The only thing which came to my mind when thinking of Cambodia is the mighty Angkor wat. Having read in the text books at primary school, it is the largest religious monument ever constructed, and it is considered to be one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. I was joined by two of my friends in Phuket, Thailand. The wanted to spend the next three days in Bangkok. Having seen BKK, I thought 3 days to Siem Reap(the city in which Angkor wat is located) should be fine.
Angkor Wat has a special place in my heart. This happened to me my first ever solo trip and the most thrilling one
Things to Know before you Go
Visa (for Indian Passport holders): There is no visa on arrival for Indians, but can get an E-visa without visiting the embassy. It is hassle free.
Currency: The currency in Cambodia is Cambodian Riel, but USD is widely used. You don’t have to worry about the local currency. I had sufficient USD and paid it everywhere. The only catch is that you get the balance in Cambodian Riel. 1 INR equals 55 Cambodian Riel
Best way to travel in Siem Reap: Tuk-tuks are available everywhere. There is no fixed price, but best is to agree on a fixed price before getting into. Hire a taxi moving out of the city, which you rarely do
The only place where I found a luxury hotel at affordable price. I stayed in mid-range hotel and it costed me USD 15/day including breakfast
Cambodian is the official language of the city, but you can find English widely spoken in Angkor complex.
Cambodian food was simple and inexpensive. I didn’t have to worry about the bills though. Even if you are vegetarian there will not be any problem with the food. Prices are on the higher side if you look at foods other than local cuisines
Credit Cards and ATMs: I paid by card in some of the restaurants, but street foods, night market, you need to have cash. USD is totally fine.
How to get to Cambodia
Travelling from India, there is no way to get to Siem reap directly. Best connection is via Bangkok. It will take an hour to reach Siem reap from Bangkok. Many low cost airlines fly from different south east Asian cities
Airport Taxi's & Tuk-Tuks are inexpensive and the easiest way to get to & from Airport. They will charge a fixed price of 10 USD
You can also ask your hotel to arrange pick up @ USD 7. Uber(Grab) will cost you around 6~7 USD. Tuku Tuk's just outside airport will cost 4~6 USD
Motorbike taxi is the cheapest, but if you are carrying heavy luggage's, will not be suitable.
I flew Cambodia air from Bangkok and it costed me 50 USD. It took 1.5 hrs to reach Siem reap
I had a mid range hotel pre-booked, around 15 USD per day
Eating out was again not expensive. I had local cuisines all three days and my total expenses were USD 20
Guide services & Transportation: USD 150 for three days including up & down to Bang melea, Airport pick up & drop
Angkor entry tickets - 3 days USD 40(in 2013)
Aprasa Show - USD 8 (2013)
Flight of the Gibbon- USD 30 (2013)
Where to Stay
As we mentioned earlier, we have stayed in Hostels, Hotels, Resorts, Airbnb’s
Here are some of my favourite places to find accommodation options around the world:
If you’re traveling solo, we recommend staying in a hostel. You will meet fellow travellers and it’s a great way to have fun. It saves you money. If you prefer privacy, you can still get a private room, but you can also get to know people.
You can accommodation as cheap as 10 USD/day including breakfast & private double room. Even the 4 star hotels will cost around 50~60USD which is still a bargain price.
Most of the hotels are located in the Centre and close to the Angkor archeological area
Siem Reap & Angkor Pass
What do you find in Siem reap?
Siem Reap is a small city, but it attracts 2.5 Million visitors ever year. Main reason is to see the Angkor wat. But there are far more interesting and beautiful temples in the Angkor complex. Most of them are ruins because of war. 3 days should be enough to go around.
How to get around Siem reap?
Tuk-tuk is the easiest way to explore around the Angkor complex and will cost around USD 25 per day. This is what my hotel reception people told me. Since it was my first solo trip, I had a private guide booked for all three days and it costed me 180 USD. He was a young bloke like me in his late 20’s. He took me around in his personal car, good with photography and we parted as good friends. It was the best deal.
If I had taken tuk-tuk, probably I could have saved 50 USD, but had the extra comfort with the private guide.
Angkor complex Pass:
This pass is mandatory and comes is 1-day 3-days and 7-days. You can get them in the ticketing office of the Angkor complex. It will be your point of entry
As of 2019, the Admission fees are as follow:
1-Day Pass: 37 USD
3-Days Pass: 62 USD
7-Days Pass: 72 USD
This will give you access to Angkor wat and all the other temples/buildings inside. The exception is Beng Mealea, which is located outside the complex. Entry @ USD 5. Issue is to get there, need to hire a tuk-tuk or taxi, costs more because of the distance. There are no proper roads, so better to hire a taxi to prevent dusts getting to you
Things to remember:
Many buildings inside the Angkor complex are temples, so be mindful of your dressing. Since I had a private car, I did keep spare dresses in case I have to change. Shorts & comfy tees are fine. It was humid & hot when I visited(August), with occasional showers.
You’ll be walking a lot, so do have comfortable walking shoes.
