5 Tips for a Perfect Trip to Angkor Complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Complex is a 12th century natural wonder located in Cambodia in South East Asia. This magical place has its own special energy that you can feel from the moment you step foot there and when walking through the ancient temple ruins.

It would take months to explore and really come to know all of the greatness of the Angkor Complex, which is why its highly recommended to visit there without any sense of rush. Visiting slowly and with time allows one to really get a full unforgettable experience.

Upon visiting the temples, you will see three options available in order to visit the complex: one, three and seven day. Many tourists try to see it all in one day, which is difficult and quite exhausting. 3-7 day passes are even better options if time is not an issue.

I chose the 3 day pass and felt very satisfied with the amount of time that I had at each place.

Preparation

When you go to the ticket office to buy your ticket they will take a photo and print it off on a small ticket, which will be your gateway into the temples during the time frame that you choose.

This ticket is not able to be shared with other people and if you lose it you are out of luck. You will be asked to present this ticket multiple times and there is simply no way of sneaking around paying the price.

Take care of this ticket and make sure that it does not get wet. If that happens and they cannot recognize who you are, they will not let you inside. Many people carry their ticket in a plastic bag in order to avoid problems.

Updated Prices

 

One Day: $37

Three Day:  $62

Seven Day: $72

The price has increased over the years and many say that its more expensive than they would like. However, the positive part is that a small amount of the money of every ticket goes to helping a Cambodian children’s hospital.

Clothes

Just like any other temple around the world, a modest dress code is obligatory. This consists of long skirts, shirts that cover your shoulders and nothing see through. While that might be difficult during the scorching summer months, it’s necessary and you will be refused entrance if you are dressed any other way.

I had a sleeveless shirt with a scarf around me that completely covered me up, but I was asked to change into a complete t-shirt, regardless of the scarf around me.  If you have any doubts about whether your clothes are acceptable or not, its better to be safe than sorry.

If you run into a dress code problem there are many places to buy around the temples at a very low price.

Also, its very important to choose the type of shoes that you wear carefully. The complex is very large and it will require lots of walking. In addition, there will be some great opportunities to climb up the temples to get good views, so its much better to wear sport sandals or tennis shoes.

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1. Start Early and Watch the Sunrise

Many people are uncertain about whether they should get up or not to see the sunrise, especially given all of the mixed reviews that you will find online about the amount of tourists at that time of the morning.

While it is true that you will come across many tourists while visiting at sunrise, I still believe that its an experience that you must have while visiting there.

I went during the low season and I came across tons of tourists, so I couldn’t even imagine what its like in the high season. Its impossible to escape the tourists, but if you can focus your mind away from them and on the beauty of the temple, the beautiful sky and the peace of the sunrise, it can be a magical experience.

If you are really wanting to miss a lot of the crowds, avoid visiting sunrise at the main temple. There are other places that you can go that are less crowded and can give you very beautiful views.

2. Clearly Organize your Transportation & Price

There are many different ways to get around to the different temples. The most common ways are by tuk tuk or by bike. Many opt to bike around the complex, but keep in mind the time of the year if you plan on going about this way. Temperatures can spike to around 110 degrees in the middle of the day and biking under the burning hot sun could turn your peaceful day into an exhausting experience.

The best and cheapest way to get around, especially if you are with multiple people, is to hire a tuk tuk for a day. They will be at your disposal all day in order to take you exactly where you want to go, including to the temples that are around 40km away.

You can easily find drivers in the streets or through your hotel.

Given the language barrier, I would highly suggest to organize it through your hotel and make it very clear from the beginning where you want to go and a set price.

I met a few travelers that hired drivers that did not speak English and in the end they found themselves in an uncomfortable situation and getting charged way more than they though they were going to pay. In addition, the driver joined in for lunch and he ordered a big meal and left and expected the girls to pay.

Language barrier problems and conflicts about prices are very common, so make sure to go prepared so you don’t get ripped off.

Tuk tuks can be hired as low as $15/day to visit the nearby temples, but if you want to venture off to temples that are up to 45 minutes away, such as Banteay Srei or Beng Mealea, you can expect to pay up to $45 for a full day.

In additon, its very important to also establish the meeting point with your driver, given that the temples have many different exits, which can be long distances apart. Make sure to take your drivers phone number and if you get into any problems you can contact him easily.

