Some useful tips when visiting Angkor Wat

Siem Reap

The city of Siem Reap is not going to win any awards for style or beauty. It is basically at the moment a huge building site in many areas. We had a lovely time there and most of the restaurants we ate out at were fine. There are a few places to visit and I would suggest if you are in Siem Reap make your first stop the Angkor National Museum to get a good introduction of Angkor Wat before visiting it.

Last month we spent 9 nights in Siem Reap. We stayed at the Privilege Floor at the Lotus Blanc Resort. Easily the best hotel we stayed in during our three and a half months in South East Asia. I have put a link above to my trip advisor review if you are looking for a bit of luxury when you are in Siem Reap.

Our goal in visiting Siem Reap was visiting Angkor Wat and the other temples. Below I have written several tips to make your trip to Angkor Wat easier and more effective.

Tips to visiting Angkor Wat

First tip is decide on what pass to buy. There are three types of passes. The seven day US$60, three day US$40 and one day US$20. We bought a three day pass which is valid over one week which means in the hot weather you can break up your touring with rest days if your there a week or five days. The ticket seller photographs you for the photo pass. One thing we found out later is that you should get a free map of the temple area. We did not. If you buy the pass late in the afternoon it allows free entry to Angkor Wat at sunset and you still get three days to visit it again and the other temples.

Second tip visit the Angkor National museum in Siem Reap before you go to Angkor Wat. The museum gives you background information on the different eras, mural, history of the sites and an insight into the history of the area.

Third tip is visit Angkor Wat at 5am for the sunrise viewing and make sure you buy the ticket the night before.

Fourth tip is go across the West Gate entrance causeway to the inner area. We went to the right side small lake for the sunrise and photos. It was fine and not as crowded as the left side.

Fifth tip use a guide if you can and make sure there a real one and accredited. We paid US$45 for a whole day. Money well spent. Tuk Tuk for the day costs between US$18-25. Depending on how much distance you cover. They have the mini tour and the grand tour. We did both.

Sixth tip is drink lots of water or fresh coconut juice. Lastly just enjoy the experience. Best bits for us were visiting the less popular temples and exploring them by ourselves.

I have written reviews on each of the temples we visited during our time at Siem Reap and the link below are further tips about the entire site.

Angkor Wat archeological Park

A week in Siem Reap, seeing Angkor Wat and what it cost

Getting to Siem Reap

We travelled to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh by car. It took five hours but we did have a wannabee Lewis Hamilton driver at the wheel of our car. The road is in parts new and smooth, but there also are lots of road works where it is dusty and bumpy. It cost us to hire a car for the one way drive U$$80.

Our hotel the Lotus Blanc

There are some advantages to travelling in the low season. One was the five-star hotel we stayed at for nine nights was not very busy and doing some renovation on the third floor. I heard nothing while we were staying here. I had contacted the hotel before about getting a room with a bath tub for my wife. We were extremely lucky to get an upgrade to a suite for our stay. The staff, food, room, wi-fi, breakfast buffet, massages were all excellent. The best hotel we have stayed so far on our travels in South East Asia.

Siem Reap

Around a million people live in Siem Reap and there are no skyscrapers or tall buildings so everything is a little spread out. Our hotel was a two dollar tuk tuk ride of 2-3 km to Pub Street and the central market. During our stay we ate at several restaurants from average to five-star dining. We ate at Haven a training restaurant which was excellent and went to a jazz evening and fine dining night at the Heritage suites restaurant. I also recommend visiting the Angkor National Museum before you visit Angkor Wat and the other temples to get some useful and interesting background about the construction and history of the temples.

Angkor Wat and the other temples

We spent 9 nights in Siem Reap and got a three-day temple. If its your first time to Angkor Wat then the following tips might be useful. First tip is decide on what pass to buy. We got a three-day pass for forty dollars each. They photograph you and we later found out that you should with your ticket get a map of where all the temples are in the area. We did not. There are one and seven-day passes as well.

Second tip visit the Angkor National museum in Siem Reap before you go to Angkor Wat. The museum gives you background information on the different eras, mural, history of the sites and an insight into the history of the area.

Third tip is going to Angkor Wat at 5am for the sunrise viewing and make sure you buy the ticket the night before. Fourth tip is go across the West Gate entrance causeway to the inner area. We went to the right side small lake for the sunrise and photos. It was fine and not as crowded as the left side.

Fifth tip use a guide if you can and make sure there a real one and accredited. We paid US$45 for a whole day. Money well spent. Tuk Tuk for the day costs between US$18-25 for the day. Depends on how much distance you cover. Sixth tips drink lots of water or fresh coconut juice. Lastly just enjoy the experience. Best bits were going down alleys to less visited areas and exploring the site. Mural Is fantastic.

We saw around 12 temples and below are some of the photos.

What did it cost?

Our accommodation was US$45 per night so for the week US$315
Meals, transport and attractions for the week cost US$620 for the week.
Some individual costs were the 80 dollars car ride from Phnom Penh to our hotel in Siem Reap. Eighty dollars for our two three day temple passes. A lot of meals at some lovely restaurants.
Per day average for the week worked out at US$135 per day or a total of US$935

All in a great week and we have a few more days in Siem Reap before leaving for Bangkok where we stay a week.

A week is Phnom Penh and what it cost

We arrived a week ago in the city of Phnom Penh from Saigon. I did a lot of searching online for a hotel and we finally decided on the Double Leaf Boutique hotel. Good decision. It cost us US$41 a night including breakfast. We got a brilliant room with a great shower, excellent wi-fi and air conditioning that worked. We also enjoyed a dip in their lovely pool during the day or after being out sightseeing. There is a lot to see in the city.

What we did in Phnom Penh?

There is a lot to do in Phnom Penh and we visited the Royal Palace, did a food tour and wildlife centre tour, sunset cruise, shadow puppet show as well as the genocide Museum Prison and Killing Fields. We also ate at some amazing restaurants close to our hotel with great food. All of them were good from Alma to Vans. I am glad we decided to spend a week in Phnom Penh it is a wonderful city to explore and in some ways I think we have only scratched the surface.

Genocide

The sad thing about visiting Phnom Penh is going to S21 or the Genocide Museum. It was an old school converted to a torture centre. The most chilling thing for me was the haunting eyes of dead people looking back at you in hundreds of photos. It should be a compulsory visit for world leaders and it is depressing how few have visited this evil place. Perhaps if they did it might stop a few more genocides happening.

We then went to the Killing Fields the final stop for prisoners at S21. The place is eerily quiet as people walk around the 18 stops trail listening to the horrors that happened here on their audio tour tape. History is important and places like this serve a purpose. The prisoners were taken here and died horrific deaths from garden tools to babies being bashed to death on a tree. I have no illusions that it will not happen again but places like this and Auschwitz may slow it down. The rise of Pol Pot is linked to the bombing of Cambodia a strategy devised by Kissinger and one that ultimately led to the establishment of the Khmer Rouge. Later in his life Kissinger would be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, not for this, but it does make you wonder.

What did it cost?

Double Leaf hotel for seven nights cost US$287
Wildlife Alliance behind the scenes tour for two US$150 (discount for low season)
Expensive blowout meal at Vans cost US$79
Other food, attractions, sunset cruise, food tour US$444

Total for the week was US$960 or US$138 per day. We spent a bit more that I thought we would due to going out a lot and deciding to see Mad Max at a brand new cinema at the Aeon Mall with moving seats, wind and lights as well as 3D glasses with popcorn and drinks cost US$31. I felt like I was riding a bronco for two hours!

Our next stop is Siem Reap.