Experiencing the glory of architectonical masterpieces in Angkor is one of the highlights in Southeast Asia. All the guidebooks and blogs describing the magnificence of the lost city are right – Angkor takes your breath away.
We summed up a few tips for your Angkor trip.
When to go
The high season is December and January when it’s not too hot and the monsoon season is over. We visited at the beginning of November and couldn’t have been more satisfied.
One of the extraordinary architectural features of Angkor is its watering system of channels, ponds and water reservoirs.
In November, shortly after the end of rainy season, they are still full of water. Walkways are usually accessible though. The vegetation is thick, the lotus plants blossom and the temples’ reflection on the water surface is phenomenal. You’ll appreciate it especially in shrines, where water belongs to the construction, such as the artificial healing island of Neak Pean.
During our stay, we had one afternoon of heavy Cambodian monsoon shower, but with high temperatures, it didn’t matter.
When to start the tour
Waking up before sunrise belongs to the full Angkor experience.
Whether you’d like to catch the famous Angkor Wat sunrise or start a regular tour, go early.
Not only you’ll get some alone time in the temples, but as the noon approaches, the heat gets excruciating.
We found the best way to enjoy the temples was to start before sunrise, enjoy them until 9-9:30, and get back to the hotel for breakfast. Have a nice midday siesta afterwards and get back to the sights around 3-4 pm.
How to visit
The most convenient way is to book a tuk-tuk through your hotel. You’ll get a reliable driver for the whole day. Compared to street offers, it’s a bit more expensive. However, the tuk-tuk will be in good condition with functioning breaks and lights.
You can also rent a bicycle. We didn’t try it. But we felt sorry for fellow travellers after seeing them biking in the dust, heat and humidity.
A word of advice: If you visit without a driver don’t forget to buy your Angkor pass in the ticket counter half way between the archaeological park and Siem Reap. You cannot purchase the tickets at the temples.
How long to stay
That’s hard to say and depends on your interests. We stayed for three full days. That was enough to do the small and big circle and visit one remote temple Banteay Srei.
In retrospective, we would have stayed at least two days longer and would have gone back to some temples, when the light was perfect for more photos.
After enjoying the sunrise at Angkor Wat, don’t rush back into your hotel (like most visitors do).
Stay and enjoy the temple before breakfast, when the crowds are smaller.
We had perfect timing when we visited Banteay Srey and had the whole temple for ourselves.
You’ll encounter many children selling one-dollar-souvenirs around the temples. They are very persistent. Everyone should build their own opinion on how to handle the situation.
However, if you own a Polaroid camera, bring many colour films. Children loved the pictures, and we were happy to put a smile on their faces.
Where to stay
Siem Reap is a touristy town. You’ll find any accommodation from budget to super luxurious. We liked our Boutique Hotel Memoir d’Angkor Boutique very much. It combined Khmer hospitality with perfect service. They organised the tuk-tuk and packed breakfast when we took a day trip.
Probably the most important tip is not to rush through the sights. Enjoy the magnificence of the lost city and leave enough time for admiring beautiful details such as smiling faces of Bayon.