Review: Giant Ibis buses, Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and vice versa)

If you’re skeptical about getting from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap by bus, allow me to assure you that it’s an excellent way to travel in Cambodia! The road from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is sealed now, which means a smooth rode with views of the Cambodian countryside, and the trip takes between 5 and 6 hours. Giant Ibis, with its onboard powerpoints and WiFi, offers one of the best full-size bus experiences in 2020. In this post, I’ll cover Giant Ibis day buses and night buses between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, both of which I have taken many times.

Giant Ibis bus Cambodia 2019

We took this gleaming Giant Ibis bus in 2019 and it’s still a great ride.

Giant Ibis table of contents

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Play spaces in Siem Reap for young kids

Despite Siem Reap not having much in the way of public parks with playgrounds, there are some great spots for young kids to run off energy and have fun. Here is a list of some of the best play spaces and activities for younger kids in Siem Reap:

Kids Park Heritage Mall Siem Reap

Is Kids Park the best play space in Siem Reap? Let your kids make the call.

Kids Park at Heritage Mall has our vote for the best soft-play space in the city. It’s the largest one in town and offers great climbing opportunities, multiple trampolines (including one with a foam pit), spinning swings, foam ball cannons, small monkey bars, large foam blocks to build your own castles, several slides, and numerous other engaging play options. It’s kept clean and is well air conditioned. And although they sell soft drinks and a few snacks (chips and candy), you are also permitted to bring your own snacks. With Starbucks and Tous les Jours in the same building, it’s easy to enjoy a coffee while the kids run wild! Entry is $3 weekdays, $4 Saturday and Sunday for ages 2 to 12. Open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Bring socks or you’ll be required to purchase a pair. Continue reading

How to get from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and vice versa) in 2020

Has anything changed on how to to get from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (and Siem Reap to Phnom Penh) in 2020? You bet! There are options to fit every budget, but some are nicer and more comfortable than others. I’ve tried all of these ways to travel between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, some of them many times. 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.

Giant Ibis bus Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

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

Table of contents

Summary

  • 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.

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The lowdown on Cambodia international schools

I grew up going to international schools all over Southeast Asia. Like most “international kids” I moved around quite a bit, from Cambodia to Laos to Thailand, before going to university in Canada. Moving back to Cambodia after graduating university and seeing how developed the international school scene has grown is startling. I attended ISPP when its campus was still separated by Norodom Boulevard (and is now a Chip Mong building). I still get asked about my experience in international schools (although it’s mostly from worried parents). As a freshly unemployed college graduate and a certified third culture kid, I’ve had the time to compile a master list of international school need-to-knows.

international school art display Phnom Penh

international school

The cost of education

The first is the most obvious: the price. international schools are far from cheap; I still find it astonishing that my parents spent more money on my high school education than they did on my undergrad. Below is a table of yearly tuition fees I’ve compiled from four notable international schools in Phnom Penh.

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Review: North Korea’s Angkor Panorama Museum, Siem Reap

Update: As of December, 2019, the Angkor Panorama Museum is closed, reportedly due to UN sanctions on North Korea that required member states to send North Korean workers home in mid-December. 

When we crossed the vast, empty parking lot in front of Siem Reap’s new Angkor Panorama Museum and stepped up to the front door, a young museum employee rushed to meet us. “May I help you?” she asked warily, as if we’d accidentally wandered into a restricted area. Her greeting, at once polite and slightly sinister, proved emblematic of the entire Panorama Museum experience.

North Korean Museum Siem Reap

The new North Korean Angkor Panorama Museum is hardly a teeming hive of activity.

Built and maintained by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at a reported cost of $24 million, the place is less a museum than a showcase for one gigantic artwork: a panoramic painting 120 meters (nearly 400 feet) in diameter and 13 meters (42 feet) high, equivalent in size to three basketball courts. Continue reading

Where to find homewares in Phnom Penh

Time was, when you wanted to equip your expat apartment in Phnom Penh without household essentials, your choices were severely limited. Local markets are still the obvious go-to for everyday Cambodian homewares. If it’s cheap and cheerful bowls and glasses, basic pots and pans, serviceable small electrical goods like rice cookers and blenders, and a veritable rainbow of towels, mats, and Khmer-style bedding you’re after, browse BKK1 market or O’Russey’s ground floor, be prepared to barter and still pay a little more than the locals and you’re sorted. But where to head if you’re after something other than typical market fare?

Aeon shopping mall Phnom Penh

Head to Aeon Mall for an air-conditioned one-stop shopping experience.

As an ardent shopper, just about the only household essentials that have so far eluded me here in Phnom Penh are proper eggcups for my morning soft-boiled poung moan. This state of sufficiency is largely thanks to the number of homewares shops that have sprung up in Phnom Penh in recent years. Continue reading

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