It took a great deal to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia just to see Ankor Wat back in 2010. We had to fly to Vietnam (we took the opportunity to some of the country as well.) just to go to Cambodia. Luckily for Filipinos, Cebu Pacific will connect Manila to Siem Reap starting April 2012 with direct flights.
Siem Reap has a nice airport. True, it's small (it's no bigger than a typical mansion), but it's great in that way since it took us only 15 minutes from disembarking to exiting.
We didn’t know better and paid for the airport taxi (you’ll find that we’re not the wisest travellers. Our examples are NOT to be followed!).
The driver offered to discount our rate if we let him drop us at a restaurant where they have a show of the cultural dances. I think everyone who has travelled know they get free dinners and commission for bringing in guests to restaurants or shops. It was nice though and we were thankful.
Upon our return to the hotel, we spoke with the tuktuk (I know this is for Thailand but I love that term!) driver to arrange for pick up at 5 in the morning. We were able to haggle it down to 5 US dollars.
*There is no need to change your money to the local currency since they generally accept US dollars anyway.
We arrived in Angkor Wat while it was still very dark. Another evidence that we aren’t the smartest travellers: we didn’t bring any flashlight and the light from our cell phones simply didn’t offer much. We just went along with the crowd and let their flashlights show us the way.
I can certainly ramble on about its history, but I'm sure there are better sources to be found for that. What I really want is to gush about the beauty that it was along with the sadness of how it was once this great temple. (On the second thought, it is still great! I would dare say there are even more people visiting Angkor Wat now than before.) Yes, there's nothing else to do but sing praises for this remarkable heritage site. I do not wish to bore anyone thou.
May I interject that while we were going around, we met a kind local who guided us around the complex and explained things to us like why there are two holes in every slab or why there were four-faced Buddhas. Okay, I take that back. He wasn't kind at all. He asked for 50 bucks (he wanted USD but we gave him Philippine Peso instead pleading that we were poor students as well.) Later on, I read that teachers often send students to tourist destinations to befriend foreigners with whom they can practice their English. If only I'd known this at that time, I could've asked him for money instead!
After breakfast back in our hotel (we did have a per day agreement with the tuktuk driver), we went back to Angkor Wat to take some more pictures. We were glad to notice that the air continued to be a bit chilly. This is the reason why I love traveling during January to February!
The roads are bordered with forests. It was therefore no surprise to find monkeys running about. For fools like us, there are vendors selling bananas you can buy to fatten up their monkey. The monkeys were generally tame. Although one monkey bared its teeth at me in a frightening way. (It's been proven that I can't have a good relationship with monkeys, animal ones and human ones.)
Our other stop was Angkor Thom. (Angkor means temple.) This place is equally enchanting as Angkor Wat because of how the trees have beautifully merged with the ruins of the temple.
After our short tour, we went back to our hotel to retrieve our things and had the tuktuk take us to the airport. (Making the most of our 5 USD.) This was the time we booked and bought our tickets back to Ho Chi Minh. This is a safe risk (if there's such a thing) since it's very very rare that a flight is fully booked. You'll get a cheaper rate as well, by upto 50 USD.
We stayed in Prince D' Angkor which was recommended by a friend. It wasn't that expensive (booked it through Agoda.com like pretty much every hotel I've stayed in since meeting that gem of a website.) and yet it was totally top class.
Siem Reap, Cambodia is not a place to travel with a tour since it is pretty simple. It would be nice to have a guide though because they let you in the restricted areas. (at your own risk, of course.)
This is actually one place I'd love to go back to, and now that Cebu Pac will have direct flights, I might just do.