Fondest memory: You have to do some negotiating with the driver of your choice and it is always best to find one on your own. The fewer middlemen, the more you can pay the guy that really is your key to enjoying the many sights of Angkor. A simple three-day tour generally runs about thirty bucks but if you want to go further afield, like Bateay Srei, you will be asked to shell out more. That said, there are a lot of these tuk-tuk’s now and there is accordingly more bargaining power. We arrived at a final price of thirty bucks for two normal days touring along with the extended trip to Banteay Srei. We also got a sunset pre-visit thrown in. If you buy your pass after five in the afternoon, you get to go in for sunset and return the next day for your first day on the pass. So, we had Mr. Tha’s services for the duration. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
Fondest memory: The driver’s are quite willing to run back and forth between town and the temples for lunch but, generally, it is easier and less time consuming to just stay for what amounts to a very long day. Generally, you want to get there before sunrise at least once and if you are smart, every day. Not only is the light best early in the day but it is much cooler too. The drivers figure most travelers will wimp out at least one of the three days but Mr. Tha begrudgingly picked us up in the dark each morning, once he realized there was no talking us out of it. We also stayed for sunset each day. The only time Mr. Tha caught a break was the third afternoon, when we decided to head back into town for our favorite lunch and gave him that time off, asking to be brought back to the park only close to sunset. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Fondest memory: I would have to say, he was a most agreeable guy and though fairly quiet and only moderately knowledgeable about the sights, we found him most unobtrusive and a joy to be in the company of. He also knew some choice food spots. When it was all said and done, I gave him a five-dollar tip. I have to admit I felt a bit of a hard bargainer and though it is a lot of money in this impoverished country, I felt he deserved more than ten dollars a day for the amount of time he put in. I don’t think he expected it. In his unassuming way, he just looked up from the money with a beaming smile, unconsciously shaking his head yes, and said, “thank you.” I shook his hand and said, “no, Mr. Tha. Thank you.”
Favorite thing: There are a million photo opportunities to be had around Angkor. I took over 170 photos of the temples alone! There are cool pictures that you have to look for. My favorite "hidden" shot is this one, underneath the walkway to the Baphuon. Just hop of the walkway on either side.
Favorite thing: Along the road to Banteay Srei, I got caught up in the countryside in all its beauty. True Cambodian countryside. Rice fields. Shacks for houses. Kids playing in the road. Many, many images like these stcik in my mind. I highly recommend that you take a ride out here, not only to see Banteay Srei, but also to view the people and places along the way. You will get to see a cross-section of living arrangements along the way, from concrete schools, woodn churches, stick homes, and cloth roofs. It is a must for appreciation of Cambodian life.
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.
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.
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.
Great news for Malaysians - no visa required, saving a lot of US dollars.
So I could cross from Thailand to Cambodia at Poipet then to Vietnam and back to Cambodia at Bavet with impunity.
FAQs from http://www.embassy.org/cambodia/faq.html
Q1. Can I get my visa in Cambodia?
A1. Yes, you may obtain your visa upon arrival at the two airports in Cambodia: Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
Q2. What do I need to get my visa in Cambodia?
A2. You will need $20 US cash for a tourist visa and $25 for business. Along with it you will need one passport size photo and your passport must be valid for six month.
Q3. May I use the visa applications from the Royal Embassy of Cambodia website for processing in Cambodia?
A3. Yes. Also Visa applications for processing in Cambodia will be distribute on board the plane.
Q4. Should I get my visa ahead of time or do it in Cambodia?
A4. By getting your visa at the embassy you will not have to wait in line at the airport.
Q5. Does all national needs a visa to enter Cambodia?
A5. Everyone who does not hold a Cambodian passport needs a visa to enter the country. (Except Malaysian, Philippines and Singapore.)
Favorite thing: Instead of climbing down the steep slope in the dark, I took an amazing elephant ride. It is easy as you climb some stairs to be at the elephant saddle level. There is an elephant driver to guide you. What was fun was when you meet other elephants coming up and the elephants have to wait and make way for each other to pass. I wonder if any elephants fell together with the mahout and tourists. It was US$15 going up and US$10 pax coming down.
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.
Favorite thing: Angkor Wat is pretty clearly a Hindu monument, in fact it seems to be a model of the Hindu universe - but Buddha is everywhere; it'd be easy to think that maybe Buddhism has arrived with modern Cambodia, but in fact Buddhism arrived 800 years ago. You'll see evidence of both religions here, please be respectful...
Does the ancient Java [my country] really has a strong relationship with Cambodia in the past centuries, closer to the era of Angkor? Based on several inscriptions at the Majapahit era [see my Mojokerto page], the answer is yes. Then the tomb of Putri Champa [Cambodian Princess, Champa is Javanese word for Cambodia] also closer to this history.
And for short, the Khmer civilization can be described as below:
* Pre Angkor Period, about Java Empire invasion at 8th century from the sea along the coastal area [at that time, the prime minister of Majapahit Empire was Mahapatih Gadjah Mada and the commander for the invasion by sea was Admiral Nala]. Java troops were conquered the Khmers, at that moment was known as Chenla Empire. So the Khmers moved nearby Boeng [lake] Tonle Sap
* Birth of Angkor Period was established by King Jayavarman II [802 - 834] who build Angkor Wat [the original name for this temple not yet known nowadays!]
* The last greatest king of Angkor Period is King Jayavarman VII [1181 - 1219] who built the Angkor Thom [the Magnificent City]
* Angkor Period ended at 1431 when the Siamese troops [Thailand] conquered the centurions of Khmer Empire at Siem Reap, 7 km away from Angkor Wat.
There was quite a lot of restoration work going on around Angkor Wat during my visit, and many of the other ruins as well. At Angkor Wat there was work going on on the main causeway (pictured), the "library" building, and also in the centre of the temple. Fortunately they didn't really detract from the overall experience, but it should be worth a return visit in a few years to see the results.
At many of the monuments there are still large piles of stones just piled up, so once the current work is done, there's probably going to be a whole lot more to move onto, too.
Early morning is a good time to visit the Bayon, as you will see how the sun rises on the towers and how the lights and shades start shaping the faces, giving them interesting appearances.
Besides, it is not as crowded as later in the morning, and not so hot!!