*Brief* Modern History of Cambodia
Favorite thing: Cambodia was ruled by Prince Sihanouk until 1970 when he was overthrown by Lon Nol, a military General who brings democracy to the nation. During Lon Nol's rule, the US and South Vietnamese attack Cambodia to stop the North Vietnamese insurgents from invading South Vietnam. This creates unrest among the people.
In April of 1975, the communist Khmer Rouge take over the capital city, Phnom Penh, and force most of the people out of the city to work on the farms. Tens of thousands of Cambodians are executed as enemies of the state.
In 1979, the communist Vietnamese, fresh off their victory over the US, invade Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge destroy many Vietnamese border towns. The Vietnamese occupy the country with continuous skirmishing for ten years, until 1989. During this occupation, the lives of the average Cambodian improves, and many take this opportunity to flee to Vietnam, Thailand, and eventually the US in case the Khmer Rouge return to power.
In 1991, Prince Sihanouk, with UN backing, returns to power, bringing relative peace and stability to the country for the first time in 16 years.
Fondest memory: Read Luong Ung's book "First They Killed My Father" for an excellent--and heart breaking-- first-hand account of this period of Cambodian history.
This web site also has a great history since 1975:
- Study Abroad
- Historical Travel
Maps of Angkor Archeological Park
Favorite thing: 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!Related to:
- Theme Park Trips
Roads inside Angkor Archeological Park
Favorite thing: 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.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
Charles De Gaulle Boulevard (Angkor Wat Road)
Favorite thing: there are many roads going to the Angkor Archeological Park and all of these roads have checkpoints to see if you have an entry pass to see the wonderful archeological sites in this vast 250 square kilometer complex, however, the main entrance to the Angkor Complex is via the Charles de Gaulle Boulevard (also known as Angkor Wat Road) that begins at the junction of National Road 6 and Pokambor Avenue in siem reap and it starts at the intersection where the royal residence is located and it goes as a straight line for 7 kilometers up to the entrance where you will have to buy the entrance tickets (you can buy a single day pass or a three day pass or a 1 week pass at $ 20, $ 40 and $ 60 prices respectively). After that, start shooting pictures and videos away!
Fondest memory: the mish mash kind of roads and trails at the angkor archeological complexRelated to:
- Road Trip
Favorite thing: Angkor Wat is a world famous UNESCO heritage site. Its ruins date back to the 12th century, and it was built to celebrate Hinduism and the Khmer empire. The nearest city is Siam Reap, it is revered by Cambodians that much that it appears on the national flag.
Favorite thing: At Ta Prohm, the main attraction are the trees — in some places they've displaced the walls completely, leaving their roots to form the archways and roofs that were once made of stone. Two species predominate, but sources disagree on their identification: the larger is either the silk-cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra) or thitpok Tetrameles nudiflora, and the smaller is either the strangler fig or Gold Apple. Whatever they are, they provide a magical photogenic and atmospheric combination, growing out of the ruins amongst the jungle surroundings.
Rebuilding Ta Prohm
Favorite thing: When I visited Ta Prohm in December 2008, there was a fairly large section corded off to the public and a lot of rebuilding happening. As well as reconstructing large sections of the temple, they were also cleaning the stone work. Now the whole beauty of Ta Prohm is that it has been left to the jungle and, in fact, the jungle is holding it together in places. Reconstruction is one thing but to actually clean the stone work so that it stands out a mile compared with the rest of the temple seems, in my eyes, to be a silly idea as the cleaned parts just don't look right when seen against unclean parts. They should just leave it alone.
An Excellent Licensed Guide for Angkor Wat
Favorite thing: VT member, Eithwe, helped me find an English speaking guide for the Angkor temples and Siem Reap area. So Peng Thai is a freelance, licensed guide for the Angkor temples. Not only is he very well educated and knowledgeable, but he is also just a nice person to be around. In Mar 09 the typical rate for licensed guides in the hotels was $25/day. Peng Thai (So is his surname) charged $20, probably because he was self-employed and did not have company overhead.
He met me at my hotel each morning and was always early. I thoroughly enjoyed all four days that he was my guide. He was flexible about what and when to see things, so that we could avoid the crowds. When convenient, we would also take a mid-afternoon break while it was hot and then go back to touring when it started to cool off. Peng Thai was also very patient with all my picture taking and often volunteered to take pictures of me so that I could be in certain scenes. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org [sic] and his phone numbers are (855) 12 60 30 94 and (855) 17 36 96 12. I give Peng Thai my highest recommendation.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- National/State Park
Excellent and Safe Tuk Tuk Driver for Angkor Sites
Favorite thing: In addition to a licensed guide for Angkor, you will need transportation. My guide, Peng Thai, booked our tuk tuk driver through the travel desk at the Mandalay Inn where I was staying in Siem Reap. BTW, I prefer tuk tuk's because it is easy to take pictures even when you are moving and because it is easier to stop anywhere you want. Sophen was my tuk tuk driver for 3 of the 4 days that I toured the Siem Reap area and he also took me to the airport. He got very good at anticipating where I would want to take pictures and would intentionally slow down. I think he must be licensed also since he always put on a vest (#6214) when we went into the Angkor Archaeological Park.