3. Do your Own Research or Hire a Quality Guide

Walking around temples and exploring on your own can be a good experience, but I highly suggest if you get the chance, even if it’s just for a day, to hire a guide that can give you a good explanation of the places that you are visiting.

There are so many temples and if you don’t know where you are going, it can get a bit complicated.  I had a guide during my time and it was a positive experience. He was able to show me the best places to take pictures, history about the temples and give his own perspective as a local that was born and raised near the Angkor Complex.

Trip advisor has many reviews of the best guides that speak multiple languages, so do your homework before making any decision.

4. Don’t Attempt to See it All in One Day

In many online reviews and articles you will read about something called “temple fatigue.” When I first heard about that I thought it was a joke, but after my first day there I had a big dose of it.

I started in the hottest part of the day, at the most popular temples and had to fight large crowds of people, tour groups and lines up to 2 hours just to climb to the top of the main temple and experience the view.

After my first day I was not feeling so motivated about visiting again, but with a nice traditional spa treatment in the night, a good nights rest and a new agenda, I went back for the second and third day and enjoyed it to the fullest.

Getting up early really does make a difference, as well as packing adequate water and taking an umbrella, hat or sunblock to protect you from the sun.

5. Visit at Sunset Time

Maybe you decided that getting up at 4am is not your cup of tea. If that is the case, you can visit at sunset time instead and experience some beautiful views as well. There are many places to view the sunset, but again, it all depends on if you want to be surrounded by tourists or not.

One of my most precious views of all my time in Cambodia was at sunset time. There was not a single person around and the view was spectacular!

 

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10 Unique Travel Experiences in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Southeast Asia is an adventure paradise that attracts travelers from all over the world. Known for its beautiful sandy beaches, hiking, delicious variety of Asian food and incredibly cheap prices, Southeast Asia has it all.

After a beautiful trip through Vietnam, I made an overland trip from Ho Chi Minh to Cambodia’s capital, Phenom Penh, before making my way to Siem Reap.

This is a city known internationally for its ancient temples and is home to the largest religious monument on Earth, Angkor Wat.

Given all of the amazing words I have heard about this place, I knew that I wanted more than just a couple of days to explore the area, so I opted for 6 nights in order to give me the chance to explore as much as I could.

It’s easy to think about traveling to Siem Reap and only think about visiting the temples, but this area is known for so much more.

In this article I will share with you 10 of my favorite experiences that I had in Siem Reap in order to help you organize your future trip there!

1. Angkor Complex

This is the most popular attraction and UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts people from all over the world

It was built in the 12th century as a Hindu temple, dedicated to the God Vishnu, but over time converted to buddhism.

Walking with any sort of rush through the temples ruins can be a magical experience. Carvings are found throughout the walls and floors of the temples, each one with their own story and detailed art.

It was a surreal experience to walk through such an ancient place that holds such an important significance in the world until this day.

Price:

One Day: $37

Three Day:  $62

Seven Day: $72

Your ticket will have your photo on it, so you will not be able to share with others. This allows you access to 72 temples and the best part is that a small part of that money goes to a Cambodian children’s hospital.

2. Floating Villages

There are a few different floating villages that you can visit along Tonle Sap Lake, Southeast Asia’s Largest freshwater lake.

This is a good way to see the local life and see how many Cambodians live until this day. It was an eye opening experience to see the local people, their homes and the floating schools and churches.

3. Spa Day with Traditional Treatment

This was hands-down my most relaxing experience that I had while visiting Siem Reap. It was so nice that I returned a second time to get another treatment.

Mudita Spa is by far the best spa in the area, with a variety of spa packages designed exactly for your needs.

For my first treatment I did their signature treatment, which consisted of a 90 minute massage done by two therapists, with hot cloths massaged throughout the body in rolling movements.

This was a first time for me and the experience was outstanding.

The second time I returned to get a traditional Khmer treatment called J’Pong Herbal Steam Treatment, followed by a 60 minute massage.

This is a traditional treatment in Cambodia, used to help promote circulation, give you more energy and help control stress. They use many different herbs, including lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and many more.

In this treatment you will sit in a curtained off steamed area for about 20 to 30 in order to sweat as much as you possible can.

After the stream bath you take a cool shower and then massage. I left feeling completely rejuvenated and full of energy after my treatment.

