72 Hours In Siem Reap

3 May

Angkor Wat - sunrise with temple reflection

Angkor Wat – sunrise with temple reflection

If you’re someone who appreciates history like I do, you’ll fall in love with Siem Reap. To be sure, however, this isn’t a place merely for history buffs. If that’s not your thing, I have no doubt you can still enjoy this endlessly fascinating city immensely.

Long known to be synonymous with World Wonder, Angkor Wat (English translation: Temple City), an impressive religious complex constructed in the early 12th Century, the city has been welcoming visitors and enthusiasts for years ever since the temple complex’s declared status.
No doubt some may recall that Cambodia’s had a not too distant tortured past mired in tragedy and loss but If there’s one thing that’s evident today is that its citizens have shown incredible resilience through it all and a new generation’s at the helm with lofty ambitions, steering the nation to new frontiers.

Siem Reap is easily accessible by most modes of transport. If you’re arriving by air, you’ll be touching down at Siam Reap airport, REP, which is just on the outskirts of town and a short drive in. And as is common with most popular tourist draws, lots of choices abound when it comes to accommodation. The Privilege Floor right on National Road, one of the main thoroughfares in town, is an outstanding property which I would highly recommend. You can see my full review here. A second choice that’s quite nice, in the budget range, is the Men’s Resort and Spa mere blks away.

Once you’re checked in and settled, inquire of your hotel concierge if it’ll be possible to hire a Guide for the days ahead. I do recommend it as if you’ve come to explore what this city is famous for, its temples, there are so many and it just makes your exploration a tad more interesting and perhaps manageable if you have someone on hand who can walk you through the history and all the nuance. The Privilege Fl. was able to arrange this and a driver for us, for the duration of our stay which was excellent.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Next, head out to Angkor Archaeological Park ticketing booth to purchase your passes for entry to the temples. The fee depends on the number of days you’d like the pass for. The 3-Day pass (40 USD as of this writing) I think is an excellent value. Do note that it is advisable to have cash at the ready here. Credit Cards are accepted at some establishments but we found that those were few and far between. Luckily, USD is the main tender, so you might even withdraw a sufficient amount before you head out on your journey. Otherwise ATMs in town dispense dollars.
Now that you have entrance sorted, you may choose to relax and take things easy the remainder of the afternoon (perhaps wise to prep for the days ahead). And if you happen to be staying at The Privilege Floor all the better. Head back to Damnak Lounge as you’re likely just in time for Happy Hour. Even if you’re not a guest there, you can also enjoy the Happy Hour for a mere 9 USD (all inclusive). It comes with an assortment of appetizers, in addition, and you can enjoy your drinks out on the terrace with a nice sunset view.

Day 1: Arise early, well before dawn, and head out to Angkor Wat to capture the immaculate sunrise over the temple. To be forewarned, you’ll have plenty of company at the viewing. It’s an event that tends to draw loads of crowds. Still, it’s a brilliant sight and one worth getting up early for.
After you’re through, you may elect to go back to your hotel, rest up and have breakfast before carrying on. Or, keep it moving by grabbing something locally within the area and carry on with your tour of Angkor Wat. To avoid the hordes, the East entrance, the back of the complex, is likely a better place to commence your exploration though your Guide may have a better idea. It’s a fairly massive area, so the duration of your tour is really up to you. I would say plan on a few hours as a general guide.

After Angkor Wat you may want to break for lunch after which you can carry on to Angkor Thom nearby to see Bayon Temple. It’s more of a ruin than Angkor Wat and has some interesting, distinctive architectural characteristics (note the mood of the Buddha faces). If temple fatigue hasn’t set in for the day yet then you may proceed to Ta Prohm which you’ll immediately notice is one of the most photographed and catalogued of the temples due to its appearance in the movie, Tomb Raider, and it’s overgrown vegetation–trees merging into the structures with mightily impressive roots.

At this point, no doubt you’re ready to call it a day. Head back to your hotel for some R&R and the later head out to Khmer Kitchen for some delicious grub (advance reservations recommended). Cap off the evening there or if you’re looking for something more stimulating to keep the night going, head out to Pub Street where a plethora of nightly delights await.

Out for the catch - at Kampong Klum

Out for the catch – at Kampong Klum

Day 2: Grab your Guide and head out to the floating village at Kampong Klum. This is a very fascinating village almost entirely on stilts following the river as it empties out to the Tonle Sap. Make an afternoon of it and stop for lunch at one of the floating restaurants on the water then tour the village afterward. When you’re through and you’re still up to it, you may choose to tack on a couple additional temples in the area: Preah Ko (temple of the sacred bull) and nearby Bakong. After a day of exploration, dinner at Viroth’s should be a fine way to end the evening.

Tonle Sap

Tonle Sap


Day 3: it’s a good time to tackle some of the further afield temples, Banteay Srey and Banteay Samre. These two are roughly 45 mins outside town but offer a unique perspective in terms of their architectural style, especially Banteay Srey which was constructed in the 10th century (well before Angkor Wat). In addition, its Hindu origins have been mostly kept in tact – another interesting detail to note.
Temple fatigue’s likely set in at this point, so perhaps it’s a good idea to head back to town and check out the Angkor National Museum and other sights of interest as you round out your trip.

What and enchanting place! I fell in love with its people and culture and simply can’t wait to return. I highly recommend it.

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5 Responses to “72 Hours In Siem Reap”

  1. smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains May 3, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

    Really helpful itinerary. I hope to visit someday; saving up right now and waiting for a good flight deal. The temples look so beautiful. Best of luck to you, and happy travels!

    • yappingwithyomi May 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you found the write-up helpful. Yes, the airfare can be quite pricey but once you’re there, it’s much less of an expense. I do hope you get to make the journey; it’s quite remarkable. When you do, certainly feel free to reach out if I can be of help. All the best to you. x.

  2. backpackerlee May 7, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    Great review. I didn’t bother with the Angkor Wat sunrise, but I know of a few less-touristy vantage points to check out the sunrise. I wouldn’t want to crowd around the pond with everyone else. I also think a guide is not necessary, as long as you do some homework before you arrive. However, a trip to Angkor Wat is a true highlight of all my backpacking, and I am glad to say I’ve been there! http://backpackerlee.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/angkor-wat-the-theatre-of-dreams/

    • yappingwithyomi May 9, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

      Thanks, @backpackerlee. Yeah, the sunrise capture can be a bit of a challenge, with the crowds and all, but I still found it breathtaking. That’s where the opening photo in this post is taken from. If you have some less touristy spots you care to share, please do so. 🙂 Point taken on the Guide. Inclined to agree — though, for me, I’d prefer it, for the duration of time, especially if you plan to cover several temples. Savvy travelers with the proper amount of research should fare well without one though, agree.
      Just read your article — excellent post. All the best.

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