continue reading

Review: Ibis Styles Hotel, Siem Reap

Over the last year several large international hotel chains have finally crept onto the outskirts of Siem Reap, but the first to make it to the town center is the new Ibis Styles. Located just a three-minute walk from Siem Reap’s Old Market, Ibis Styles is smack-dab in the center of the action.

Ibis Styles Siem Reap

The pillows in the lobby proclaim “free hugs” at the Siem Reap Ibis Styles.

Part of the larger Accor hotel chain, the Ibis Styles aims to be affordable and hip, targeting a younger audience than its big sister the Sofitel. Despite being part of a major international chain, the Ibis Styles in Siem Reap managed to give a nod to their Cambodian local, in the form of brightly colored modern murals of Angkor Wat in the rooms, and wall installations in the shape of lotus leaves. Continue reading