The Jakarta Post
Traveling around Southeast Asia is not complete without visiting the magnificent Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Angkor Wat has become the national symbol of Cambodia. It is featured on the national flag and even local beer. Millions of tourists flock to Siem Reap every year for this reason.
For Indonesian travelers wanting to go see the Angkor complex or drink some Angkor beer, you can fly directly to Siem Reap or for a more affordable option: fly to Phnom Penh and take the 5-hour bus ride to Siem Reap.
What to know before going to Cambodia
Walking in Siem Reap, Cambodia. (./.)
It may come as a surprise to some, but in Cambodia, US dollars are the most common currency used. It is better to exchange your money to US dollars rather than the Cambodian riel. Every transaction from food to transport is carried out in US dollars. For example, a short tuk-tuk ride from your hostel to the nearest bar or market would cost around $2 to $3. Further trips to tourist spots both in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap cost around $15 to $20 return. To avoid being overcharged by your tuk-tuk driver, ask your hotel to hire their drivers.
That being said, in comparison to its Indochina counterparts like Laos, Vietnam or Myanmar, there are more people who can speak English.
Exploring the temples of Angkor
Stretching over some 400 square kilometers, the Angkor Archaeological Park is enormous, and for one to properly explore the complex, it is best to spend at the very least one whole day for the trip. Admission for one day is $37 per pax, while a three-day pass is priced at $62 per pax. If you have the time and flexibility, buying the three-day pass is recommended to explore the complex at a comfortable phase. The three-day pass can be used for non-consecutive days within a period of one week.
Going around a park this big, you may want to rent your own ride for the day. Most accommodation will help you to either rent a bicycle for $2 to $8 per day, or a whole tuk-tuk for $15. Minivans and other modern transportation option are also available. Having a driver is recommended since they know their way around the park and the best temples to visit.
For travelers choosing to explore the temple in three days, you can either visit Angkor Wat on the first day or leave it for the third day, saving the best for last. Angkor Wat was originally built as a Hindu temple (hence the similar looking towers to those at Prambanan temple compound in Yogyakarta) but has gradually transformed into a Buddhist site.
The other two must-see temples in the Angkor complex are Bayon and Neak Pean. Bayon is known as the smiling faces of Angkor. Located in the center of Angkor Thom, people pack the temple daily to see the two hundred plus faces from 37 towers.
Water temple Neak Pean, which means “the entwined snakes”, is located on an artificial island. To get to the main temple in the middle of the water, you will have to walk your way up the wooden bridge over the reservoir.
The Angkor complex is open from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. To avoid the crowds, you may try visiting Angkor Wat at around 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. or any time after sunrise, or going early morning to visit other temples while everyone else is doing Angkor Wat.
Eating and shopping in Siem Reap
Typical Cambodian cuisine. (./.)
Wherever you stay, your hotel will probably suggest that you spend the evening around Siem Reap’s Pub Street, where various eateries are lined up right in front of the night market. There are many restaurants serving tasty local and western food. Try Cambodian authentic dish Bò Lúc Lắc (beef loklak), which is available in almost every restaurant. This dish of sautéed beef over cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, pepper and soy sauce is served with warm jasmine rice and will make your mouth water every time you think of it.
Finish your last night in Siem Reap by going shopping in the market. Here you can buy Cambodia’s handicrafts such as stone carvings, silverware, silks and paintings of Angkor temples.
Plan and book your travel
The best time to visit Siem Reap is from December to January when the season is dry and sunny. Visiting during the summer break in June or July can be a little wet, but it’s not so much different compared to a typical rainy season in Jakarta. Get up to 10 percent off by using the Flight + Hotel feature on the Traveloka website or mobile app. Not only will you save some cash, but you will save time and the hassle of doing separate bookings for your flights and accommodation. Flight + Hotel packages for Jakarta to Siem Reap start from IDR 3 million per person.