actually, you don't need to change your US Dollars into Cambodian Riel since the US Dollar is a second Main Currency in here in the huge Angkor Archeological Complex and in Siem Reap and even the Market Vendors, Tuktuk Drivers, Restaurants and even beggars accept US Dollars but you must have smaller bills like $ 1, $ 4, $ 10 and $ 20 handy as they do not change bigger $ 50 or $ 100 bills and even US Dollar coins. If you have bigger US Dollar bills, then they might give you the Cambodian Riel Equivalent.
So Before going to the Angkor Archeological Complex from Siem Reap, have many small bills of $ 1, 5, 10 and 20 handy for paying meals, tipping drivers or hotel bellhops or tuktuk drivers and even beggars and for buying souvenirs too.
Fondest memory: A TIP! if you only have big US Dollar bills of $ 50 or 100, I suggest you change them into smaller bills at the Hotel Lobby of your hotel in Siem Reap into smaller bills and they will gladly change your bigger bills into smaller bills at NO CHARGE!
The Cambodian Riel is the Currency of Cambodia but the US Dollar is the second main currency. you don't need to change your US Dollars into Cambodian Riel since the US Dollar is the second main currency of Siem Reap, at the Angkor Archeological Park Complex and all establishments and even tuktuk drivers accept them and give you change in US Dollars (only the smaller $ 1, 5 and 10 bills ok. and no COINS!). some unscrupulous ones give you the Cambodian Riel as change.
you can change 1 US dollar into cambodian riel in several denominations as a souvenir like what I did hehehe.
Fondest memory: at present, 1 US Dollar is about 4,107 cambodian riel as of may 2012 exchange rates.
the riel bank notes available at present are: - 50 Riel, 100 Riel, 500 Riel, 1000 Riel, 2000 Riel, 5000 Riel, 10,000 Riel, 20,000 Riel, 50,000 Riel
there are no coins of riel denominations at present.
the roads inside this huge complex is a patch work of well paved roads, semi paved roads, dusty roads (i mean no asphalt, just bare earth and becomes muddy at the rainy season) roads and some jungle trails. The ride inside the complex will be bumpy specially if you are riding a tuk tuk around the area and is less bumpy if you are riding the bigger tour buses or a comfy private tour car. This patchwork of roads will not be a problem during the dry season months of november to may but will be a problem during the wet season months of may to october! (think really thick mud while walking in the rain, you need combat boots to go around instead of rubber shoes or flip flops). If is better to time your visit during the summer months to avoid the muddy contagion.
Fondest memory: the mish mash kind of roads in the Angkor Archeological Park area.
there are many ways of having a complete map of the Angkor Archeological Park, first is to download the maps via your smartphone (if you have one) for free at the wifi areas of your hotel. the second option is to get the assorted free tourist guides and brochures at Siem Reap as they will have pull out maps and even 3d maps of the angkor archeological park. Third option is by getting the free brochures at the ticket booths at the Entrance to the Angkor Archeological Park which have the maps, fourth option is by just relying on your tuk tuk driver (if you are backpacking) or your tour guide ( if you are with a tour package) as a human map around. the last option is to see the assorted guided maps that you see at several areas around the Angkor Complex.
Fondest memory: there are many options to get the maps and all of them are free! you don't need to buy an angkor guidebook!
if you plan walking the huge Angkor Complex north of Siem Reap (who else go to siem reap besides this ok) for 1 day tour or several days tour, it is best to have bottled water in your bags as walking the complex can get you dehydrated very fast due to the high humidity of Angkor Complex and the stiffling heat and the long walks and hikes along the Complex. There are stalls scattered around the complex that sells refreshments and bottled water but still, it is best that you bring some with you. If is cheaper to buy it at Siem Reap as the prices at the stalls lining the angkor complex tend to jack up prices.
