Here is a list of ten things to know when you head toward Angkor Wat.
10. Don’t eat Mexican food, no matter how cute the servers uniforms may be. This is my longstanding rule, but I broke it and I regret wasting a coveted meal time on such disappointment.
9. Drink, but don’t eat on Pub Street. There look to be many other nicer, quieter and more authentic choices off the main drag in Siem Reap. Amok was great! Chauncey looked promising as did Terrasse de Elephant.
8. The Palm Village Resort and Spa is a nice out of the hubbub place to stay. A few minutes ride to the temples and to town. Quiet and comfortable. Staff are super responsive. Good food can be served in their dining room, in your room or pool side. They also have the perfect rendition of a dog the world has known. Please give Kiwi a belly rub from us when you see him.
7. The end of rainy season is a good time to go. The rains are trailing off and it is not too hot yet. What’s better, the crowds haven’t come yet and if what we saw was anything to gauge by, it could feel really crowded during high season from December to May.
6. Read up as much as you can prior to arriving. This will help give the temples some context. Reading up on modern Cambodian history would also be helpful in interacting with the locals.
5. Even if you read ahead, hire a guide for at least the first day. The can help with orientation, navigation and have a good general knowledge. 30-40 dollars well spent.
4. Speaking of dollars, take lots of them and make sure they’re small bills. The Cambodians have their own currency, the riel, but you won’t need it at least in this area. Everything is priced in US dollars. There are lots of ATMs around but they, curiously only dispense 50 and 100 bills, which no one can break. You’ll look like a jerk if you bargain for a 3 dollar pair of pants and hand over a 50 dollar bill.
3. The Floating Village Boat tour should absolutely be avoided at all costs, no matter how quaint it sounds and “Templed-out” you may feel. It is an utter and complete tourist trap and will leave you feeling dirty, manipulated and questioning of all NGO works and previous charitable acts you’ve ever performed. The 20 dollars you’re not going to spend here will be much better spent even if you blow it on Mexican food that I suggested you not eat in number 10.
2. If given a choice between a car and a tuk tuk, take the tuk tuk. Here tuk tuks are rather ornate trailers hitched to the backs of motor scooters and they are the way to get around. If you can hire one for the day (15-20 bucks) it can come in handy.
1. Go. Now. This is a fairly cheap, laid back and fun place to spend a few days or more.
I recommend eating at Khmer Kitchen and riding an elephant around the ruins at Angkor Wat. The end of April isn't bad, either…