Angkor Wat - 5 Tips For An Enjoyable Visit
Discover The Magical Mystical of Angkor Wat
Wear Local Clothing
Siem Reap - An Exotic Adventure
Angkor Wat, located in Siem Reap, Cambodia is one of the most magical and exotic treasures in the world. I have wanted to visit since hearing about it as a child. Alluring, mystical and intriguing thoughts about Angkor Wat were all driving me to say yes to a recent trip I took to Cambodia with my 17 year old daughter. When my nephew who was living in Cambodia as a Peace Corps Volunteer first asked if I would come visit, it was an easy yes and I had wanted to take my daughter on a trip before she graduated from High School and went her own way; so jumping into the experience was easy.
It wasn’t until we started doing the research to prepare for the trip that it sunk into me that the two of us would be traveling alone in several countries where the language, culture and history were really foreign to us – so we needed to get up to speed really fast. We developed these 5 tips through our own lessons learned and used them to ensure a safe and wonderful trip to Angkor Wat.
During our 3 weeks in Asia, we had an incredible experience, engaging with the locals, cooking, eating and immersing ourselves in the culture. Our trip to Angor Wat was one of the few “touristy” things we did, spending most of your time with my nephew and his Cambodian family and friends. So whether you are traveling to Angkor Wat with a tour group, as an individual or with locals; these simple tips will help to ensure that you enjoy your time in Siem Reap.
The Golden Banana
Cooling Off in The Afternoon
Tip #1: Book your transportation and driver for the entire day through your hotel.
Cambodia is diligently working on developing its tourist industry, following Thailand’s lead, which has a tourist mechanism that is second to none. And by that, I do not mean that they have turned their country into a Disney-type experience, the Thai government has been very intentional about providing an authentic and yet safe experience for its visitors. Feeling taken advantage of and vulnerable while traveling is an awful feeling and Thailand is protecting its tourist industry by ensuring visitors will be safe. Cambodia is learning from Thailand and has set up similar protections in some places, and Siem Reap is one of those places.
Booking your driver through your hotel for the entire day is a safeguard that ensures that you will not be asked for more money during the day nor be held hostage. When you book and arrange your driver for the entire day through your hotel, you pay the hotel and the hotel’s reputation is depending on the quality of the driver. If the driver does something that is not cool – the hotel will not call them again. I have been out on a trip and been held hostage for more money to be returned from the rural village I was taken to in another country and it is a very frightening experience. Do not put yourself in that situation.
The day before you plan to visit Angkor Wat contact the front desk of the hotel in which you are staying in Siem Reap and ask them to arrange a driver for you for the entire day. Confirm the price that you will be charged and the time that you will be picked up from your hotel.
Plan Ahead and Carry a Map With You To Keep Track Of Where You Are
Our Driver Awaits
Have You Visited Angkor Wat?
People often say that they wished they had planned more time exploring Angkor Wat - How many days did you spend exploring Angkor Wat?
Tip #2: Wear Something That Stands Out
Angkor Wat is actually only one temple in a large complex of temples, ruins and gardens that are connected by one road and a series of walking paths. Angor Wat is the first temple that you will visit on your trip to the park. The Angkor Temples are spread out and by midafternoon, the park becomes a very busy place. The Tuk Tuks are restricted to the roads and so your driver will often drop you off at one point and then pick you up at another location. They will make a note of what you are wearing, but under the hats and sunglasses that are essential in that heat and sun, tourists all look alike. Make it easy for them wear something that stands out.
My daughter and I wore Cambodian clothing that we had purchased the day before and we were both wearing the same color a vibrant aqua blue – we matched. When our driver picked us up, he made a special effort to let us know how easy we would be to be found – and indeed, he was smiling from ear to ear every time we emerged from a temple where he was going to pick us up. On several occasions, we saw him point to us, and then show his fellow drivers that we were dressed alike receiving pats on the back and smiles in return from his envious co-workers.
