Siem Reap: 30 December 2009 - 3 January 2010

(work in progress)

Siem Reap turned out to be everything I expected and more:
- the temples were so much bigger and more majestic than I imagined that I gave up climbing after the first day, and
- I got scammed on this trip.

At Angkor Wat

Day 1: 30 December

I flew in to Siem Reap by Silkair from Da Nang. The cabin crew did not distribute immigration forms during the flight so there was a mad rush to get the forms filled out. It was the start of a long weekend so, as expected, there were long queues to get through immigration.


By the time I cleared immigration, it was after 6pm and already dark outside - not an ideal time for finding a guesthouse/hotel (I did not re-book one). There was a money changer at the airport but I figured it's the worst place to change currencies so I skipped it.

There was a counter at the airport to get tickets for a taxi or motorbike to town. A taxi to town costs USD7 while a motorbike costs USD2. I only had one haversack with me so I opted for a motorbike. I got a ticket and a driver was assigned. The driver made some small talk. He told me that he's a student and drives to earn money to fund his education and to help raise his siblings. Then he asked whether I had any accommodation booked. When I said no, he asked me what my budget was and offered to call his friend who runs a guesthouse. I said my budget was USD15-20. He commented that most guesthouses would be full at this time of the year. He said he would help me to find another one if his friend's guesthouse was full.

We arrived at his friend's guesthouse - WatsUp Guesthouse (please don't stay here! read to the end). The place was basic but clean. His friend said the rate was USD20 per night. I asked for a discount and he said he could include breakfast for the same price. It was already rather late in the evening so I agreed to stay there.

WatsUp Guesthouse


The driver then asked me what my plans for the next day were. When I replied that I didn't have plans, he suggested that he could take me to the temples and be a guide for USD60 for 3 days. Now, USD60 was a shocker for me. That's almost SGD90! I told him it was too expensive and I didn't want a 3-day tour.

He then said that he could reduce the price to USD18 per day. I asked for USD15 and he agreed. I thought USD15 was a reasonable price to pay for transportation and a guide. About 10 minutes later, he changed it and said he was not available the next day and would assign his friend to take me instead. I wasn't so sure at this point because what if I can't understand a word his friend is saying? Then I would have wasted USD15. He assured me that his friend speaks very good English. He said he would call his friend out to go for dinner together and he would pay for dinner.

He brought me to a local beer garden where the locals hang out. He order beef fried rice and beef loklat.

Beef fried rice USD2 (left) and beef loklat USD2 (right)

It turned out that his friend's English wasn't that good. I was prepared to still go along with it but then came the next change of plan. He said his friend is only a driver, doesn't know any stories and can't walk with me in the temples. I questioned why I was going to be paying US$15! I didn't argue too much because I still needed a ride back to the guesthouse and his friend was sitting right there with the discussion about why he wasn't good enough. Anyway, I agreed in the end since it was just a 1-day engagement. He said he would take me around in the evening at no extra charge after he is done with other tourists. (I was trying to figure out what he wanted. Nobody gives something for nothing).

Day 2: 31 December
What a great place to be on new year's eve!

It was fortunate that I brought a printed map of the Angkor archaeological park otherwise I won't know which temple I was at. The entire "park" consists of many temples. It wasn't my objective to visit all the temples, but just a few selected ones. I was targeting to visit Angkor Wat, a temple with large trees growing on them, and a temple with gaint carvings of faces. It's not that expensive to fly to Siem Reap from Singapore so I can always make another trip here to visit the other temples. Besides, how many temples do I want to visit?! There are more than 50 temples/sights in the Angkor Archaeological Park area in Siem Reap! It's pure madness to attempt to visit all and not drop dead at the end.

Map of Angkor Archaeological Park (click to enlarge)

Temples visited today:
- Angkor Wat (notable carvings)
- Thommanon
- Ta Keo (got to climb it)
- Ta Prohm (Trees growing from temple ruins and giant carvings of faces)
- Banteay Kdei (Trees growing from temple ruins and giant carvings of faces)
- Sras Srang
These temples are located along what the locals call the "inner circle". If you look at the map, you will notice that there is a road that is somewhat circular that passes round these temples.

Some translations:
Banteay - fortress or citadel. Often indicates a monastic complex or flat temple style.
Phnon - hill or mountain
Prasat - tower
Preah - sacred
Wat - temple or pagoda
Baray - a water reservoir
Thom - big

Outside Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Monks at Angkor Wat

Family having a picnic at Angkor Wat

Hope they didn't sit on any shit

Fortune-telling in Angkor Wat (notice the lady on the right)

Fortune-telling in Angkor Wat

Pillar and beam in Angkor Wat

Dancer carving on wall in Angkor Wat

Writings on pillar in Angkor Wat

Tourist and tour guide observing carvings on pillar in Angkor Wat. Official tour guides wear uniforms

Carving on pillar in Angkor Wat

Carving on pillar in Angkor Wat

Carving on wall in Angkor Wat. There is a story behind each carving.

