The blog has been quite temple-rich recently. I have been out on photo tours, and temples just happen to be picturesque. Food and wine is as well, but since I have waited to visit Angkor Wat for so long, I thought it should have its own post, even on a wine-blog. Finally I have had a chance to edit some photos, that are nice to share, as well as I thought of sharing a few tips for those who are planning to visit. I didn’t take that much time to plan our visit, and that was perhaps the thing I would change if I would travel there again.
First and foremost, arriving to Siem Ream is very simple. Simpler than one would think of Cambodia. The airport is nice and modern, and the immigration office is manned with an army off officers for a swift process. You can get a visa on arrival for people travelling from Sweden and Finland, but you should come prepared with a passport photo. We didn’t, but as other online guides had already instructed us, for a few dollars, the immigration officers just scanned the photos in our passports. No hassle at all. We were through in 10 minutes.
Taxi prices at the airport are regulated, so we just bought a ticket from the counter, and a taxi drove us to our hotel for a fixed fee of 10 USD. Ah yes, good to mention: in Siem Reap, USD is the currency in general use. All prices are in dollars, and it is even hard to be able to use the local currency for coffee. Everyone wants cash and everyone wants dollars.
Visiting the temples is really a several day trip. You can probably do quite a lot in a day, but temple-fatigue kicks in after four to five hours. The best times to visit are early in the morning (gates open at five am and close at six pm) and after 3pm. There are several types of tickets available, and they get cheaper the longer you stay. My three day pass with unlimited entries to the park cost 62 USD, while Ms pass for one day cost 37 USD. There are also seven day passes available. A good thing to know before visiting is that there is also a dress code. Knees and shoulders should be covered, and a scarf is not sufficient.
There are several ways to get around the park, walking is not one of them. The distances are long, so you need some kind of wheels under you. The bravest bike around, but the rest of us resort to tuktuks and cars. We booked a private tour with a guide for the first day, where a car and driver was included. That cost 70 USD and was well worth it. If you want to explore by yourself, a driver for half a day costs from 20 (tuktuk) to 40 USD (car). The drivers seem to have quite a steady price-level, and they do not try to cheat. There are some differences in peak and off-peak hours. After 3pm the rides are a bit cheaper.
After a day in the park, I started understanding the size of it; and after three days I still hadn’t ventured to the farthest edges. It is those edges that still haunt me a bit, calling me back to visit them another day. Angkor Wat, Angkor Tom and Ta Phrom are the busiest temples, but there are some gems hidden in the jungle that get less attention, like Ta Nei and Preah Khan. The temples open and close at different hours, so if you are planning to start early or late, it is wise to see where you can get in. Angkor Wat is the first to open (5am) for those who want to experience the sunrise.
In addition to Angkor Wat, there was not that much else for us in Siem Reap. Our visit was just for three days, and that was perfect. I was worried at first that I would come to a site that is completely trampled down by tourists, but it was not. There is still much left to see. M told me that he had actually visited Angkor Wat 20 years ago for the first time. That must have been an experience. And it still is, at least it was for me. And I have some nice pictures to remind me of it.
P.S. The Sofitel in Siem Reap has a decent wine list and a good kitchen, so I would recommend that for accommodation.