What’s so great about it?
Temples. No, really, TEMPLES. Angkor Wat is a huge temple complex in Siem Reap.
Tourists can fly there from Hong Kong on Hong Kong Express or Dragon Air. The trip is usually about two and a half hours. Visitors can get visas at the airport.
At Angkor Wat
The Temples. Siem Reap is all about Angkor Wat, the centuries-old complex of temples which is north of the town. Tours are inexpensive but can be a bit rushed. First-time visitors, however, will enjoy the trip. There is a lot to see and huge photo opportunities.
Be warned, though, Cambodia is a tropical jungle and the heat saps your energy. While sightseeing at Angkor Wat, tourists can stop for a cold, fresh coconut or soda and take a ride on an elephant if they’re feeling brave.
Those who enjoy the Tomb Raider games and movies can stop off at Ta Promh, which is akin to a living fantasy. This is where some scenes from the movie series were filmed, and if you are the arty type, you’ll find loads of places to sit down with your sketch pad.
Be careful when booking a hotel. Decide where you want to stay first. Some hotels are right in town, which can be noisy, others are out of town and you can hire a tuk-tuk whenever you want to travel around town. Some of the out-of-town hotels have free shuttle services.
Other cool things
An entire tourism sector has sprung up around Angkor Wat, but there’s a lot more to do once you’ve visited the temples. Here are our favourites:
- After a day of temple trekking there’s nothing better than a massage or foot spa at one of the dozens of salons.
- Feeling brave? You have to try out the food tours where you can sample crickets, spiders and red ants ... yum yum.
- The local food is very tasty but be careful eating from hawkers. Our favourites include amok, which is a spicy coconut dish with protein of your choice.
- Try out the various charity restaurants that help local youths learn proper food-service skills; you not only get a good meal, you also help others.
- If you like people-watching, then head to Pub Street. You can get non-alcoholic drinks and while away the night hours watching colourful hawkers and sampling local food.
- Not one to sit around too much? You can try zip lining in the forest on the “Flight of the Gibbon”. Be warned though, the chances of actually seeing a gibbon here are almost zero.
- ATVs make for a fun outing. Pick a reputable company and you can choose which time you wish to go. We did the sunset tour of the paddy field. Take along some sweeties to be an instant hit with the local kids.
- Learn more about the locals at Backstreet Academy where tourists can receive Buddhist blessings, take painting lessons with local artists, make bags, carve wood or stone, or just watch others do the work. This is one of the places where your money will go straight into the local economy.
- Smile of Angkor is an evening show and meal. Our tour operator wasn’t very enthusiastic when we said that we wanted the meal. We’d advise anyone not into canteen food and battling with large tour groups at a buffet-style meal to miss this, too. The show itself was good, but has earned the wrath of some locals because, frankly, it is an import from China. Nevertheless, if you treat it as merely entertainment, it’s not bad.
- Tonle Sap lake is great to visit at sunset. Keep your camera with you, along with a bit of cash.
Apsara dancing by local temple dancers is a great way to learn about Cambodia’s culture.
Cambodia is a very impoverished country and so, sadly, scams are rife. Don’t be fooled into handing over money to street kids. (You'll just be contributing to a vicious cycle of poverty.) Don’t even be fooled into “buying milk for the baby” because they will direct you to one particular shop, where you can be sure the same milk is sold multiple times a day. It goes nowhere near a baby and the shopkeeper and kid split your donation.
The same goes for visiting “schools” in the countryside, where bright-faced youngsters will ask you to buy some supplies for them, handily sold by “teachers” who hover nearby. We bet the same exercise books are sold multiple times a day.
It can rain a lot, so be prepared to carry umbrellas or rain ponchos around, and bring sandals which help to dry your feet easily.