An additional tip that fits in this category is to wear local clothing. We were both wearing traditional Cambodian clothing and later in the day when the sun was sweltering, our clothing was still breathing and protecting us at the same time while many of the other tourists were drenched in sweat, their polos and cotton shirts absorbing and holding the heat of the day. It is considered honorable by locals when you defer to the local customs, including wearing traditional clothing. Plus you have a great gift or memory when you return home and get to show off your new wardrobe.
Help Your Tuk Tuk Driver Stand Out
Tip #3: Bring Colorful Bandanas
I always carry bandanas with me when I travel, they are useful for a complete array of things, which will be expanded upon in another article, we gave the most colorful bandana we had in our collection to our Tuk Tuk driver to hang off of his Tuk Tuk making it much easier for us to find him. When there are hundreds of vehicles that all look alike waiting at the meeting spot – things can get confusing and hectic quickly. Hanging something distinctive on the Tuk Tuk takes away a lot of stress and increases safety.
It just so happened that the bandana we used also matched our blue shirts and having all three of us match made us a team – it was great. He was so proud to be carrying such thoughtful people. It was really fun and did the job – we were always able to spot him and averted any problems by accidentally getting into the wrong Tuk Tuk.
Tip #4: Carry An Extra Bag Filled With Water And Snacks
The heat and humidity at Angkor Wat is almost indescribable. Since you have the driver and Tuk Tuk for the entire day, you can bring a bag of extra water and snacks to bring with you and leave in the vehicle while you walk around. The driver will stay with the Tuk Tuk and while you don’t want to leave valuables, you can certainly leave snacks and water in the vehicle.
You can’t have enough water with you and will still need to buy a Coke or Fanta to give you a little electrolyte boost. Be sure to plan enough snacks and drinks for your driver too. I always think that if I am thirsty, everyone around me is probably too, if I want ice cream, I know all of my traveling companions do too. Include your driver in your treats – it will go a long way and is just respectful.
What kind of treats? I like to carry small packets of fruit snacks with me and if the driver does not know what they are nor like them, they can bring the little bag home to their family. I also like to carry small M&M packets with me too. Although I don’t like chocolate very much, the heat just wipes me out and a little chocolate usually helps to revive me…and most importantly, M&Ms melt in your mouth not in your hand – which is very important when it is in excess of 100 degrees.
Arriving Before The Crowds
Tip #5: Go Early & Go Often
There is so much to see at the Angkor Archaeological Park that it is absolutely impossible to see everything in one day – and that is coming from someone who visited 3 Disney theme parks in one day. If you only have one day to spend, go as early as is possible – watch the sun rise, enjoy the fact that the crowds begin filling the place around noon when the heat begins to take its toll.
We were some of the first visitors to the park on the day we went and it was shady, cooler and not crowded at all. We were able to move quickly and see a lot of the sights. Our photos were not photo-bombed and it felt like we had the place to ourselves – it was great!
As the day developed. It became almost impossible to move through the crowds. Once I start feeling like livestock being herded – it is time for me to leave. Add to the crowds the heat and people not protecting themselves from the sun, nor drinking enough water and that is a recipe for a lot of bad things to happen. By the time the crowds filled the park, we had seen everything on our list, had shopped for our gifts and had some fantastic photos.
My recommendation for a successful visit to the park is to go early, go back to your hotel to cool off and then return for the sunset. You driver is yours for the day, so going back and forth is not a problem and getting out of the sun will leave you ready to explore more later in the day as the sun starts to set. If you have more than one day, plan on a few days of early visiting and some afternoons of late visiting and enjoy missing the middle afternoon crowds.
Enjoying The View From The Roof
Share Your Experiences
I can’t wait to return to Siem Reap and spend more time explore the ancient wonders of the Angkor Archeological Park, engage with the locals and eat some of the most delicious food I have ever had. I hope you enjoy your time there and let me know if you have any tips for a successful visit that you would like to share.