A short flight from Bangkok put me in Siem Reap, the home of the Angkor complex. The town is clearly surviving on tourism as evidenced by the large block labeled Pub Street. The nice thing is the town is so small, you really can’t get lost. The downside being it’s so catered to tourists that finding a eatery that doesn’t have tourist prices is a bit difficult. I’ll say this. There is a central market in the center of the market that’s hidden from street. You have to walk in a bit but the food there is great.
Angkor is obviously the attraction here and this is definitely a place you want to get up early to do. A quick tip. If you only plan to spend one day at the site, go the day before to buy your ticket. You’ll be able to enter the grounds an hour before closing and it’ll give you an idea of where you might want to go. A big thing to do is to see the sunrise. There will be a huge crowd along the lake as people jostle to get the perfect spot. I skipped it and didn’t feel like I missed anything except the crowds. I do recommend getting there early though. Angkor is just the main temple complex there but there are so many other ruins to see and explore that if you avoid the sunrise, you can literally see so many other temples and have the entire place to yourself.
A few travel tips:
Have some US dollars, Thai Bhat, or Euros tucked away before visiting. Although Cambodia has it’s own currency, it’s rarely used and prices will typically be written in US dollars. Short rides around town will be about $2-$3 but getting change is going to be tough. Most people won’t have change for a $20 so it’s best to have a few small bills for items around town.
Find a tuk tuk driver you trust and just stay with that person during your entire stay. Hopefully your hotel can have a driver pick you up at the airport but if not, there will be a host of drivers waiting outside. They’ll be more than happy to take you into town and then just ask to see if they’re available for the week. I guarantee if you don’t bring it up, they will. You can usually get a base rate for your stay. I was fortunate to find a driver and he not only took me both ways to the airport but also took me around Angkor. We negotiated a $20 rate for Angkor including a little extra for the early wake up call and after the day, I tipped him as well and he was more than happy to take me to the airport the next day as well as drive me around town. A good driver can really navigate the area and I can’t stress how valuable a good driver is there.
Try to find out when the boat races are. I was lucky to be there during the races and the whole country shuts down for this celebration. I can’t say I understood it, but the festive atmosphere is certainly one I won’t forget.