Whether you're drawn to the picture-perfect lake in front of the magnificent Angkor Wat, or to that ethereal spot in Ta Prohm that was put on the map by Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, you'll find even more great reasons to visit Siem Reap. Siem Reap airport is Cambodia's busiest, which is not surprising considering the popularity of Angkor Wat and other ancient temples dotting Siem Reap and the surrounding areas.
There are 50 temples in Siem Reap
The main draw of Siem Reap is its “major” temples, such as Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm. You will probably need a day for these temples and another half a day to visit Bantay Srei, which is about a 40-minute drive from town (a drive you absolutely must make because this small but very different temple is simply incredible).
Unfortunately, some visitors ignore other temples and that's a shame. The temples like Preah Khan and East Mebon might be more decayed or rather less restored than others, but that doesn't make them any less fascinating (half a day might be enough).
And there are two dozen more nearby if you have time
50 miles northeast from Siem Reap lies the ancient city of Koh Ker. Getting there can take two hours or more – however, due to its remote location, there are no large crowds here, and you'll be able to enjoy the ruins in peace and quiet. The most important temple in Koh Ker is Prasat Thom, but there are 24 monuments in the area that can be accessed by visitors.
Hire a private guide for a day
Siem Reap is so inexpensive that you can easily hire a private guide regardless of your budget. A private guide, hired via your hotel's reception desk, might only cost you about $30-50* per day – money well-spent not only because you have someone to offer context and history into your sightseeing, but also because you can go at your own pace rather than follow the group. Want to save even more? Find the guide yourself and negotiate directly.
A Tuk Tuk for short rides and a car for longer journeys
A Tuk Tuk in Cambodia is not the “real” original Tuk Tuk used in Thailand, but everyone calls it that anyway. The real name of the vehicle is a Remourque, so here – add that to your secret stash of useless factoids.
Tuk-Tuks rides are super affordable ($1-2* for local rides) and they're perfect for traveling to temples or between your hotel and Pub Street, the hub of eateries and nightlife. Keep in mind, that Siem Reap is hot and dusty, so you will feel much better hiring a car for longer trips –to Bantay Srei and especially to Koh Ker.
Phnom Penh is well worth a look
Cambodia is more than just Angkor Wat or Ta Prohm, or all the attractions of Siem Reap. Your visit won't be complete without going to Phnom Penh, the bustling and hustling nation's capital that offers some serene and beautiful sights despite being overshadowed by its tragic past and seemingly endless construction projects in the present.
Brace yourself for Phnom Penh traffic
There is almost always heavy traffic in Phnom Penh, and you'll ride shoulder – to – shoulder with other riders in tuk-tuks, surrounded by sea of scooters.
Hiring a car or flagging a cab to take you for a few miles is not practical. A tuk-tuk more maneuverable and is much cheaper. Speaking of cheaper and even more maneuverable, there are moto-taxies as well, but I'll leave that mode of transportation to all the daredevils out there, as getting home in one piece is still high on my list of priorities.
Don't take a tuk-tuk to or from the airport, , though. Just get a ticketed cab. A ride into the city costs $12 to $18*, and you'll be glad to spend an hour or two (depending on traffic) in the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle.
What to see and do in Phnom Penh
There is no shortage of Phnom Penh to-do lists on the Internet, but here are a few andmarks that are a must-see:
National Museum of Cambodia, Genocide Museum and Killing Fields
National Museum of Cambodia includes some of te world's finest collection of Khmer sculpture and other renowned art. the museum is located in a beautiful terracotta house comprised of traditional elements and an enchanting courtyard.
Self-guided audio tours are available for the other two landmarks. They're narrated very well and include documentation, photos, and more.
The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
The Royal Palace grounds in Riverside are extensive and beautiful, and a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. Keep in mind, the complex is open from 7:30 am to 11:00 am and from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. This is the King's actual residence, so you will only have limited access to some, not all, buildings. Fortunately, the Throne Hall is one of them, and the Napoleon III Pavilion is another, and both are definitely worth visiting. Also, don't miss the Silver Pagoda, which houses the elaborate Gold, Silver, and Bronze statues of Buddha.
Flying to Cambodia
If you are planning on visiting both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, you might want to consider flying to Phnom Penh first. There is no nonstop service between the U.S. and Cambodia, but flights to the capital can sometimes offer lower airfares and better connection times.
All content provided in this blog is supplied by Andy Shuman and is for informational purposes only. Barclays makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.
*Prices may fluctuate over time. This article reflects price and estimates at time of production.
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