Angkor is the Sanskrit word for “city”, and was the capital of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th centuries (aprox.). It’s totally area is estimated to be around 1000 square kilometres.
It is fascinating, both by its dimension and location.
For a good perspective of the site, 3 days are, probably, just enough. Siem Reap, has other attractions worth visiting – more ancient ruins, the street markets, a Yoga Centre, or the floating villages in the nearby Tonlé Sap lake. (See the whole post of Kampong Khleang in here). Besides, there is a bit of shopping, plenty of food options (including exotic food, with plenty of snake, crocodile and insects).
Street markets around Siem Reap:
Some exotic dishes I tried at Bugs Cafe. Several other restaurants further away from the centre, offer inexpensive 5 USD (ish) “all you can eat” steamboat menus with crocodile meat (less often with python) , as they’re a sub-products from the leather industry.
There is also a loud, thriving, backpacker nightlife, as in, pretty much, every pitstop of the “banana pancake” trail. Alcohol is cheap, “happy pizzas” are everywhere and weed is largely available.
Most tourists hire a tuk tuk driver from Siem Reap, for the sunset or sunrise, and a few hours more. Rental motorbikes are forbidden in the area, most likely, to help maintaining the tuk-tuk mafia.
Despite many drivers being kind, the room inside the tuk tuk it small, the suspension is not that comfortable, and I simply don’t like exploring something, knowing that someone is waiting for me to finish it.
Fortunately, there are many places renting bicycles, from expensive mountain bikes, to the oldest, worn out, models. The distance between central Siem Reap and entrance to Angkor archeological park is not much longer than 6 km, but expect to pedal (and walk) way over 20, on a typical day. After touring around the most famous ones (Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon), you’d probably want to go further inside the jungle, search for smaller temples, explore the reservoirs, the villages…
It all goes down to what you enjoy, as a voyager. Some enjoy exploration, some just stay around the major attractions and queue for the best sunset and sunrise spots, to get the standard images. Needless to say, I’m the exploring kind.
Once you leave the busy road and get inside the park, there are plenty of shades, and it’s a pleasure to pedal silently among the lakes and trees. Plus, some of the temples are only accessible through narrow dirt paths.
If planning to spend the whole day around Angkor, it’s worthy to know there are plenty of food options scattered around. I remember having delicious stuffed, charcoal grilled, frogs, and awesome fish soup, among others.
At the time of the visit, there were already some rented electrical scooters and charging points (mainly restaurants), though I confess I rely more on my legs than on an unknown battery.
Unfortunately, despite many people living inside the park, tourists are only allowed to stay until Sunset, which prevented us to experiment moonlit, long exposures. Hiding from the guards is possible up to a point, but sooner or later you’d be discovered, and kindness isn’t their main quality.
The best time to visit Siem Reap (and Angkor, of course) are December and January. I was there on December and days were sunny and no excessively hot. Land was dry, as there hadn’t been much rain on the “rainy” season, lakes were low, and pumps were constantly working to provide the mirror, sunrise, Angkor Wat shot, to the tourists. It still wasn’t that beautiful, though, and I preferred to focus on less obvious perspectives.
Enjoy the gallery, below: