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.
An official pass is required for admission to any temple or monument in the main Angkor complex and most other temples and monuments in the Siem Reap area. Angkor passes can be purchased at the sales booths on the main road from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat (~4 km north of the Old Market), at the checkpoint on the road from the airport to Angkor Wat, and at the checkpoint at Banteay Srei. No one else is authorized to sell Angkor passes and they are not transferable. You no longer have to bring a passport picture. They will take your picture there. You will be required to show your pass at each temple and monument.
When I visited in Mar 09, there were three options for passes: one day (US$20), three consecutive days (US$40) and seven consecutive days (US$60); however, the ticketing rules which started on 1 Jul 09 allow the US$40 passes to be valid for any three days during a week instead of three consecutive days, and the US$60 tickets are usable for any seven days during a month. The fee must be paid in US dollars, Cambodian Riel, Thai Baht or Euro. Credit cards are not accepted for payment, but there is a bank counter at the sales booths, where visitors can get a cash advance on their credit card. There are separate windows at the sales booths for each length of pass. Be sure to check on both sides of the building.
It is not cheap to visit the Angkor temple complex. Besides the pass, if you want a guide to accompany you into the temples, they must be licensed and the cost is typically $20-25 per day. A tuk tuk costs $12-15 per day. A tuk tuk driver can only take you to a temple and cannot be a guide. BTW, the Angkor pass includes free use of the restrooms that are now outside many of the main temples in the complex. Evidently there used be very few restrooms but when a VIP visitor had a hard time finding one, that was changed.
Favorite thing: It is not possible to do Beng Mealea, Banteay Srei and Koh Ker adequately in one day. However, Koh Ker is definitely not the one I would eliminate. In fact, it is the best of the three. It takes a couple of hours to get to Beng Mealea from Siem Reap. We did Beng Mealea, including the back and west sides in ~2 hours. It took ~1.5 hours to drive to Koh Ker from Beng Mealea. We spent ~2.5 hours there, stopping at several sites on the loop road, walking back to the giant pyramid, and having a quick lunch. I used the time stamps on my photos to estimate the times. Therefore, for a full tour of each site you are looking at a ~11.5 hour round trip from Siem Reap. I had hired a car and driver. A set tour may take a shorter path at each site and may take less overall time. The admission at Beng Mealea is 5 USD plus 2.50 USD each way for the private toll road. Koh Ker has a 10 USD entry fee, which you can pay onsite or at the Beng Mealea toll booth. The Mandalay Inn travel office offers a Koh Ker, Beng Mealea and Bakong day tour. They also have a Banteay Srei, Kabal Spean, Beng Mealea and Bakong day tour.
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 $4 to go to the airport. He was very reliable and right on time for my early (6 AM) departure to the airport. I felt very lucky to tour with Peng Thai and Sophen. They are both very nice gentlemen.
Good news! In Jun 09 Canby Publications added many street names to their map. See the link below. Pub Street is Street 8. Hospital Street is 2 Thnou Street. Street 9 runs along the northwest side of the Old Market, and I had correctly identified Streets 10 and 11.
I did not realize it when I was there in Mar 09, but Siem Reap is known for some streets not having names, especially in the Phsar Chas (Old Market) area. For sure they are missing on most of the maps. I have looked at several maps and have gone back through my pictures. I think I have figured out some of them. Some of the best maps that I have found of the Old Market area are by Canby Publications.
Their map indicates "Pub Street." I also have a picture of a sign near the Red Piano to confirm it. The passage southeast of and parallel to Pub Street, is sometimes called "Walking Alley;" however, it is more often called "Pub Street Alley" as on the Canby map. "Walking Street" is the first passage northwest of and parallel to Pub Street. The street that runs along the northeast side of the Old Market and perpendicular to Walking Street, Pub Street and Pub Street Alley is called Hospital Street.
By figuring out Khmer numbers on the blue-and-white street signs in my pictures, the street that runs along the southwest side of the Old Market and parallel to Hospital Street is Street 11 (Khmer "99"). The next street southwest is Street 10 (Khmer "90"). I have not been able to figure out the name of the street that runs along the northwest side of the Old Market.
Favorite thing: As far as changing money, almost all prices are quoted in US$. Sometimes the price will include a fraction of a dollar. When this is the case, the change that is a fraction of a dollar is returned in riel at an exchange rate of 4000:1. It is less than the official rate but close enough. I got enough riel this way to make all of my small purchases. I did all my "banking" at the small Canadia Bank on Street 11 across from the Old Market. It was in a convenient location, never busy, and the service was quite good. There was a 2% fee for cashing travelers' checks. I had no problems using US$20 and even a US$100 when paying a 5-night, US$98 hotel bill; the dollar value just needs to be close to what you owe. The tuk tuk drivers will want US$1-2 for each short ride, if not more (I walked). I did have one occasion where a US$20 was not accepted because it had a crease from being folded.
Angkor Wat is one of the places you must see before it's too late!
Fondest memory: I really can't help admiring the wonderful work of the Khmer people! Let me show you more pictures I took and I know you'll find it very amazing too!:)
Favorite thing: For my holiday to be so perfect, I would like to thank Mr Ratanak Eath. I chanced upon his site www.theangkorguide.net, & liked his itinerary, compared with others so I just booked him. He turned out to be a wonderful guide! Humorous, very cheerful, knowledgable & mostly, his English was very fluent (I've heard some other guides in the temples). On top of this, he was also a great photographer. He took many candid poses of us that we would never have thought of, being foreign & it made reminiscing through our photos so much funnier now. Thanks again, Ratanak... see you again the next time I'm in Siem Reap!
Over the course of your sojourn in Siem Reap, you will be constantly hounded by just about every Khmer to buy trinkets/souvenirs.
Rather than expressing your anger, just ignore them and walk away. At least they're not begging or worse, stealing.
ACTUALLY, you don't need to change your US Dollars into Cambodian Riel since the US Dollar is a second Main Currency 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 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 into smaller bills and they will gladly change your bigger bills into smaller bills at NO CHARGE!
you don't need to change your US Dollars into Cambodian Riel since the US Dollar is the second main currency of Siem Reap 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.
Fondest memory: Crazy shabby cars. Look at the photo, a truck cabriolet without exhaust box. Notice the driver with a motorcycle helmet.