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Cambodia Hidden Gem

Updated on August 9, 2017

Angkor Wat from the less famous South entrance.

Siem Reap

My wife and I have recently returned from an utterly amazing holiday travelling through South East Asia.

We visited numerous places in Thailand (which is now very much commercialised) but can honestly say the two weeks we spent in Cambodia created one of the very best holidays we have ever had.

For one the locals rely on tourism and instead of feeling threatened (considering the wealthy Westerners stand out a mile) we were welcomed beyond expectations.

Then there's the mind blowingly beautiful temples of Siem Reap, just 'wow'. These temples are awe inspiring and more than just a cultural eye opener to the beliefs and history of this once formidable Kingdom. I can truly say when visiting Beng Mealea (a lesser known temple site still overgrown with jungle) my wife and I were gobsmacked by its beauty and charm.

The film 'Tomb Raider' was also filmed at parts of this location and one can understand why within minutes of arriving. The Strangler Fig trees overpowering these immense temples over the years is definitely one to 'tick off the bucket list'.

I do not want to give too much away as to keep this hidden gem just that but would strongly recommend adding this location into your holiday itinery. You will not be disappointed!

I would however recommend stretching your budget when it comes to accommodation if possible. Cambodia is still very much 'non Westernised' and refrigerated meat can be hard to come by so unless you fancy a small dose of what is commonly known as 'Bangkok belly' it is best to book a hotel that can cater for the western appetite.

Enjoy the culture shock and let the memories of a lifetime begin :).

Feb 2016 one of the destinations where Tomb Raider was filmed!

An impressive entrance to Angkor Thom in Cambodia.

Fascinating how the jungle retakes the land over time

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is probably the most well known temple complex in Cambodia boasting the largest religious monument in the entire world.

Also known as the 'Capital Temple' due to its central location with regards to the ancient Kingdom of Cambodia (before parts were split off creating Laos, Vietnam and the country Thailand as it is today).

We visited this complex twice during our visit, the first encounter from the Southern entrance and the second from the main gate at approximately 06:00 in order to catch a glimpse of the beautiful sunrise emerging above the central towers.

One can visit these temples alone (for a small fee) but to really learn the history of this area I strongly recommend a tour guide. We paid for a personal tour guide over three days and although expensive, this was money well spent. Our guide knew the best times to arrive at certain temples to ensure we were not inundated with the thousands of other daily visitors and his knowledge of the temples uses, carvings and statues was astounding. This place is truly amazing and without our tour guide the whole experience would just not have been the same.

Be warned though, local children tend to approach you regularly at these ancient temples offering postcards and souvenirs. They can be a little irritating though as they are so desperate for their 'one dollar' as they say. As harsh as it sounds, try not to succumb to them as this encourages them to spend their days trying to sell things to tourists rather than going to school where they can be educated for a better life. Unfortunately they are very good at playing on tourists heart strings to earn a few dollars a day claiming they need money for school but this is in fact incorrect. Cambodia provides government funded schools so all children have the availability to free education so rather than touting tourists they need to be encouraged to go back to school which means no souvenir buying!

Most of the temples have a strict dress code so don't get caught out by this. Shoulders and knees need to be covered whilst inside the temples and also the midriff cannot be on show. Flip flops are also generally not accepted as suitable footwear.

Be respectful to the country and especially the royalty and the monks.

These are just a few tips to help you enjoy your visit but from my experience I cannot see how anyone would come away from a visit to these temples and not be amazed by there beauty and charm.

Have you been to Siem Reap? What are your thoughts?

Have you visited Siem Reap and how was your experience?

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