4. Old Market

Old market in the city offers everything you can possibly think of from clothes, house ware, souvenirs, food and so much more.

This is a great place to go and experience more of the local life and culture, while finding a nice Souvenir along the way.

They have a day and night market, so I suggest visiting them both to get a feel for both of them.

5. Khmer Cooking Class

This was a perfect experience to learn about the Khmer cuisine.  We started our day off at the local market, picking out our food and then directly to the kitchen for a fun afternoon of cooking.

We made a three course meal, uniquely selected by the chef himself. We learn how to make the most traditional dish of Cambodia, fish amok in banana leaves and a delicious chicken sour soup with salad.

During our cooking class we learned so many new tips and tricks by the chef who was by our side during the whole experience.

6. Pub Street

Pub Street is the street where all of the action happens at night. It is lined with my clubs, bars, restaurants and street stands, with a variety of things to eat and drink.

Many travelers are happy visiting there because during happy hour you can buy beer for less than one dollar. If you are a non drinker, you can still enjoy the lively environment and indulge in some delicious fried ice cream, which is found all throughout the street. Delicious!

7. Cambodian Performance & Show

Cambodia has their own unique dance and music, with fancy traditional outfits and dresses.  One of the best ways to see it all is by having a nice dinner and watching a live show.

I attended a cultural night at Borei Angkor Resort and Spa, which was a very luxurious outdoor experience where we enjoyed a delicious dinner, while watching a stunning dance and musical performance.

8. Landmine Museum

This is a museum that was created in the early 1990s by by an ex-child soldier. He learned the ends and outs of planting landmines when he was a child and now he uses his knowledge by visiting villages and disfusing the landmines that are present by hand.

Over half of the land of Cambodia is still unprotected from landmines and this museum sheds light on this issue, offering a ton of information that you can learn, as well as personal testimonies and photography.

This was one of my favorite museums that I visited in Cambodia. It was only $5 and all the money goes to raising money for landmine clearing, help fund schools and assist with children that have amputees as a result of landmines.

9. Relax the Pool

With all of the walking and activities that you can do in Siem Reap, its important as well to take a break and let it all sink in. The temperatures can be extremely high in the middle of the day and relaxing by the pool is a great option for a couple of hours of rest or for the entire day.

Many hotels have a swimming pool and relaxing by the pool with a nice book or music is a great way to pass the day.

10. Get Adventurous and Eat Bugs at the Old Market

If you’re wanting to get very adventurous and have a strange experience, head to the Old Market where you can choose form a variety of bugs to eat.

While many westerners might think that this is a crazy type of experience, this is very common and normal for most South East Asian countries. I must admit, I’m not a big fan of bugs, but I decided to give one a try.

I guess they say, “When in Cambodia!”

 

 

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A Tough Walk Through History: Killing Fields in Phenom Penh, Cambodia

Travel is an enriching experience that can teach you valuable life lessons, while also helping you to discover and understand more about the world and yourself.

This self and life discovery is what keeps me addicted to traveling and what has motivated me to travel until this point to more than half of the countries around the world completely alone.

Many countries across the globe have similarities in their lifestyle and traditions, but what I have learned in my journey is that, while this may be true, that every country has its own unique charm and something special to teach you if you are willing to see it.

The lessons that one learns on the roads come in different forms and if one travels with an open heart and mind, the lessons will come freely and one will begin to be transformed.

Traveling to Cambodia in Southeast Asia was an experience in particular that was full of lessons and moments that left me reflecting on my own life and way of thinking.  As I departed from Cambodia to venture off to Laos, I can remember the overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the transformation that had taken place within my heart throughout my time there.

While traveling is a beautiful experience, it also brings you face to face with humanity and shows you the different problems that have existed throughout history and still exist until this day.

That is exactly what happened to me during my time in Cambodia, where I not only traveled for fun and pleasure, but I traveled to learn the Cambodian history on a deeper and more personal level.

While Cambodia is a small country, it is known for many things.  The average person might know something about this country through seeing a scene from the popular movie Tomb Raider, the well rounded traveler through the famous Angkor Temples and a history buff through the horrific genocide and war that happened years back.

This is a country that has so much to offer, but becoming the country that it is today was not an easy path for Cambodian families. Every single family there has been affected by some way or another by war and genocide and for many these feelings still linger with them today.