Carvings can be found on all 4 sides of the outer walls of the temple

Reconstructed ceiling.

Ceiling reconstruction is needed to protect the wall carvings from being destroyed by sun and rain

If you want your picture taken with you on a horse, you have to pay

Local boy amusing himself at Angkor Wat

Mother dog and her puppies at a house in Angkor Wat - at a path to the left of the picture taken above with the running boy.

Angkor Wat was great! I had to move on to the next temple. Normally, people would visit Angkor Thom next but it looked pretty big so I opted to skip it for today and do it the next day instead.

The next temple I visited was the Thommanon. It's a very small temple. It just takes a few minutes to walk round it.


A step at Thommanon. Notice that it looks similar to the one I saw at My Son Holyland at Hoi An

Let sleeping dogs lie. They don't attack tourists.

Ta Keo

What do you do when you see a flight of stairs?

This lady from China was more concerned about shading herself from the sun then falling off the stairs

This is what you find at the top level of the temple. The lady from China in the background is celebrating her conquest

I took a picture as proof of my conquest

This local boy was at ease running up the steps, trying to sell postcards to tourists.

Climbing down the steps were scarier than climbing up. The boy in the picture above pointed out which parts of the steps were easier to climb down. He was selling postcards. When I reached ground level, he asked me whether I wanted to buy postcards. There are many local adults and children selling books, scarves, bags, postcards and souvenirs. I bought nothing from them but this boy tore at my heartstrings; I paid USD1 this boy for a set of postcards. He did help me to get down safely and I found him very cute and hardworking when he pointed out a few things I could take pictures of like carvings on the wall and statues. It's a good idea for him to help a tourist down and then try to sell postcards (local sell books to tourists after guiding them along the Great Wall of China too).

At the entrance of the next temple, Ta Prohm, I found this giant Buddha face carving. To get an idea of how big it is, use the woman's body size as a reference. Ta Prohm seems to be one of the most-frequently photographed temples. This giant Buddha face carving and the giant trees growing on the temples walls are more mystical than they appear in pictures. The whiteness of the tree barks give the temples a magical feel about them.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

There are many many trees. I didn't insert all the pictures of huge trees because it bores me to look at the pictures so I'm sure it would bore you too. Being there in person was great but looking at pictures aren't so exciting - you can't get the full effect how awesome the trees are.

Some parts of the temple were under restoration. Maybe they will be fixed up by the next time I visit.

Front of temple under restoration

(to be continued)

Cost (USD)
30 Dec
Guesthouse $20
Motorbike taxi $2

31 Dec
3-day pass $
Motorbike driver $15
Guesthouse $20

1 Jan
Leg massage 1 hour $7
Documentary movie at night market $3
Guesthouse $20

2 Jan
4-hand full body massage 1 hour $14
Guesthouse $8 Green town guesthouse 855 063964974 #0182 Wat Bo street, wat bo village, Salakamroeuk Commune, Siem Reap
Dinner $1
Drink $1

3 Jan
Breakfast $5

Hotel alternatives:
Neth Socheata Angkor guesthouse
855 63963294
855 12686171
#10, St 2 Thnou, Mondol I Village, Svay Dangkum Commune, Siem Reap

#10 lodge guesthouse
Watdamnak village, salakamroeuk Commune, Siem Reap province
tel: 016 555 542, 855 012 973 811 (near old market, across Siem Reap river)

Suggested itinerary:


Anonymous said...

thought that u already posted everything? haha...

Patrick said...

Why not you go to Culture Village (near to airport) to have a introduciton of Cambodia b4 enter to the Park? It will create more understanding about everything plus you also can join their activities in the village and have fun with them.

Yu-Kym said...

Anon, these are not everything. Still got 2nd day at temples leh. And there are many temples which I did not visit on this trip.

Patrick, honestly I didn't know it exists :P But now knowing it, I didn't know whether I would have visited. Depends on my mood at that time.

Jo said...

Just like the scene from the game Tomb Raider ..:p

Rock Hard said...

Nothing but ruins.

Anonymous said...

Rock Hard,

You call Angkor Wat "nothing but ruins"? Gosh...I suppose you have visited the sites too and came away concluding that they are just a pile of boulders and meaningless. sheeeesh. Well to each his own just as I see a work of modern art painting with stupig amusement too. lol

silli cat