Sophen could not make it one day. His replacement that day was okay but drove too fast and went past some places where I wanted to stop (he could not hear me, I guess). Sophen charged the going rate ($12/day) for the Angkor temples. Banteay Srei is another $5, if you wish to go there, which I did. It was $4 to go to the airport. He was very reliable and right on time for my early (6 AM) departure to the airport. I felt very lucky to tour with Peng Thai and Sophen. They are both very nice gentlemen.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- National/State Park
Small Tour vs Grand Tour
Favorite thing: Tuk-tuk and motorbike drivers that take you to Angkor will advise you to take the Small Tour and/or the Grand Tour with them. These tours are loops through the Angkor zone and take you to the different temples. It is advisable to take the Small Tour when you're in Angkor for only one day as you will then see all the very important temples: Angkor Wat, the Bayon, the Terrace of Elephants, Thommanon and its twin temple, Ta Keo, Banteay Kdei and Ta Prohm. Unfortunately, you'll miss Preah Khan. Taking the Grand Tour will take you to some temples that are a little further away from the centre of the zone: Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon and Pre Rup. Drivers will also ask you if you want to extend the tour to some temples outside the zone like the Roluos group - of course only for some extra money.
We did both tours and were convinced that the Small Tour is the better one by far. Not only do you see the main temples, but it's also less driving and more temple action. Or, in a nutshell, better value for your money. This doesn't mean that the Grand Tour is crap, but if you're in Angkor only briefly, take the other one. With a 3-day-pass, you could take both tours and a day by bicycle which enables you to stay where you want how long you want. This is what we did, and it was a great way to avoid being "templed out"! A tuk-tuk driver doing the tour should cost you about 11-15$ per day.
PS: This map shows you both tour loops - the red one is the Small Tour, the green one is the Grand Tour.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Favorite thing: Make the climb to the third level. Take time to wander round the hallways and enjoy the view from the top!
Fondest memory: When I reflect back on the whole experience of Angkor, I most enjoyed sitting back with a cool drink looking from the pool just left of the main walkway towards the temple, admiring the grandeur, beauty and symetry of one of the greatest religious structures ever built.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Siem Reap Transportation and money changers
Favorite thing: I assume you are talking about Angkor wat temple, which is the main temple to visit in Siem Reap temple complex. There are other temples as well, like Angkor Thom, Pra Thom etc. Generally, visitors would like to visit all main temples and there are 10-15 such temples which you would like to visit. Most of these temples are close to Siem reap town, where you would be staying in all probability. Hence they can be visited by taxi or TukTuk (a cheaper variety of taxi). Once you make arrangement for accomodation in Siem Reap, your hotel would almost always make arrangement for your airport transfers. Once you reach the hotel, you can ask the reception people to arrange for the taxi/tuktuk. Alternatively, you can just walk on the street and the taxi drivers will stop you to enquire about your taxi needs. You dont have to search for them. Before you walk on the street to flag down the taxi/tuktuk, do your homework well. Enquire about the taxi rates for the full day, before you embark on your mission. Once you have picked up a driver, he can be your guide for your entire stay in Siem Reap, if you so wish. Most of the drivers are able to speak English, although it may take some time to understand their accent.
ATM's are fairly common in the bank premises. If you are carrying USD, then you don't have to worry, as almost all establishments accept USD. There are money changers too, on the streets of Siem Reap, specially around the central market area. You should know the prevailing exchange rates before you enter these exchanges, to makeure you dont get poor rates.
Please check out my pages on Siem Reap. You will get useful tips there.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
HOW TO SEE ALL OF ANGKOR IN 3-1/2 DAYS
Favorite thing: people always ask me how long they should stay in order to see everything without rushing or taking too long. in my opinion, the following rough schedule is the best and most efficient.
sample schedule: arrive tuesday morning then leave friday morning.
TUESDAY. flights usually arrive in siem reap in the morning so check in your hotel and have lunch. then spend the entire afternoon in angkor wat, the main temple grounds are vast so it'll take a bit of time to take it all in. plus, you have to climb to the top of the temple for an experience not to be missed.
WEDNESDAY- start early and visit the bayon, ta prohm, and all the other temples in angkor thum and both east and west barays.
THURSDAY- start early again (and view sunrise from angkor wat if you can wake up in time) then take the hour-long drive to banteay srei and banteay samre. then go back and spend sunset atop phnom bakheng.
FRIDAY- take the morning flight out.
i think anything less will be too tight and anything more might get you bored. please remember that this schedule will work if you really want to appreciate the temples and not just breeze through.
Cambodian Monney: the RIEL
Favorite thing: Everywhere in Cambodia you can pay with US$ and normally the change will be given to you in local Riel.
But for small expenses like a Tuk Tuk or some drinks, you can always pay with Riel.
The rate is about 4000 Riel for one US$ and 5000 Riel for one Euro. The smallest banknote starts with 50 Riel, but you don't see them often.
Most frequent is 1000Riel, (4 in one $) and it's good to have some in your pocket for tips.
Remind that the average wage in Cambodia is about 2 us$/day, so when you give one $, they are very happy !
Everywhere in the streets you can change dollars in Riel, in small boutiques like this one,see under, often just before a goldboutique.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Business Travel
- Women's Travel
Take a Ride Through the Cambodian Countryside
Fondest memory: One of our favorite days was our third day in Angkor. We knew nothing about the more remote sites in the park (Banteay Srey and Kbal Spean) but our driver, Happy, suggested a trip out. Since the sites are quite some distance from Siem Reap there’s a long drive through the Cambodian countryside to reach them. The ride, although bumpy and dusty as the majority of the roads this far out aren’t paved, gave us an unique opportunity to not only to view the beautiful landscape of this country, but to observe local customs and culture and interact with locals firsthand. We saw a wedding procession waking down the main street of a small village and Cambodian women paving a dirt road by hand. Local children helped push our tuk tuk across a makeshift bridge that had been “repaired” by depositing cement and pottery fragments into the hole. And we even got a peek inside the home of a family kind enough to let us use their bathroom. I had tried to pee on the side of the road behind a bush but some local children were so fascinated by us that they wouldn’t give me any privacy. We were greeted with warm smiles and friendly waves from all the people as we rode by in our tuk tuk and touched by the generosity and gracious nature of the Cambodian people.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Jungle and Rain Forest
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