A Little Background…

From the years of 1975 to 1979 a communist leader, Pol Pot, lead what was called the Khemer Rough, killing millions of innocent Cambodian people. His goal was to kill off any one that was educated, religious, wealthy, or had any important positions in the government.

Absolutely anyone that went against what he demanded was instantly killed. Families were separated, children of all ages were taught to be tough, fight and kill. The death toll during those years was more than 3 million, which is why its so difficult to find many old people while traveling through the country.

On my second day in the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, I took a trip to the killing fields for my own personal education and understanding. It was not the easiest place to visit, but I felt grateful and humbleness for having had the experience to learn for myself on the exact grounds that all of the horrible actions took place throughout history.

Both the killings fields and the genocide museum offer a great deal of information due to the fact that during those days they kept a very strict record, with photography of the men, women and child that were captivated and killed.

With a personal or audio guide one can walk through this dark time in history, listen to what exactly happened in detail and hear personal testimonies of survivors.

So one may be asking, “Why on Earth would you ever put yourself through that and visit there?”

History cannot be erased, but rather something that we can learn from.

Each and every hard time throughout history has a lesson behind it that can give us something valuable and applicable to our lives today.

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Information:

1. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng used to be a high school, which was turned into a Security Prison (S21) during the times of war. Up to 20,000 people were imprisoned and tortured there during those hard dark years

Personal guides are available in order to give you a better insight into the personal stories of the ones that survived and give details on the different rooms that you walk through.

2. Choeung Ek Genocidal Center (Killing Fields)

The killing fields are located on the outskirts of the city. With the audio guide it will take minimum 1 hour. The guide is included in the price and gives you a very detailed understanding of what people had to go through.

There are many difficult parts of this tour to see, including the killing tree where innocent children were beaten to death, as well as a building with more than 8000 skulls arranged by age and sex in display to see.

As I mentioned, the experience visiting these historical places is not easy, but its a very powerful way to get a good insight on Cambodian history. I highly recommend the experience for anyone that visits Phnom Penh.

 

Don´t forget to also check out: 

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Group Tour vs Solo Travel: Pros & Cons

Traveling around the world has been an exciting adventure that has had a way of getting me to face and conquer new fears each and every day.

Before making my first solo trip in 2015, traveling alone was one of my biggest fears. Just the thought of going to a foreign alone, where English is not the mother tongue,  left me up at night sweating, anxious and with an uneasy feeling.

This wild experience has opened my eyes up to the world and has given me a greater confidence in myself and my ability to navigate throughout different countries without the help of anyone by my side.

In my solo travel across more than half of the countries on the planet, I have learned the ins and outs of traveling alone and in this article we are going to talk about the pros and cons of solo travel vs group tours in order to get a better idea of them from both perspectives.

In the north of Thailand I decided to take a break from my normal solo travels for a day and join on a day tour with a reputable company called Travel Hub. They offer very distinct tours, private and group, with good prices and interesting iteneraries, so I decided to give it a try!

The trip that I did was a full day excursion, picking me up at 7:30am and returning back at 9:30pm We started our journey off visiting a natural hot spring, before making our way to the famous White Temple in Chiang Rai (Wat Rong Khun).

This is one of the most recognized temples in the country, and from first glance, one can understand why. It is completely white and sparkles brightly underneath the sun. The white represents the purity of Buddha and the glass represents his wisdom and teachings. 

This is definitely one of the most extravagant temples that I’ve ever been to.

We then made our way to the Golden Triangle, which is an area that that borders three countries: Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. We did a guided river cruise on the Mekong River and visited the border of Laos and walked around. We were greeted with snake whiskey, a common exotic and strong drink that is common in Laos.

I must say, I have had many interesting introductions into foreign countries, but never one like that!

We then made our way to see different tribal villages, which included the Karen Long Neck Village, a place that is interesting for some and quite controversial for others. It was interesting to see, but not the highlight of my trip.

We had a nice buffet style lunch, a short stop at the Myanmar border and then a 4.5 hour drive back to Chiang Mai. Our day was completely packed, but it was nice to be able to see and experience so many places in a short time.

As I mentioned, this was not my normal solo travel style, but I was surprised at how much I liked the experience!

Now let’s talk about the pros and cons….

