Siem Reap is the capital of Cambodia, a must in your SEA´s trip. It´s the base camp to visiting the famous temples of Angkor, which are located in the surroundings.
If you have already been in an asian village, Siem Reap won´t be just like it… its ancient culture and lifestyle is almost gone, making it a purely touristic place.
Pub Street is an example!
Despite it´s lack of charm (compared to Ubud, for e.g.) there are many things to do here, tour around lots of majestic temples, dig inside picturesque street markets and see some typical dances.
There are some things to take note about: there´s a visa requirement to enter Cambodia, On Arrival at the airport and about 30 USD.
Remember to take an ID picture with you! Customs agents will ask for it before stamping your visa.
Getting to Cambodia by land may be a stressful situation, you should be aware of scams taking advantage on the visa requirement. Touts will approach you claiming to be an official “Customs agent” and ask for money for your visa´s paperwork…
REMEMBER: Never EVER give your Passport to anyone! Make sure that you are making your application in the legal customs stand.
Don´t worry about the currency, even though they have Cambodian Riel… everything is in USD! In fact, they only use Riels for small change.
About healthcare, there is a list of recommended vaccines: myself got typhoid, diphtheria, tetanus, A and B hepatits shots (I had my hepatitis shots when I was a toddler, check out if you already have it!). However, you should pay attention to dangue and malaria but there´s no immunization for them: You get infected by mosquito bites.
There´s a preventive medication for malaria, consisting in daily pills during the whole stay; side effects can be harsh.
The best preventive measure is repellent with at least 25% Deet. You can find repellents almost everywhere, don´t worry!
Make sure you get bottles and bottles of water, the weather is super hot and humid, after a while walking and climbing around you will feel it! Avoid dehydration at all costs!
One last advice, at the entrance of every temple you will see girls, most of them very little selling magnets, handcrafts, etc, they will follow you all the way, screaming, crying… it breaks your heart! The logical would be to tell you to contribute, but no! Irresponsible parents send them there instead of school (not going to school is a shame, as our tour guide told us) so don´t make this bad business worse. AVOID!
What to do?
2 days Tour
The easiest is to rent a TukTuk tour guide: Yes! Those famous fancy motorbikes that are in many Southeast Asia´s countries, I´m sure you have already heard about! Up to 4 people fit on them; share and save some cash!
I totally recommend my guide/TukTuk driver, Keath Sotea, he speaks an excellent English and despite not being a professional tour guide, knows the basics to guide you around. A plus is his fridge full of frozen water, all those bottles are included in the daily fee. (He will ask for the plastic bottles for reciclying and earn some extra $).
Full day TukTuk drive is about 60USD for the long tour (15USD/person) and 30 USD for the short one (7,5USD/person). Check him out in Facebook, will answer asap.
There are many tours around the Temples but I have chosen the most typical ones: The Grand Tour and the Small Tour: They cover all the important and some of the non so famous ones.
Entrance fee is 40USD valid for three consecutive days or 20USD for a single day. You do the Math! If your plan is to visit 2 days, get the 3-day pass to save!
This may be the first temple in the visit, made out bricks pretty well preserved and dedicated to Hindu deities; it´s a glance of what Jemer culture, architecture and environment looks like.
It´s Angkor Thom entrance! You can´t miss it. It´s a long bridge with its massive gate on the other side, the stone faces are amazing!
It´s not in the best conditions but worthy anyways. There´s and improvised path on the side, go up to the faces to get a better look and photographic panorama.
Angkor Thom: Bayon Temple
Located in the center of Angkor Thom, one of the most spectacular of all the temples I have visited with those magnificient smiling stone faces looking down on you. It´s a wide area, take your time to visit every corner!
Ta Prohm Temple
This is where Tomb Raider´s movie was filmed! What amazed me was the power of nature ruling all over the area; massive roots across the walls and ceilings. Breathtaking!
MUST! Without hesitation, this is the most famous one in the región and the biggest religous site in the world! There´s usually a lot of people in queue to get to the higher point of view… so patience and lots of water!
I wasn´t lucky enough to see the sunrise, the day was foggy and cloudy. It is said the only a few days every year in perfect conditions for a beautiful sunrise over the Temple.
In honor to Shiva, was built only by women in the X century. It´s said to be the most beautiful one and I wasn´t disappointed at all. It has like… a special kind of charm, maybe because of the carvings or the construction material different from the others. MUST!
Ta Som Temple
This is a small temple similar to Ta Prohn with its own glamour, every enclosure tangled up with massive roots. Fortunately it´s not crowed with tourists as it´s located a bit far from the other ones.
This one is part of Angkor Thom, with majestic stone carvings in very good conditions and pretty elephant statues. It´s worth a visit to explore and appreciate every detail!
This place, as many others in Siem Reap, is in great conditions but the special attribute is not only the height but its pyramidal shape. You can get to the top but be careful! Steps are big and sharp, take it slowly. It may get tedious, once on the top it pays off.
Ta Keo is quiet as it doesn´t have many tourists; one of the oldest ones and unfinished (that´s why its lack of decoration) but you can have panoramic view of the surrounding jungle. Again, watch your steps! Caution! Take your time to get to the top.
The central night market, the pub area and the restaurants all in one place. I have to tell you that it´s not the best market I have been to but you may find handcrafts and pretty clothes.
Try not the fall for the Chinese souvenirs and novelties, this place is flooded with them.
Don´t forget to bargain! Everything! Rememeber, it´s all fun! Don´t get stressed about it.