Seeing the Angkor Wat has always been in my must-see places around the world. That’s why I was very excited to go to Siem Reap, Cambodia and finally get a chance to see this famous temple.
Bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
My adventure started in Phnom Penh where I purchased a bus ticket to go to Siem Reap. The night before, I paid my hotel $13 USD to book this ticket which included a minivan pickup to the bus depot.
By next morning, the minivan took me and a couple of other tourist to the bus depot who are also going to Siem Reap.
The bus ride was actually quite pleasant despite the many annoying mosquitoes buzzing around. The local Cambodians in the bus were really friendly. One guy started chatting me up asking me about my background and I was happy to chat with him for the long bus ride.
Eventually we reach the Siem Reap bus depot and it was time to negotiate with tuk tuk drivers.
Negotiating with Tuk Tuk drivers to take me to my hotel and around Angkor Wat the next morning
Upon arriving in Siem Reap, the typical aggressive taxi and tuk tuk sales people begin to swarm me and other tourist. Most tourist took the first price offered to them or bargained very little.
Being a cheap ass Asian person, I wasn’t going to accept the first price offered. All the tourist has already left. I was the only person remaining in the bus depot still negotiating with an aggressive tuk tuk driver.
They quoted me $20 USD to take me to my hotel and to take me around Angkor Wat. I refused and wanted $16 USD. After a long back and forth negotiation, we couldn’t come to an agreement.
Finally he said he’ll take $17 USD and I said no and started walking away.
That’s when a younger tuk tuk driver ran after me and said he’ll take $16 USD to take me to my hotel and drive me around the Angkor Wat complex.
Sweet, I got the price I wanted! I was so proud of myself because I was progressively getting better at bargaining (I got scammed and ripped off many times prior to this)
Angkor Wat ticketing office
The next morning, my tuk tuk driver came and picked me up from my hotel. Our first destination was the ticketing office to buy an entrance ticket to the Angkor Wat complex.
The lineups seem longer for those buying in larger groups. Because I was travelling solo, my lineup was significantly shorter.
I paid $20 USD for a single day ticket. As of February 2017, the single day ticket price is now $37 (an increase of $17).
They also sell multi-day tickets but I’m a young fit guy so seeing all the sites in one day is no problem to me. If you are older or physically unfit, then you’ll want the multi-day ticket. The Angkor Wat complex requires many up and down climbing and hiking, you’ll be dead tired by the end of the day (I know I was!).
First stop: Angkor Wat
After buying the entrance ticket, I was off to see Angkor Wat!
The first thing I did, obviously is take many touristy pictures right outside Angkor Wat. And so should you when you visit this world famous temple.
Once you get inside, you’re going to want to climb up the temple and get a higher view of the Angkor Wat temple. However, be prepared to wait inline for 30-40 minutes to get a chance to climb up the temple! Be sure to have your ticket ready because they will check it before you go up.
The ruins up top is very nice and the view is most definitely worth it.
After exploring Angkor Wat, it’s time to go to the next stop!
Second stop: Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom is arguably even larger than Angkor Wat. The place is a huge maze! It was actually fun navigating your way through the corridors and it’s easy to get lost (which is part of the fun!). You can also climb high ledges to get a nicer view point and picture of Angkor Thom.
My only bad experience in Angkor Thom was a guy started following me around and showing me the best places to take pictures. He claims to be a student and he’s just here to learn and practice his English and doesn’t want any money. My gut feeling told me he was lying so after following me for a bit, I said to him, “I am not giving you any money”. He then replied, “please, just a little bit, it will help me as a student”. I didn’t believe him and told him he was dishonest and walked away.
Third Stop: Terrace of the Elephants
Quite honestly, the Terrance of the Elephants was the most lacklustre stop. It is basically just elephant carvings on the side of a broken wall. Thankfully, it was just a quick stop before going to the next.
Fourth Stop: Ta Keo
Ta Keo is VERY interesting. From the outside, it looks very similar to Chichen Itza or the many Mayan temples in Mexico and Central America. I am always amazed how the Mayan, Egyptian, and Angkor all have similar pyramid shaped mega structures. They had zero contact with one another yet the design for their buildings is strikingly the same! It truly is one of the biggest mysteries in human history.
Fifth Stop: Ta Prohm or Angelina Jolie Temple
That’s right, if you tell the locals to take you to the Angelina Jolie Temple, they know exactly what you are talking about. Ta Prohm was the site where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed. This is the infamous site where you can see trees break through the temple structure and look as if they have merged into one. It is my favourite temple in the Angkor Wat complex and looks like an amazing scene for a Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones movie. It just screams adventure.
Sixth Stop: Banteay Kdei
By the time I got to the final stop, I was all templed out. It was starting to all look the same. This was the signal to go home after a long day of walking, hiking, picture taking and video making of the huge Angkor Wat temple complex.
Was there more to see? Of course! The Angkor Wat Complex is huge and there are still many small temples I did not visit. However, the six I visited were the major ones and my tour of all these places started at 8 am and we didn’t finish until about 4pm. It’s a full day tour!
Going back to my hotel
After my tuk tuk driver dropped me off my hotel, I paid him $13 USD. I had already given him $3 the day before when he drove me to my hotel. While traveling in Cambodia, I had a realization that I am so stuck living in such a scarcity mindset. Looking at my tuk tuk driver, he did an amazing job driving me around. His customer service was great and he was very friendly the entire time. I decided he deserves to make extra money so I gave him $1 USD and 3000 Riels for a job well done.
Hard working and friendly people like him deserves to earn more money. I am completely against paying upfront but have no problem giving a good tip if the job was done really well. I told the tuk tuk driver to keep the money and make sure he doesn’t tell his boss about it (his boss is a jerk I was bargaining with the day before).
He was very happy and asked me if I needed anymore driving the following day. Unfortunately, I told him no because I was leaving then. I’d love to hire him again, his service was great. Hopefully, he does well in the future.
Overall, my experience in Siem Reap has been positive. I also tipped really well at the restaurants I ate because of their superb service. This chain of generous act turned out to be very good because of the good karma I built it. In the next blog post, you’ll see a miracle happening from a trip gone bad.