This JBR is really “just back report” as we came back yesterday night after our 3N/4D Siem Reap visit . Please arrange for a cuppa as its quite long as well :)
First and foremost, our sincere thanks to TA community whose help was invaluable.
Actually we had planned a mid-December visit, but had to cancel, and then did a very quick, totally unplanned visit- this is the reason that we faced some difficulties but overall this was a fantastic trip.
Day 1 (29/Dec/2013): Could started late from Bangkok due to time spent in hotel booking at some last minute packing- around 11 am, drove to Aranyaprathet. 250km, but took 5 hours. Major part (I think 100km) road is single lane and under renovation. Found hoard of cars and people at the border due to holiday season. Quite a bit of chaos, found a parking next to “Discovery” parking mentioned on one of the Thai blogs. Charges THB 150/day- either increased recently from THB 100, or it was their business time :(
Took almost 1 hour total from Thai border crossing, get visa on arrival and immigration. We were charged 800THB p.p. which is higher when you compare written rate of $20 p.p. Also, if my understanding is correct, online visa costs $25 p.p but there is some concession for children.
After this again, I got fixed- since this was unplanned trip, I could not get any taxi booked. So nice people at Poipet offered us to take to a “bus station” for FREE, from where I can get a bus. Since it was almost the evening , I got into this trap. Actually I don’t know whether this is a complete trap, as I was under impression that I can get a taxi directly from Poipet border. In any case, at bus station, I was told that there is a “last” bus waiting! When I asked about Taxi, I was told none is available. Finally when I said I will wait for some taxi to come up, I was offered a “last” taxi at $60 (finally a Korean girl joined us helping to reduce this burden). As such taxi rate is $12 p.p. if sharing. Next, after 2 hours of mad driving, the taxi dropped us near a hotel on National Road 5. We did mistake by getting off. Now all the Tuk-tuk drivers told us stories why this Taxi can not go inside the city and offered their help in dropping is free if we hire them for temple, if not, charge is 10$. They went to lengths to abuse us when we told them that we are not interested in any Tuk Tuk hire. Even one fellow started shouting – and we realized that we are not in Thailand :(. It was our mistake throughout – believing all the “nice” people till this stage. In end we paid 5$ to get to our hotel which was hardly 3 km from the scene. I am just writing this at length so that if some reader is going on unplanned trip, s/he is aware …
Tried booking a taxi for next day temple tour, the hotel person tried calling people, but finally offered a Tuk Tuk. I accepted with much apprehension, as I did not want to lose few morning hours next day just to arrange a taxi.
Day 2: Started at 7 am from hotel. As mentioned in so many reviews and JBRs here, it was a very wise decision. We followed mainly from 3 days JBR from “jewel838c” here.
Purchased 3 day tour pass for $40 p.p. first.
Morning (7.30 am to 11 am):
Started from Angkor Wat east gate. Purchased a “Ancient Angkor” guide book. I must say, this was a wise decision, and the book was really useful. It provides suggested visit plan which was generally useful. We did not find any major problem with no guide to help us planning / describing things there.
Since it was early in the morning, we found Bas Relief all to ourselves, and had great time there. By the time we reached west gate whole site was full of people- tours and guides.
Till 12.30 We did two more sites - Prasat Kravan , Banteay Kdei.
Lunch at a restaurant near Banteay Kdie.
Afternoon (2-3.30). We did Ta Phrom, and headed to Phnom Bakheng, as the driver told us that there is much rush due to busy season and they allow only 300 people at the top.
Evening (4 -6) He was right about the rush, however I think there were more than 300 people as time reached 5 pm. Unfortunately sunset was not much a sight, due to clouds. Disappointed we left the site.
Back to old hotel and changed to new one which was our home for two night-quite late due to heavy traffic on the way. got freshened up, and left for dinner at an Indian restaurant called “Dakshin” in old market area. Food was good.
Did some “fast” purchasing from night market- we found a good place which sells Cambodian stuff – says “AHA certified”- nice bamboo stuff and like that.
Sunrise (5-7.30) Started at 5.10 am for sunrise at Angkor Wat. It was really cold – actually felt very good. Reached there at 5.30, but place was beaming with people. Could not get “first row” place :(, in particular one gentleman was really pushy - trying to capture snaps alternatively with his blackberry, a P&S camera and iPad mini (lol)…Sunrise was also not that great again due to clouds but still better than sunset of yesterday. Had small accident – wife slipped in mud and got ankle twisted.
Went back to hotel and had BF. Now I started alone as wife opted out due to pain while my daughter who was tired, wanted to have relaxing time at swimming pool.
Morning 9.30 am till 2 pm:
Started with Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas (did not go up), Leper King & Terrace of Elephant. Since I was alone, tried hard to see all the things mentioned in guide book and it was very good time spent.
Back to hotel, had late lunch nearby the hotel (Khmer restaurant or similar name).
Tonle sap: Started at 3.30 after lunch for Kampong Phluk. Road was very bad at the end- actually there is no road at all after booking office, and we were in Tuk Tuk- I should have arranged a taxi, I thought… We paid $20 p.p for a boat tour. When requested, the person at counter charged 50% for my daughter, though . Once we reached near the village, we were awestruck by the site- starting with a police station and a school, everything was way high above - in running water. We moved through full village, where by our boat driver’s account ~700 families live. After some 30 min, we were asked if we want to go in “mangrove” jungle in a small boat. As I had read on TA, we went on the tour by paying 10$ for family - two of us plus my daughter. Again, it was a slow, nice journey through many trees / vegetation. Since it was almost evening, atmosphere was cool and relaxing. After 15 minutes of this boat ride, we again rode back to our original “speed” boat and headed back.
After hard day (for me, at least) we reached hotel at 8 pm, changed and went to Dakshin again for dinner.
We paid $15 for first day, and $40 for second day to the Tuk Tuk fellow. I think I paid more for the second day, but then he was nice throughout and I thought it was fine. We also arranged taxi with our Tuk Tuk driver for next day to Poipet border. He said his friend is quoting $40, I agreed, again trusting him.
After dinner we strolled in nearby markets. Had mango ice cream from Blue Pumpkin (a TA favorite, I understand) which was good. Bought some pepper corns and few small souvenirs.
Day 4: My idea was to visit Bantey Srie but Mr. Sophal- our Tuk Tuk fellow told me that it would be a long journey with not much time left for enjoying the site-if we want to leave hotel at 12 noon for our return journey to Bnagkok. So dropped the idea.
Woke up very late on lazy morning, had proper breakfast today :). Changed plan and left hotel at 11 for Artisan d’Angkor. I found the place quite interesting. As many people have commented here on TA, prices were high but quality was also very good. Found some unique items which we did not see in night markets. Bought few boxes, laquerware and a paining/frame. I had seen a shop in night market, though, which had stone carved Apsaras and other such stuff at lower rate than this place. I think quality of that shop was comparable and the price very good.
After spending rest of my $ plus Thai Baht, we left the place after an hour (We did not take the tour of the facility; something should be left for next visit, right?).
Journey back was smooth enough. After 2.30 hours’ drive, our fellow dropped us at the border. Within 45 min, we were in our car parked at the border.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip as far as Angkor Wat and other temples goes. With little more planning, I am sure, we will enjoy rest of the temples next time !!! Oh, yes, we will be back, SIEM REAP.