We landed in Siem Reap and were greeted by a very happy and smiley Mr. Nil, the driver our hotel had sent to collect us from the airport in his faithful tuk tuk.
Prearranging a transfer to your hotel is definitely something I would recommend, especially in countries where Uber is not available. Some hotels, such as ours in Siem Reap, include airport transfers both ways- look out for this in Cambodia. Even if they are not included, the hotel can almost always offer the service for a fee, which can be added to your room bill.
We stayed at The Tito Suite Residence and were very happy with our accomodation; the hotel must have been refurbished very recently as it was immaculate. Our only ‘gripe’ was that the red wine was ice cold and the white wine was room temperature (bearing in mind it was 30+ Celsius)!
The hotel arranged for Mr Nil to take us around the Angkor complex for a full day and to finish at Phnom Bakheng to watch the sunset.
The Angkor Complex is a vast area covering hundreds of square kilometres; each temple was essentially an attempt to outdo the previous one in complexity, size and symmetry. The history of the Khmer empire is quite interesting so I suggest you read up on it before going, even the Wikipedia article gives you enough to go in with.
You will have to go to a central ticket office and have your picture printed on the tickets, so if your driver doesn’t explain why you’re going to a modern building first- that’s why. You can get a 1 ,3 or 7 day pass. One day was enough for us, and cost $37 US each.
The beautiful scenery and ruins speak for themselves, the pictures below do more than my words can describe!
Compared to what we’ve read of other people’s accounts, we paid a little more for our driver for the day at $25 US for the day, but it was worth it. Mr Nil was a very good driver and provided ice-cold mineral water and refreshing face wipes throughout the day. When we said we wanted to go and find some lunch, he took us somewhere there was vegetarian food available, and even came in to the restaurant to make sure we were happy with the menu. So, we probably paid $8 US over the cheapest driver we could have found, but it was worth it for the excellent service we received. One thing to remember is that, as always, you get what you pay for- and an extra few dollars to the guy responsible for your safety on the hectic Cambodian roads was not an issue for us!
At Phnom Bakheng there is a restriction of about 300 people allowed to the top at any one time, so Mr Nil made sure we were there in plenty of time and managed to get a good vantage point.
When going to Phnom Penh there are two main plaes that everyone should visit, the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek, and the S21 prison (former school). Both pertain to the horrific Cambodian genocide which lasted from 1975-1979. Imposed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, this deranged and sickening regime saw between a quarter and a third of the entire Cambodian population exterminated, and to this day the country continues to reel from the after effects of the horrors of that time - physically, psychologically and culturally.
It is emotionally a lot to take in for one day, but we decided to go against the advice of spreading it over two days and visited one after the other in a half-day tour.
Unlike many of the disrespectful tourists there, we decided not to take any pictures or selfies(!) at either location. Rather, in favour of immersing ourselves in the history and taking away knowledge of the atrocities as this is something which was not covered for either of us in our school curricula.
After a solemn morning, we were very much in need of a pick-me-up come evening time, and were delighted to find out that our friend Don was in Phnom Penh on his way through to his next destination. Needless to say, we indulged in several $0.75 beers, and look forward to seeing him back in the UK!