Tried and Tested: Siem Reap Uncovering Angkor
What do you come to Siem Reap for? Temples of course! And there’s no better introduction than Uncovering Angkor – a full day tour taking you to Siem Reap’s most impressive temples. These small group Angkor temple tours only take up to a maximum of 8 guests per tour so you can be sure you’re getting a personalized service, without the tour groups. Tripsle offers group tours for US$29 per person, and US$35 per person for the private option.
Our day of Siem Reap temple sightseeing began with a pick up from the hotel by our registered local Khmer guide and driver. Some travelers choose to explore the temples by tuk tuk, some by bicycle (the temples are too widespread to explore by foot), but believe me, you’ll be very grateful for the air-conditioned car after you’ve spent more than a minute in the notorious Cambodian heat. Not to mention the free-flow supply of iced water from the cooler in the back whenever you need it. If you haven’t yet picked up your Temples Pass (choice of 1 Day (US$37), 3 Day (US$62) and 7 Day (US$72)), you’ll stop by the ticket office first before heading to the first temple of the day:
Ta Prohm Temple
On arrival at Angkor’s most atmospheric temple, you might be reminded of scenes of Angelie Jolie sprinting through crumbling ruins, and past the huge overgrown roots that Ta Prohm is so famous for, since it was featured in 2001’s Tomb Raider. Enormous bows snake their way around the temple, braced to swallow it back up into the jungle. Though much of the temple has collapsed, the remaining ruins wrapped up in the surrounding nature make for a truly impressive first stop. As we roamed, our guide, Temly, shared insights and historical knowledge about different parts of the site, always quick to point out the viewpoints, find hidden corners avoiding the crowds, and play photographer (he’d clearly had years of experience with this last one.)
You can’t go to Siem Reap without visiting the impressive Angkor Wat. Though some might opt to explore by themselves, you don’t want to miss out on learning about the history and fascinating architecture of this 12th century temple. Our guide had a true passion for all the sites we visited but his deep respect for Angkor Wat certainly made an impression. Entering from the less touristy East entrance and making our way through each of the 3 layers of the temple (we decided to skip the climb to the top of the inner gallery which is said to be closest to heaven, due to the 45 minute queue), Temly led us on a historical journey through the ancient architecture, modern reconstruction and didactic friezes. Angkor Wat was as enormous, beautiful and impressive as I imagined. Emerging from the West side, our last view of Angkor Wat was the most famous angle across a small lake, with the turreted reflection of the temple mirrored beautifully in the water.
It was definitely appreciated to have the driver drop us off at one end of each temple, and ready waiting at the other side to provide instant air-conditioned comfort so we never had to retrace our steps through these expansive plots. For lunch, our guide Temly took us to a seating area nearby Angkor Wat to treat us to our home cooked hot Cambodian feast of curry, rice, vegetables and fruit for dessert (which they will happily adapt for special dietary requirements if notified in advance too). Cambodian food can be a little bland, and without much variation, but this meal was absolutely delicious! Kudos to the chef!
The last main sight of the day was Bayon Temple – known for it’s numerous 4-faced towers gazing out in all directions with serene smiles. Less crowded with tourists, Bayon invites visitors to stroll around between a mix of preserved and ruined architecture. At this point the guide assessed our tiredness levels and suggested we visit a few more sights in neighboring Angkor Thom, the walled enclosure of the former Royal Palace. With limited time in Siem Reap, we of course said yes and walked on to nearby Baphuon temple, a three tiered temple mountain with a fantastic view from the top (not recommended for anyone with vertigo!) On the Western side, look out for the enormous reclining buddha carved into the temple wall, still visible after years of weathering (but not immediately easy to spot without someone to point it out). We strolled through the adjacent forest, peacefully devoid of other tourists, past Phimeanakas Hindu temple and through to the Elephant Platform where once upon a time the King would have arranged elaborate entertainment. A quick wave and the car was there waiting to cool us down and drop us back in Siem Reap town.
Beyond Unique Escapes
After the tour, we were lucky enough to meet Anthony, who, together with his wife Fiona, began Beyond Unique Escapes, the local operator that curates the Uncovering Angkor experience, as well as most other Siem Reap tours you’ll find on Tripsle. Here at Tripsle, we not only source the best prices in each destination but we also strive to work with the most socially responsible operators, committed to making a positive change to local tourism. BUE is one of few operations truly committed to the responsible tourism initiative in Cambodia. They ensure proper treatment and training for all staff and guides, and run a number of tours directly helping the local community (check out A Day in the Life and Kompheim Village Walk and Talk). The BUE office also has a drop off location for plastic bottles and plastic bags which are used to build houses in the local community, in partnership with Cambodian NGO, Husk.
Tips for sightseeing Siem Reap’s temples:
Remember to wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders (a scarf or wrap won’t cut it).
Siem Reap is HOT – put on suncream, wear a hat, keep in the shade and take every bottle of water you’re offered.
Buy your Temple Pass in advance, if possible, so you start the tour straight away, without the stop at the ticket office.
Book the Uncovering Angkor Tour for the best introduction to Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Bayon and more Siem Reap temples.
Uncovering Angkor can be booked on Tripsle for US$29 per person for the group tour (no more than 8 people) or US$35 per person for a private tour (US$48 for groups of less than 4). The price includes a full day tour with licensed guide, air conditioned transportation with driver, direct hotel pick up and drop off, a delicious hot Cambodian lunch and unlimited iced water. The price does not include the Angkor Temple Pass.
Book Uncovering Angkor Now!