Fondest memory: bottled water is available in Siem Reap since people here don't trust the tap water in the faucets. the bottled water is available in many sizes and made by different companies. sizes are 250 ml, 500 ml, 750 ml, 1 liter, 2 liter, 1 gallon. prices of the bottled water varies from 500 riel for a 250 ml bottle to 2,000 riel for a 1 liter bottle. they are available everywhere at the markets, convenience stores, along stalls in the Angkor Complex, hotels, etc.
a tip: if you are on a private tour package like us, they give you free bottled water everytime that are stored in coolers at the back of the private tour car.
Favorite thing: Passes are required to enter the Angkor area. They are on sale at the front gate, on the main road from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat, for 1-day ($20), 3-day ($40), or 7-day ($60) intervals. The 3-day pass is valid for any 3 days within a week, while the 7-day pass is valid for any 7 days within a month. You will have a photograph taken and printed on your pass to make sure they are non-transferable as they have valid from and to dates on. Regular checks for the pass are performed at almost all sites within the park, so carry your pass with you at all times. See my transport tips about how to get around the temples.
Favorite thing: There are supposedly 216 of these faces with the enigmatic smile in the Bayon. Some say they are representations of Avalokiteshvara, the universal manifestation of compassion. Jayavarman VII ruled for 38 years (1181-1219) and started Angkor Thom. Is this face, which is also found on the south gate, his instead?
I will never forget this for as long as I live. Back in 2000 I was a little bit late of getting out of Preah Khan. So I get on the bike with my guide and we head back to Siem Reap through Angkor Thom. The sun has already set and darkness is pretty much upon us. Suddenly my driver stops next to another moto driver in front of this temple.
Now I'm wondering, "WTF." The next thing I know, I see torches. Hundreds of monks with torches in two lines start to come out of the jungle and head towards the Bayon. It was magical. It was just me and the two other Cambodians with a procession of light streaming towards the ancient temple. It was so special that I didn't even want to take a picture of it. We were there for around 10 minutes before the flow of monks stopped. Wow! The only problem is that I have no idea what it was about.
Angkor Thum basically consists of Bayon Complex, Terrace of Elephants, Baphun & Phimeanakas only.
Of course the 4 infamous gates are part of the Angkor Thum boundary.
Angkor Wat, Preah Khan, Ta Prohm are not part of Angkor Thum.
Passes are sold in one-day ($20), three-day ($40) and seven-day ($60) blocks.
A one-day visit allows you to see the highlights of the most famous temples but very little more. Three days is sufficient to visit all of the major temples once, a few of the minor ones and have a little extra time at your favorites. Seven days is enough time to really explore some of your favorite ruins and visit many of the minor structures as well.
One passport-sized photo must be provided at time of purchase of three and seven day passes.
Favorite thing: If you have the chance to take a walk into the jungle (even a 15 minutes one), you will see these huge trees with these amazing roots. They say that between the roots is a good place to look for shelter if you are going out for a trekking journey... I must try that some day!
You don't have conventional tickets here. All the templeas around Angkor are considered within a huge tourist complex. So you buy a Pass for all of them, which allows you the entrance to any of the sites "from dawn till dusk" (no strict hours).
You can buy passes for 1 day (20USD), 3 days (40USD) or 1 week (60USD) at a little house on the right on the road from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat temple. You have to bring a passport pic for that.
As soon as you go out off the tourist roads and main paths you will find yourself in the middle of a thick jungle, with huge trees and green scenery all around.
This jungle covered all the temples after they were abandoned and it remained like that till the end of the 19th century, when they were discovered by the french. Now some of them, the most visited, are being restored by the UNESCO.
Favorite thing: These 12 towers are built in front of the North Kleang and are mostly falling down. They have wooden posts propped up against their sides to keep them from falling over. They do look quite cool all lined up. My photos of these were taken at the wrong angle into the sun!! Sorry about that!!
Favorite thing: Part way between the North Kleang and the Preah Pithu Group you will see these ruins...Really not much left except the base of the walls so you will have to use your imagination to guess what the buildings looked like at one time.