Angkor Wat and Siem Reap

by - November 09, 2020

Siem Reap is world renowned for being home to Angkor Wat, the famous temple which happens to also be pictured on Cambodia’s flag. Part of Angkor Wat was used for filming Tomb Raider (the older one with Angelina Jolie).

Most trips to Cambodia are made to see Angkor Watt, and there are numerous tours you can sign up for. The best time to visit is perhaps in the cooler Winter months, as much of the Mekong regions remains warm all year round, but is unbearably humid in the summer.

In terms of where to stay, Siem Reap like the rest of Cambodia has amazing options. If I were you, I'd splurge $40-50 on a five star hotel because this is the only country where this is possible. Sure, you can get a dorm for $5/night, but it won't offer you a complimentary welcome drink, breakfast, massage and airport transport (yeap, these are almost always included in the $50 stay).

Siem Reap is not necessarily walking friendly, so the best way to get around is by tuk tuk. The cost of tuk tuks is usually $2-5 within the city, but you'd need to negotiate it.

To get to Angkor Wat, and to visit the other temples in the Angkor Wat complex, you would need to get a tuk tuk. A half day tuk tuk usually costs $15. The entrance fee for the complex varies. In 2019, the 1 day pass was $37, the 3 day pass was 62 USD and the 7 Day pass was 72 USD. The 3-days pass lasts for 10 days after purchase whereas the 7-days pass last for one month. You can get the ticket at the ticket office which is where you tuk-tuk driver will drop you off first before continuing.

Getting a 3 day pass is futile if you are there for less than a week, because you will need around 6-7 days to see those temples. If you are in Siem Reap for only three days, get a one day pass which will make you see Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple, Baphuon, etc. and Banteay Srei, 20 km away from Angkor Wat. You can spend the next day relaxing in a spa (a massage will cost you as little as $5), and the last day at another temple known as Beng Melea temple. Buy the pass at the official ticket office or else you might get scammed.

A few things to keep in mind, since it will be warm and you'd be tempted to wear shorts. Angkor Watt enforced a strict dress code, and you are expected to cover your knees and shoulders, and in general be modestly attired.

In terms of currency, the USD is often used, though the local currency is Riels, and most of the change you will get will be in Riels (Around 4500 riels make a dollar)!

Siem Reap is generally safe but like most Southeast Asian countries, petty thefts can happen. In my experience, its better than Phnom Penh (someone tried to grab my bag there, but no such thing has happened here). Exercise caution and don't wear expensive things. Also, do not put your bags near a window of a tuk-tuk where one can grab easily.

Angor Wat is quite stunning, since it is located in front a pond. Most tourists do a sunset or sunrise here, and watch the pond reflect the Watt. You might get lots of tuk tuk drivers willing to give a ride and provide a tour. Here's the one I used, and I can guarantee was quite nice: 

After watching Angkor Wat at sunrise, head over to the Ta Prohm Temple,  or as some of you may know the Tomb Raider's tree.

Unlike most Angkor temples in the area, Ta Prohm temple is one of the few temples that was not renovated and is left as it had been found allowing it to maintain its picturesque nature. Also, it is one of the few temples with which merged with nature beautifully but not yet part of the jungle. Once you are done with Ta Prohm temple, you can walk north towards a mountain-looking temple, the Ta Keo temple, one of the first temples that were built entirely of sandstone.Its pyramid-like shape, five-tier terraces, and steep stone stairs make Ta Keo a great viewpoint to climb up and see the landscape, or mostly jungles around the area. Then, there is also the Bayon temple, Angkor Thom, where you see 216 carved faces. At the end, hop on the tuk-tuk and check out Bantaey Srei, a stunning 10th-century Cambodian temple built with red sandstone, giving it a completely unique look compared to what you just saw at Angkor Wat.

For the evening, you have Pub Street, which is the main tourist street where you can find overpriced drinks and western food that you can indulge yourself in. It's touristy, sure, but if you look around the area carefully, you will be able to find small pockets of interesting things to do like the Made in Cambodia market where they sell locally-made handicrafts.

Even if you don't plan to buy anything, it is still quite interesting to walk around the market and Pub Street to find a nice cool restaurant with a great view or a bar to enjoy the rest of your night.

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