Siem Reap is the gateway to the number 1 tourist site of the world – the Angkor Wat. People flock to this place because of these ancient temples, made even more popular by the Angelina Jolie movie Tomb Raider. With the Manila-Siem Reap flight offering of a local airline company, we Filipinos no longer need to make a 6-hour land travel from the Cambodian capital to this magical place. Promo flights can cost you as low as P3,500. Accommodation and food shouldn’t bother you because this place is affordable (you can book a hostel for P500 a night and eat for as low as P100).
For first timers, here are some travel tips to help you with your planning:
Airport and City/Town Centre. Siem Reap airport is not really as complicated as the Incheon or Narita airports. It is comparable to Ha Noi and Cebu airports. It only takes you 10minutes to go to the centre of Siem Reap through a tuktuk ride. Roads are well-maintained.
Accommodation. The high-end hotels are near the airport but far from the city centre. Hostels and guesthouses are in the heart of everything – pubs, night markets, and the city centre itself.
Food. I believe that amok is the unofficial national dish of the Cambodians. The locals eat a lot of veggies and I think, they are fond of sweetened viands. When I was there, I did not see many obese or fat Cambodians, so they must be good when it comes to nutrition and staying fit.
Dollar. When you go to Siem Reap, all you need is a bunch of US dollars. You don’t have to exchange your money to the local currency.The groceries are equipped with machines that are capable of telling you the amount in the local money and US dollars. Very convenient!
Philippine connection. Some of the kids near the temples sell souvenir items and they accept Philippine pesos. When I asked one of the kids how did he know about Philippine peso, he told me that his teacher is a Filipino. Philippine brands, TV shows and celebrities are very prominent in establishments, billboards and the streets.
Temples. If you are going to visit all the temples in Siem Reap including those in nearby towns, a week is not enough. The temples and pagodas can get you excited, but after three or four, you get burnt out from the stairs and the carvings, unless, of course, if you are an archaeologist or historian. So I made a list of my favourite temples and what I think are worth of your time.
1. Angkor Wat. The magnificent temple is the centrepiece of all the temples in Siem Reap. Most tourists go here early in the morning for a sunrise view. Upon entering the complex, go to the left side, at the porch of one of the smaller temples. Unfortunately, if you only have a camera phone or a not so high-end camera, you end up having a picture with heads or bodies as the foreground. After the sunrise viewing, you can go inside the temple. The topmost portion is closed during Buddha Day. So make sure to check it with your tour guide.
2. Angkor Thom. Inside the Angkor Thom complex are the magnificent Phimeanakas, Baphuon and the widely-popular Bayon that features carved stone faces.
3. Banteay Srei. This is also referred to as The Lady Temple. The most notable feature of the temple is intricate and fine carvings.
4. Ta Phrom. If you have seen the first Lara Croft movie, then there is a great chance that what you remember is a picture of Ta Phrom temple – roots growing on the temples.
5. Bakheng. Sunset is best viewed from this temple. However, you have to line up as early as 3 o’clock in the afternoon to be able to get inside because only 300 guests are allowed at any given time. This is monitored through a laced ID given to every visitor.
Others. There are three markets in Siem Reap that offer souvenir items and Cambodian goods at affordable prices. If you have a Cambodian friend who can accompany you in scouting cheap items, then you can go to the Big Market. If you prefer buying souvenir items on your own, the Old Market is a good option. At night, you can go to the Night Market.