We added Siem Reap to our itinerary purely to visit the Angkor complex and we were not disappointed. It was a long drive north from Phnom Penh – in typical Asian style – think mini bus with more people than seats – with just one scheduled hour long stop for lunch/bite to eat along the way. Having gotten used to the limited choice at whatever restaurant the driver decided to stop at – and often extortionate prices (after travelling on many a bus through SE Asia) – we had stocked with snacks from a supermarket before leaving Phnom Penh. Travel time wise, we left Phnom Penh around midday and arrived into Siem Reap around 6.30-7pm. It’s a bit longer than the google mapped estimation of approximate 5 hours – but factor in the lunch stop, poor road conditions and endless pick up and drop offs the closer you get to Siem Reap and its about right.
Where we Stayed:
Paris Angkor Hotel – Good wifi in quiet location
A nice little hotel in a quiet area with good – free – wifi, a must for any modern traveller. The hotel had just acquired new owners when we visited (August 2012) and they were trying hard but were missing a few things – complimentary pick up from the bus station (one of the reasons for booking as we were driving from Phnom Penh and arriving in the evening), provision of better towels and a safe that had the code stuck to the front and the instruction not to change it (Hardly practical). Nevertheless, I would stay there again if we ever returned to Siem Reap.
Where we ate:
As this was another whirlwind city stop, we only ate out on two evenings, the first night, in a small café on the main street and the second night at the night market. We were aware that further down the main road was an area called ‘Bar Street’ but we gave it a miss due to the fact we were getting up early both days (the first to visit Angkor and the second to catch our bus to our next stop).
What we did:
Angkor Archaeological Park – Wonderful but tiring day out
We only had one day to spend at Angkor and wanted to make the most of it.
We were picked up at 7.30am and returned at 4pm; hiring our tuk tuk and driver for $12 USD for the round trip. The drivers know the drill and for a one day visit will work around the petit circuit – we showed him on the map where we wanted to go and he took us. He also stopped a couple of places we hadn’t planned on stopping at – one for monkeys on the side of the road, which was much appreciated and different points where he knew to get some good photos.
The food inside them temples is on the expensive side ($5 for basic noodles) compared to restaurants in town, but they do have a captive audience and you will need to eat after a few hours of walking round the temples in the heat.
Buy your water from the street sellers – large bottle of chilled water for $1 as opposed to $2 in the restaurants – it know it’s only a dollar but as tesco say, every little helps.
The child sellers are persistent and the teenagers from the restaurants near the lake can be quite aggressive when you say no, just be polite and keep moving.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day but felt completely ‘templed out’ by the end of the petit circuit. If you have the time spread it over 3 days as we found we didn’t appreciate the ruins at the end of the day the same way we did at the beginning which was a shame. It didn’t stop me taking photos though – I went through 2 batteries throughout the day and filled 3gb of memory – take spares if you have them. We also downloaded a free app about the Angkor complex which provided us with information and insight that we wouldn’t have had by simply walking round. Unfortunately a guide wasn’t quite within our budget but the app provided enough info to keep us informed on our tour and we didn’t feel we missed out by not having a guide.
Angkor Wat – Stunning Photographs and Architecture
Get there early to avoid the crowds and dress appropriately (knees and shoulders covered) if you want to climb to the top of the three towers. The view back out over the causeway is worth the very steep climb.
We spent over 2 hours in and around Angkor Wat alone, so many pictures to take and different structures to admire. Its hard to imagine the grandeur of this site in its hayday – its mind blowing now in ruins so must have been something spectacular before it was abandoned.
If you’re there in the morning head right through the temple and out of the back for an unobstructed view of the three towers without the sunlight from behind them turning them into shadows.
Amazing photographs, that are so easy to capture, will never do justice the true beauty of Angkor Wat. Take a spare battery and memory card as you wont be able to stop taking photos.
Bayon Temple – Beautiful Temple
We started at Angkor Wat early before moving to a much quieter Bayon. The place not being overcrowded really made the difference for us.
Spend some time looking at all the intricate carvings before heading inside and make sure your camera is fully charged and you have a back up battery – beautiful photography made easy!!
Siam Reap Night Market
One of my favorite markets in SE Asia, plenty of different nick nacks and products – from textiles (scarfs, clothes etc) to ipad/laptop cases – you could find just about anything here – and its cheap! Massage chairs out the front and great street food on offer, this is one of the best places to spend an evening in Siam Reap.