I had the opportunity to travel to the Kingdom of Cambodia with my family. This country, which is still included in ASEAN, is famous for its Angkot Wat which is included in the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. And indeed, Angkor Wat is what makes us and our family excited to visit Cambodia. Angkor Wat is located quite close to the city of Siem Reap. So, this city was our initial destination as well as our main goal when we decided to travel to Cambodia.
Although Angkor Wat is the main tourist destination in Siem Reap, it turns out that there are many other tourist attractions. During the heyday of the Khmer Empire, many buildings were built in this area – either for worship, study, or a place to live.
Well, in English articles and literature, the buildings around Siem Reap are called temples. But after I visited the buildings there myself, it felt the same as visiting the temples that were scattered all over the archipelago. So, for this article and the following, I will refer to all the ancient buildings from the Khmer Empire as temples. Hopefully, no one will object.
So, throughout my trip to Siem Reap, my visits were not far from going back and forth to the temples. Around Siem Reap, there are about 50 temple complexes, and not all of them are close together. Each complex also varies in area. Some are very broad like Angkor Wat, some are not too broad like Phnom Bakheng. Of course, with the limited visiting time, there is no way we can get everything. With that in mind, we decided to choose only certain temples.
Generally, hotels in Siem Reap provide tour travel packages. The cheapest option is definitely to use a tuk-tuk, a typical Cambodian vehicle. If you want something more comfortable, use a car. Travel packages usually include several clear tourist destinations. In my opinion, between one hotel and another, the package price is not much different. Most services are a little different.
Because I stayed in Siem Reap for three nights, so I had enough time to visit some temples. As a fan of ancient buildings, I will definitely not miss the temple tour packages offered by the hotel. If you walk alone you will definitely be confused about which one is famous and which one is normal.
The tour provided only includes Angkor Wat and several surrounding temples. If you are interested in finding a temple that is a bit far away, you can ask for additional from Banteay Srey. But if you want to go on your own, don’t use a tour, for example, just look for a tuk-tuk to the location and return, or want to ride a bicycle, it’s better to just visit the two most famous temples, namely Angkor Wat and Bayon. Those are two names that should not be missed. And what’s nice is, Angkor Wat and Bayon are only an hour’s walk away.
Apart from temples, there are also natural attractions that are quite close to Siem Reap, including the Phnom Kulen hills which have beautiful forests and waterfalls, and the Tonle Sap lake, which is the largest lake in Cambodia. Now, because I was traveling with my family and it was impossible to walk too far, we didn’t go to Phnom Kulen but instead went to Tonle Sap and took a boat to the lake. If on the boat, just sit down.
For a tour around the temple complex, the hotel where we stay provides two types of tours, namely a tour covering different temples. Since we had two full days in Siem Reap, so we took both of them.
The following are examples of tours provided by our hotel and the ones we took:
- Seeing the sunset in Phnom Bakheng
- Day tour to visit these temples (Small Circuit): Angkor Wat, Banteay Kdei, Sras Srang, Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, Bayon
- Tour to Banteay Srei
- Day tour visiting these temples (Big Circuit): Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup.
- Take a boat to Tonle Sap Lake
Several types of tours can be combined as long as the distance is not too far and the price is suitable. For those who don’t want to see too many temples, you can take the tour. Just call a tuk-tuk on the side of the road and negotiate the price to take to Angkor Wat and Bayon. Or ride a bike, if you can. The land is flat, but the distance is quite good.
Tour prices vary, depending on the hotel. At the hotel where I stayed, the Small Circuit and Big Circuit each cost USD 15 for a day (not accompanied by sunrise or sunset) if taking a tuk-tuk. If you ride a car, it’s more expensive. If you want to arrive early because you want to see the sunrise or come home late to see the sunset, there is an additional fee of USD 5. For tours outside the Small Circuit and Big Circuit, or for tours combined with other tours, the price is definitely more expensive. If there are four people in one group, it’s still not bad, the price can be divided into four.
Some may ask, why is the price in USD. The answer is: for tourists, from hotels, shops, to tuk-tuk drivers, everyone will ask to be paid in USD. If you pay using local money, usually the price is even more expensive than if you pay using USD. So, if you want to travel to Cambodia, you are required to bring small USD notes.
Back to tourist attractions in Siem Reap, there are many choices of tourist destinations. My advice is to browse first before leaving. So, you already know if you want to go where and how. Do you want to go on a tour, call tuk-tuk by the side of the road, or ride a bicycle? So don’t get confused.