I prepared myself for the heat which I was told the night before; by the bartender in Thailand, “very very very very hot, you get cancer”, saying this as he rubs his arm. Living in Thailand for 5 months got me use to the humidity and heat. My mind was prepared and I tried to mentally prepare my travel partner who was coming from NYC. We both checked the weather daily and it was between 90-100 F so here we go…
We arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia in the middle of the afternoon. The hour plane ride from Bangkok was easy and quick. Stepping off of the plane into the weather was not a jarring as anticipated. The temperature was the same as Thailand; seriously, it may have been cooler. The entire trip was a comfortable temperature. But we both are from South Carolina so we know HOT summers. To compare the weather was like like July in South Carolina. So if you are reading this and are from S.C. you will be fine.
The airport looks new and is absolutely beautiful; in the shape of temples with amazing art work, open spaces, and easy entry. Once you arrive, you will go to the right to get your visa. The visa is $30 USD. CAMBODIA USES USD ONLY for everything. You will then move straight ahead. Your passport with be ushered through a line of employees. Once you have received your visa the last man, at the end of the line will hold it up and you retrieve it. Next you will go through customs which is on across from this desk. Depending on how many people were on your flight this shouldn’t take very long.
Yay we have our visa…now we are off. Our hotel, Rainsey Angkor Villa’s , arranged a Tuk Tuk driver to pick us up. Nat was our driver and ended up being our driver for the remainder of the trip. The hotel is situated right out of the city, away from Pub Street and the endless crowds. We travel past small shops and down a dirt road. The hotel is nice, friendly and accommodating.
Things they offer: all 3 meals, laundry service, a pool, free tuk tuk rides into town, free pick up and drop off to and from the airport, they speak english which is helpful.
Coming to Siem Reap has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. I have always wanted to Angkor Wat and that is what we did. For 3 days we traveled to temple after temple, walking, exploring, and just relaxing.
What you need to know about exploring the temples.
- Passes: you must have a pass to visit. The passes are good for ALL of the temples. You can get a pass for 1, 3, or 7 days. We got the 3 day pass and it was $62. Carry your passes with you at all times. Your driver will take you to get them.
- The sunrise at Angkor was good. There are certain times of the year when it is best. Check the internet for those times. You will be with thousands of your friends from around the world.
- Get your photos and get out of there. Ok so sunrise is over…get out of the crowd and make your way up to the temple. Don’t go in the front gate but one of the side gates. Less people and you will find yourself alone in this amazing place.
- There is a BIG LOOP and SMALL LOOP. Research the temples that you really want to see and go off of the beaten path. The drivers do this day in and day out so they ALL go the same way. I really wanted to see Wat Ta Som but I read the crowds were crazy and it’s the last temple on the track. So I asked to make this our next stop after Angkor Wat. Nat was fine with this and because of it we miss the crowds by HOURS. We arrived around 8 am. One of the guards there said around noon, there are way to many people. I got a “personal” tour by the guard for about 20 minutes because of this. He even took some photos of me.
- Children selling stuff: You will get bombarded by children and women selling items. It’s all of the same stuff but what is hard to ignore are the children selling postcards and other items. We did not give them money because we were not sure where this money was going and it just seemed like a scam.
- Take your time: We decided to take the hike up to the 1000 lingas . This was about 1.5 hours outside of Siem Reap. It’s totally worth the journey. The hike isn’t easy so come prepared with appropriate footwear and clothing. You will climb over boulders, rocks, and slip on sand. Here you will find the river with the water running over the carvings which were intended to bless the waters that flowed to Angkor Wat. Down the trail you will find a waterfall. If you are adventurous, jump in the waterfall with the local kids. For me, that was the best part of the entire trip. I was soaked from head to toe but it was WORTH EVER moment.