· It is fascinating to observe first-hand how Hinduism and Buddhism reached Angkor from India so many centuries ago and the importance of religion and monarchy in the Khmer civilisation.
· Compared to other holiday destinations, there aren’t many Indian tourists visiting Cambodia as of today, with a major reason being absence of direct flights. However, the locals in Siem Reap hold Indians in high regard, and are always curious to know more about the country in which Hinduism and Buddhism originated. For Indian passport holders, there is an option for Visa on Arrival in Cambodia. There aren’t many countries which extend the privilege to Indians, and this could be an extra incentive for those planning a short holiday abroad.
Tips for travellers planning to visit Siem Reap
· The ideal duration of visit to Siem Reap should be for at least 3–4 days. Angkor Archaeological Park entry has 3 different options — 1 day pass, 3 day pass and 7 day pass. While a 7 day pass may not appeal to everyone, one should at least take the 3 day pass to try to cover the ruins. I was advised to stay in Siem Reap for 4 days, and my personal opinion after the trip is that I was able to cover almost everything I wanted to in that duration, and even add a couple of more points on the itinerary.
· Speaking of itinerary, it does help to have a planned schedule beforehand to cover various places. Some sites are a bit further off than others, and scheduling will help ensure that none of the key places are missed out. While the Tuk-Tuk drivers are usually very helpful and offer advice on what to visit, my observation was that one shouldn’t solely go by their inputs.
· The Small Circuit (the major temples) are recommended to be covered along with an authorised guide to share the history of the places. The huge ruins have a magnificent history and almost every wall and sculpture/carving has a story to tell.
· The Grand Circuit (other temples in Angkor) can be covered without having to hire a guide, with reference of books and apps — mentioned in later points).
· Kbal Spean and floating villages are best experienced in post rainy season. There was very less water in both places when I visited them, which somewhat were dampeners. However, visiting both places were still enjoyable for the unique experience they offered.
· Apart from the places I listed in my itinerary, I also considered visiting Phnom Kulen (enquire about water in the waterfall — best visited post rainy season) and Beng Melea, but decided against it because of prioritising on the places I wanted to cover. For the same reason, I also missed out on going to the iconic Phare Circus. Siem Reap is also popular with adventure enthusiasts with offerings like professional shooting range and quad bikes (which can be hired and driven into the forests) among others.
· The weather, even in non-summer and rainy months is very warm and humid. Must carry sufficient quantity of drinking water with you — ALWAYS. And if feasible, energy bars (or some food items) as well. Sunglasses and hats are a must as well to tackle the heat.
· Most temples in Angkor are strict on dress codes. Visitors with sleeveless tops and shorts are usually not permitted to enter inside the premises by the security guards.
· Siem Reap has plenty of good modern departmental stores, which are well stocked with all consumer goods. Backpackers can travel light if they wish to, and purchase/re-stock their inventory from these stores.