Fondest memory: On the first day of our visit to the temples of Angkor we encountered a clan of monkeys on the road between Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Our tuk tuk driver pulled over to the side of the road to allow us to check them out. The monkeys were obviously used to people. They were friendly and permitted us to get rather close. They were eating bananas and there were babies hanging off their mothers and playing with each other. It was my first encounter with wild monkeys so it was truly a special treat! Keep your eye out for the monkeys during your visit to Angkor.
Fondest memory: Although Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples are ancient, they are still active religious sites. Any temple with an existing Buddha will be adorned by the faithful. There are active monasteries throughout and you will certainly see monks and nuns attending to these sites. Additionally, monks from outside Angkor make a regular pilgrimage to these holy sites so it is not unusual to encounter theme exploring the temples along side the other tourists. The monks and nuns in residence will allow you to participate in a blessing, for a donation, which is an unique experience. When encountering a monk or nun, please ask for permission before taking a picture, as some do not wish to be photographed. Many of the visiting monks, clad in their saffron robes, are here as part of a solemn religious pilgrimage, but as we learned, all Buddhist men must serve as a monk at least once in their life so some of the monks we encountered acted more like tourists than religious pilgrims and were just as excited to take pictures of and with other tourists as we were.
Favorite thing: There are several options for public bathrooms at Angkor Wat. If you are standing with your back to Angkor Wat there are vendors and food stalls are located to the right inside the complex. There is also an active monastery near the stalls with public bathrooms, but be sure you have money with you, as the children of the monastery will lead you to the bathrooms and then request payment, but this money goes to the monastery. There is also a public bathroom on the opposite side of the complex directly across from the monastery and vendors. This stall was free of charge and lacked tourists.
There are communities of people who actually live on the grounds of the temples of Angkor. They are the descendants of the peoples who built these majestic temples. The children of these people can be found hanging out in the temples or helping their parents at the stands selling their wares inside the complex. On our second day we met several children, most of them were trying to sell us a scarf or trying to get us to have breakfast at their parent’s stand. But we had a lot of fun with these kids. In the dark, while we were waiting for sunrise over Srah Srang, two little girls took my hand and guided me to the bathroom and back. They were such sweet girls that I was compelled to have breakfast with them and Marc had breakfast at another nearby stand with the kids he had befriended.
Since many of the families make their money selling food or goods to the tourists visiting Angkor, these children will try and sell to you. They can be very persistent. Just simply tell them you are not interested. You may have to repeat this several times, but just don’t make any empty promises to shut them up. They will remember. But have fun and enjoy the beautiful children of Angkor during your visit.
While Angkor Wat looks magnificent from afar, it does no justice for Bayon from afar.
You need to climb the small steps up the Bayon temple to appreciate the beautiful four face towers of Bayon.
The difference of just viewing from a distance to climbing and seeing close up is as different as night and day. Let me know if your experience on this is otherwise.
If you are fit and fairly unafraid of height, take care and climb up the steps of many of the temples.
The view from the top is different. You will see the layout of the temple complex and horizon beyond to appreciate better the size and planning involved.
If not, give your camera to someone going up there to take a few shots for you.
Another must take photo of course is the giant trees growing over the temples, example the famous ones at Ta Prohm.
It is unfortunate, many of the trees are dying or cut with their remnant roots left. They will not be there forever and so take your photos while they last.
I was amazed by the narrow gateway with a bridge with warrior heads on both sides that leads into Angkor Thom and Angkor Thom.
Make sure you stop here to enjoy the view if it is not part of your tour. Another must Kodak spot to take a photo of this dramatic gateway.
As Angkor Wat has become a major world tourist destinations, it is impossible to avoid the crowd and hordes of noisy tourists completely.
Checked with your concierge or tour guides, the less busier time or less comonly visited temples. Also sunrise, sunset and cooler mornings and late afternoons are peak time.
You can take advantage of lunch time, hot periods of the day or when it is raining to have fewer other tourists to jostle with.
Many of the temples were neglected and pieces strewn all over. Others were damaged by nature or man. So it was fantastic that many international organizations have spent years to carefully document pieces, repaired, replaced and restored them into their past splendor.
So I could see cut lines of blocks on many walls and statues as they were removed and put back again. Initially I was disappointed that there not in their original pristine state.
One of the things I cannot forget about Cambodia is the visible poverty.
Tourism has become a major earner and as a typical tourist, we often spent most of tourist dollars on major hotels, airlines, tour agencies which are owned by richer, elite and top business community of the country.
So it is a great idea to allocate part of your travel budget to buy souvenir directly from the local poor. You can always give your souvenir away to friends, colleagues as gifts or Christmas presents.
Favorite thing: Angkor WAT conservation and restoration efforts are on, in coordination with Apsara authority of Cambodia and UNESCO. Angkor Wat is one of the UNESCO World heritage sites and funds keep pouring from UNO and many countries.
No visa is required for Malaysians who make short visit Cambodia.
You need to fill in two forms - one for immigration and the other one for custom declaration.
For those flying AirAsia, get these forms from the check-in counter at LCCT, KLIA.
For foreigners, do not splash all your USD shopping. Keep USD25 for the Passenger Service Tax. You need to pay this before they let you out of the country.
Then again, they do accept major credit card. So, go ahead and splash.
Ensure you drink enough water. All the temple hopping activities can leave your body dehydrated.
Price comparison from a local convenient store
Evian (1.5L) USD 1.90
Spritzer (1.5L) USD 1.50
Locally processed drinking water 6 bottles for USD 2.50
Isotonic or sport drinks like Gatorade and 100plus are imported and cost a bomb.