My visit to Angkor Wat was an add-on to my trip to Bangkok in late 2006. I wasn’t really sure if I would have the time to get in and out of Cambodia so I didn’t book any flights or rooms in advance. (No surprise there, I guess) This is a description of how I arranged the trip.
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Ok, so I booked a simple ticket from Bangkok to Siam Reap which is the town near Angkor Wat. I found, however that they only had hotel bookings available and my reading said that there are plenty of bed and breakfast places in town so I didn’t book a room.
The flight to Siam Reap was short and a lot nicer then I expected. The flight was full of tourists eager to see the sights and I realized how big a draw the temples really are. I should note that Siam Reap has been thriving since Angkor Wat became a UN World Heritage site in 1992! It is amazing how much money has been flowing into the area with all the tourism. Sadly (or not) the locals have grown accustomed to feeding off the tourists which seem must just throw money around. It’s odd to see people in the town and temples making $20-30 / day while just 20 kilometers away people live on $1. I am glad I made this trip while it’s still possible to do it on a budget.
Landing in Siam Reap International Airport was not at all what I expected. The place looks brand new and shiny! Flying in over the huge lake with miles and miles of flood plains and hardly any signs of people, this was certainly not what I expected!
I picked up my bags, went through passport control. You will need to get a travel visa for Cambodia but they do that at the airport so bring 2 photos with you and expect to pay about $20. Also, your passport should be valid for at least 6 months beyond the end of your visit.
Outside the airport, talk to the taxi stand to get a ride to your hotel. I got a moped driver because it was very inexpensive ($5) but found that you can get rides around town for about $1 per ride. My driver gave me his card and I arranged for him to drive me around Angkor Wat for the next few days. I ended up visiting the temple complex for 2 days and payed about $30. At the time, I remember thinking that he was taking advantage of me but … it was only $30.
At the airport, I asked my driver for suggestions of guest houses to stay at. He had one in mind and drove me to it. Yes, I know they have arrangements with certain houses but … what did I care? I needed a place and on the way I saw plenty of guest houses in case his wasn’t right.
I should mention that there are a lot of hotels in the town so I have no doubt that a room could be found so don’t worry that you will be sleeping under a tree.
The house turned out to be fine and cost $10 / night. It did have air conditioning which I needed! It also had an on-demand water heater in the shower which needed to be reset before each shower. Well, it’s not like I needed hot water anyway!
Food in Siam Reap is very good. I focused mostly on Cambodian style fish dishes (curries and rice) but Thai and Vietnamese is also very popular. I spent my time in the restaurants on the street but you could get a more expensive meal at any of the hotels in the area.