Angkor Archeological Park

Angkor Wat is one of Asia’s leading tourist attractions and the Cambodians have learnt how to make the most of their asset.

A visit to this UNESCO World Heritage site is not cheap.  A one-day entrance ticket costs USD20 per head. On top of that, the taxi drivers at the airport make out that the only way to get round this massive complex (400 is by taxi/mini bus for which you are charged another USD30. Then you need a guide for whose services you can expect to pay USD25 or so. So for two of us I ended up paying about USD100 which is a lot of money to see what my Mum would describe as ‘a pile of old bricks’.

Still I would not have missed it and as Cambodia is a poor country it is good to spread some money around.

However if I were to go again or advise someone else, I would rent a bike in Siem Reap, which is only 6km away, for USD1.50 per day and cycle round the complex rather than hiring a driver. That way you have more freedom to go as you please,  you will probably see more than you would in the van and you get some exercise too. Also I would recommend visiting the excellent Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap the day before you go to Angkor Wat. The museum will teach all the background you need to enjoy your temple trip and you can dispense with the guide. Or, if you don’t want to fork out the steep USD12 Museum entrance fee you could just buy a guide book.

There are a couple of hundred temples, pagodas and ruins within the Angkor Archeological Park of which only one is called Angkor Wat. On our day trip we visited just 3 temples (though actually that was enough for me and my son). These 3 were the popular favourites: the main Angkor Wat, the so-called jungle temple or Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom which includes the famous Bayon temple.

Here are a couple of photos of each.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

Angkor Thom (east gate) and Bayon Temple

Angkor Thom  East Gate


It is well worth visiting if you haven’t already. There is a lot of restoration work going on so you could argue that the longer you leave it the better it will get.

Siem Reap

My son and I have recently returned from a few days in Cambodia. The prosperous town of Siem Reap, which is on the doorstep of Cambodia’s most famous attraction Angkor Wat, is only 2 hours away by direct flight from Kuala Lumpur and AirAsia were offering reasonably priced hotel and flight packages.

Siem Reap can be translated as ‘defeat of Siam (Thailand)’. That’s not very tactful – not surprising the two neighbours are at loggerheads over a disputed border. It would be like London naming its landmarks after victories over the French like Waterloo or Trafalgar.

Despite its war-filled history and more recent tragedies I found the Cambodians to be very friendly and hospitable and Siem Reap is well worth visiting for a few days.

It’s easy to walk around, the traffic is fairly light, there are colourful markets, interesting temples, a crocodile farm and a surprising number of quality restaurants, bars and spas (of the respectable sort). The town is heaving with foreign tourists from all over the world who come to see Angkor Wat. Many are well-heeled and there are plenty of upmarket hotels to accommodate them but there are also backpackers, gap-year students and more thrifty travellers.

Here are a few photos (I will include Angkor Wat in a separate post later):

Pool at the Grand Hotel D'Angkor

This is where we didn’t stay – the Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor. Maybe next time.

Steung Siem Reap Hotel

We stayed here at the Steung Siem Reap Hotel. Very comfortable and excellent value at about USD30 per night including breakfast for two. And it is in the heart of the old town with the Old Market, Pub Street and stacks of restaurants on our doorstep.

Old Market

The Old Market sells touristy stuff as well as being an active (and rather pongy) wet market for the locals.

Tuk tuk driver having a kip kip.

Tuk-tuks are the most popular way of getting around. Their design is different from the Thai variety.

Elegant French Restaurant

One of the many smart restaurants in Siem Reap. This one, Le Malraux, appeared to be owned or run by a Frenchman.

Seafood curry and pizza.

I found the Cambodian food to be very tasty and not as fiery as I expected.

In Cambodia they sell Angkor and Anchor.

Angkor beer is very drinkable and, at the happy hour price of 50 US cents, it is the cheapest thing on the drinks menu.

Seems a bit cruel!

At the crocodile farm, the crocodile food was way more expensive but we did not fancy taking part in the barbaric spectacle of feeding them with live animals.

Alongside the Siem Reap River.

Having a UNESCO World Heritage site at nearby Angkor is helping to drag Siem Reap’s population out of poverty but not everyone has been able to share in the prosperity yet.

They make nice jewellery from my horns.

Cross the Old Market bridge and keep walking and you will soon be out in the countryside as we found out when I took my son for a 5km strollette.

A rural temple.

This lesser visited temple looks like it has a thatched roof from this distance.

Clever marketing.

This business knows how to pull at the heart-strings of the passing tourist. Who could resist buying something?

I would certainly recommend visiting Siem Reap. By the way the airport is clean, modern, efficient and hassle-free and obtaining a Cambodian visa online is easy.

Old Market Area.