There are a couple of telco shops just outside the arrival hall, we bought a prepaid Traveller SIM from Smart – USD$5 for 2GB or USD$10 for 6GB, more than enough for our stay.
Airport Transfer & Getting Around
Grab (the de-facto ride hailing service in South East Asia) is available in Siem Reap, once you have internet on your mobile phone, you are ready to go. The Tuk-tuks as we commonly know it, is called Remorque in Cambodia, an adaptation from its French colonial era of “trailer”.
We took the safer path of pre-booking the Airport pick up via Klook.
For the day tours, we found Sok from other travel blogs and would highly recommend his service. He communicates well in English through Facebook Messenger, he was not available during our stay but arranged his team member and we were very well looked after.
It is worth noting that Tuk-tuk drivers are not allowed to do tour narratives with you as the park management enforces very strict verification between drivers and tour guides, with the latter being certified and obviously professionally trained.
Optional – Brain food
If you arrived in the morning and have a few hours to kill before the hotel check-in, you can (drop your bags and) take a history crash course at the Angkor National Museum. Like many museums near a historical site, expect pieces from the sites displayed up close with decent explanation of its origin. Many have said that it helps to prepare you for the great depths of the ancient Angkor City’s history.
Check-in, rest and chill
At the risk of spoiling the rest of the post, our stay in Angkor Wat was probably the highlight of the trip. Templation is nestled within a quiet neighbourhood just off Temple Street, it ticked all our boxes of quiet, little crowd, private space, comfort, and spa. Not the cheapest, but we enjoyed every bit of it.
Check-in was done over a seated view of the pool, talk about making an impression.
Our arrival was way earlier than the usual 2pm check-in time, yet they were happy enough to let us into our room. Naturally we ordered breakfast and catch up some sleep from the pre-dawn flight. I may be overthinking but them opening up a room that is already empty, hence the potential that we could start spending on their services, was a brilliant move.
Buy ticket and sunset
The ticket office is NOT at Angkor Wat but a short drive away. If you are opting for a single day trip, plan to buy the ticket near 5pm the day before your visit to Angkor Wat. The ticket is valid for both the next day and the rest of today. Make your way to the temple park area for the sunset, either at Phnom Bakheng for the elevated treeline view, or with some reflection around the water catchments (the moat around Angkor Wat, or Srah Srang).
Documentary and sleep early
If museum is not your thing, this hour long documentary will give you a crash course on Angkor Wat’s history.
- The much celebrated Angkor Wat is the largest temple in Angkor, it is the largest religious monument in the world
- Angkor as the entire ancient city has over 1,000 other temples, new ones are discovered nearly every year
- The Khmer architecture is largely influenced by Hinduism as its initial worship, but subsequently converted to Theravada Buddhism
Everyone is here for the epic sunrise, our trip in July was the start of monsoon season so you have mixed odds of getting that majestic view. If you are first time to Angkor Wat, by all means do this routine for the experience, and there’s a good reason to start early.
The standard route to visit Angkor Wat involves a smaller perimeter, aptly named “Small Circuit”; while a more extensive “Grand Circuit” covers the further and more spots. If you have the freedom of the Tuk-Tuk with you, ask to do the reverse order of a typical small circuit – you’ll part ways with the crowd, thus a higher chance of having the entire temple to yourselves.
You will cross path with the tourists crowd again, rather just 1 point than following the herd from the beginning, right?
If you were the Khmer King/Queen back in the glorious days, you could afford this royal bath pool 168x the size of the Olympic swimming pool.
This is an alternative spot for sunrise if you prefer a more serene scenery.
The renowned Tomb Raider scene, a temple almost devoured by nature.
Our last stop was the Bayon Temple, the Centre of Angkor. This is my personal favourite, if Angkor Wat is akin to the much celebrated Sistine Chapel, this is St. Peter’s Basilica.
Pool in hotel and nap
By noon, the crowd swelled to 40-50 buses strong, the sun was directly on top of us, the heat was getting uncomfortable. Without the deep dive into history with a tour guide, visual touring was starting to look repetitive. As it was supposed to be a relaxing getaway for us, exhaustion was not part of the itinerary. We stopped short of a few other places in a typical Small Circuit, with a few other stops left for the next trip.
The pool never looked more inviting when we returned to our room, and turned out many did the same by avoiding the sun at its hottest, those ambitious ones with multi-day passes will head back out when the day is cooler.
The monsoon weather kind of worked in our favour. As it rained every afternoon, putting us through a good nap, freshening up the air just before our dinner.
Now squeeze and rub those muscles, enough said. We pampered ourselves with a good spa the next morning, and I fell in love with everything lemongrass.
If you are like us, taking this as a chilled trip than being Indiana Jones, then you can consider indulging in some different experiences after Angkor Wat.
What makes this pottery class even more special is that the teachers are either deaf or mute. Think about it, that is CSR done on you daily operation!
Breakfast and Read
We loved our private pool so much we decided to have our breakfast floating on it. In reality though, it’s an odd feeling eating with your body and the food constantly having to maintain stationary in the water.
Optional – War Museum
If you want to savour your final morning in Siem Reap, you can consider visiting the dark history of the Khmer Rouge at the War Museum. From pictures it is almost certain to be a depressing experience, as it displays the torture and perils civilians had to live through the authoritarian period.
As we took off from the aerial view of Tonle Sap, the list of places for our next visit had started to grow slowly our minds, we are definitely coming back for more.