Angkor Wat opens at 5 AM for the sunrise and closes at 5:30 PM. Some parts of Angkor Wat are closed until 8 AM such as the upper part of the temple. It is hard to avoid the crowd in the main temples (Angkor, Face temple, Ta Phrom), but slowly eases moving towards the lesser known temples
3 Days in Siem Reap!!What to Do?
This is how my 3-day itinerary looked. There is not much to change as it is all about eh Angkor temples. There are couple more activities you can do in Siem reap, it was fun & affordable.
Day 1: Banteay Srei, Banteay Samre, Ta Keo Temple & Angkor Wat, Pub street
Day 2: Bayon Temple or the Face temple, Ta Phrom, Pre Rup, Bang Melea, Night market
Day 3: Flight of the Gibbon, Apsara show, Dinner & Drinks with friends
It happened to be my first temple in Siem Reap. not a massive one like the Angkor wat, considered to be the art gallery of Angkor, the small temple of Banteay Srei features some of the finest stone carvings ever seen. It has the rose-pink sandstone, which will give you a very good impression in bright day light. It has carvings from Ramayana (easier to understand coming from an Indian background). If you are on a guided tour, you’ll have the guides explaining in detail.
This is on the outer rings of the Angkor complex and I was one amongst the 4 visitors in that spot. It was like a smaller replica of Angkor wat. We did spend some time here taking pictures and discussing history. Without people rushing past you and big tour busses, I personally liked Banteay Samre. It is not big, so not much to expect and no wow factors! In facts, I got the best photo of the trip here
Ta Keo Temple
Another lesser known temples and hardly visited by large groups, this is my favourite. One of the tallest monuments of Angkor, the Ta Keo is a mountain temple which gives you a nice view of the Angkor complex. It is an unfinished temple and I don’t remember much.
Now comes the highlight of the trip and the reason I wanted to visited Cambodia. 2 hours to half day is what I would recommend spending. Like any other religious monument, Angkor wat has got paintings and carvings throughout its walls and it will take ages to cover. There are beautiful ponds outside from which you’ll get the complete panorama of Angkor wat. You can them climb on to the tallest towers and see for yourself how the Angkor complex looks like.
Things to Remember Visiting Angkor Wat
After a hectic day, obviously you want to chill out. Pub street is the happening are in the town and definitely not like the cities, but a nice environment with bars & restaurants filled with tourists. I had a couple of beers, a simple Cambodian dinner and went off to bed.
Day 2: Bayon Temple or the Face temple, Ta Phrom,
Pre Rup, Bang Melea, Night market
Bayon Temple or the Face temple
Try to go early, this is one of the iconic temples in Angkor complex. You’ll see stone faces carved in the towers of the temples. There is too much history associated with it. Leaving the stories apart, it is a great piece of architecture and no one misses the face-to-face photos.
Apart from Angkor wat, Ta Phrom is the most visited temple, the reason being the movie Tomb Rider. The temple is in ruins, partly damaged by the roots of the trees and partly because of war.
Reminiscent of a miniature Angkor Wat with its five lotus towers, the temple of Pre Rup is another lesser known/visited compared to the main ones.
Beng Mealea is a large, unrestored temple surrounded and partly overgrown by jungle near Phnom Kulen National Park. Journey takes at least 2 hours return and roads are ok to travel by car. We did see people using tuk-tuk’s, but it will get dusty because of the muddy roads. Beng Mealea is one of the few temples for which the Angkor pass is not valid. There is an extra admission fee of US$ 5 to visit the temple. Also you need to spend for the taxi fare
For me, it was not fascinating, I would recommend to avoid it. It took whole of my afternoon session
After couple of beers in the pub street, I visited the night market. The central area is not so big and you can easily walk around. I bought couple of souvenirs and hand made goods. It is natural to price them high, so better negotiate. Get some inside info from the hotel reception, they’ll give you a price indication
Flight of the Gibbon
Spending two full days around temples and walking made me feel a bit low. It was a warm day as well. I told my guide/friend to take me somewhere else, so he recommended Flight of the Gibbon. It is a zip line and tree-top walking. Seemed like a fun activity and it was not pricy at that time (2013). Also a delicious 5 course set lunch was included in the offer. So I felt, why not???
Comfortable clothes that are suited for adventure – shorts & tops should be find. Shoes are must, you don’t want to lose your sandals half way in the zipline.
I had a nice leisurely evening and I saw a brochure in the reception for the Apsara show. It’s basically a cultural dance show with a buffet dinner. It was not bad, a decent enough show
Dinner & Drinks with friends
I made some friends in the hotel and was happy to go out with them on the last day. Had a good traditional dinner and couple of shots. That sums up my trip
Conclusion & Our Recommendation
Siem reap is full of history, ruins & temples. 3 days should be enough to cover majority of the sites & Angkor wat is truly amazing
The people who I met during my stay were doing a South-eastAasia trip and not many are doing only Cambodia. Same as me! If you are taking a long flight, then plan to near by countires as well. Laos, Thailand & Vietnam
Our Recommendation: Bucketlist