Pros:

1. Travel Without Planning & Organizing Trip

As a solo traveler, I am responsible for planning all of my trips, organizing my schedule and always paying attention to every small detail. Going with TravelHub was a great experience because it allowed me to take a mental break and just enjoy the trip without thinking and planning anything.

I was able to take some great pictures and just simply look out the window along the way without anything on my mind, which was actually quite a luxury.

2. Knowledgable Personal Guide

Another great thing about group trips is the fact that you will have a personal tour guide that usually has detailed knowledge on the places that you visit that can give you a very good idea about the story behind what you see. Our guide was a local, with a high level of English, which allowed us to easily learn and take in the information easily.

 

Not everyone has good experiences with guides, but thats why its important to look on Trip Advisor and read up on what people say about the company and tour guides.

3. Meeting New People

Without a doubt, one of the best parts about a group tour is the fact that it is a perfect way to meet other people. As a solo traveler, sometimes I am in situations where I don’t meet others, depending upon the location.

In my tour I connected with a few different girls from South America, as well as three guys from Barcelona.  I ended up staying in contact with them all and even ended up meeting them a couple weeks later in the south of Thailand at the Full Moon Party.

Without the group tour I would’ve never met these wonderful people that I will continue to be friends with as the years go by.

4. Safety & Security

For people that are a bit nervous about solo traveling, group trips are a really great option. It’s much less likely that something will happen to you when you’re with a group than when you are completely alone.

Some of the rural areas are difficult to reach and more dangerous for solo travelers.  Going with a group takes away the stress of possibly getting lost or something happening to you. Many times I have tried to visit a place alone and ended up having many obstacles, spent hours lost and getting ripped off by taxi drivers, which in the end costed me much more than I would of paid on an organized tour.

I have found from my personal experience that its much easier to fall into a scam when I am alone than when I am with other people to help in the decision making.

Cons:

1. Lack of Freedom and Independence

Without a doubt, one of the biggest cons of group tours is not having the opportunity to have your own freedom and independence. However, given that I have all of the freedom in the world that I want 99% of the time, it did not matter to me and was actually quite nice.

When you travel completely alone you are in control of everything and can stay as long as you want in a given place, compared to having a set time and schedule that you have no control over in a guided trip.

I think a mixture of solo travel and organized tours could be a good combination for one that is looking to have two totally different types of experiences. I know after my positive experience in Thailand that I will try to combine both types of travel styles into my plans.

2. Prices

Organized tours can get quite expensive depending on different factors (location, activity, time of year etc), in comparison to going completely alone. I have heard nightmares of people on very poor quality group tours and having experiences that have been complete nightmares. Sometimes people book extremely cheap tours to save money and in the end leave feeling a sense of regret for having joined in and not trying to make that same trip alone.

It’s important to do your homework and read all the reviews on Trip Advisor before making your decision. Travel Hub has many great reviews online, which is why I had them as my number one choice.

3. Personality Conflicts or Disconnection from Group

Sometimes you join a group tour and the energy is not what you were hoping for. It could be very possible that there will be someone in the group that absolutely drives you crazy, or the guide is terrible. If that is the case, it could be a very long and dreadful day.

However, with a positive attitude towards the experience, you can easily get past this minor problem and switch your focus on the beauty of the place that you are traveling to instead of getting worked up over a small, dumb issue.

4. Being Rushed

Many of the tours are filled with activities and are on a very tight schedule. While that is great for seeing a lot in a short amount of time, it can be kind of frustrating, especially if you want to really see a place or get photos and videos during the tour. Some tours are more relaxed, while others try to put too many activities in a short day trip.

Most tours will give you the agenda before hand so that you can see what your day will look like before going on the trip.

 

What do you prefer? Solo travel or group trips?

Catch me on social media to give me your thoughts!

 

 

 

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Karen Long Neck Village – Culture & Traditions or Mistreatment?

When it comes to culture, there are some things that I will never be able to fully understand and that will always remain a mystery. The more I travel across the world and experience different countries, the more I am faced with situations that I have never seen and living conditions that are far from anything that I have ever experienced.
On my exploration through the northern part of Thailand, I stopped at the Karen Long Neck Tribe, a place that many people talk about as an interesting, yet very controversial tourism trap.
The Karen Tribe came to Thailand from Burma whenever violence and war took over their country. Thailand granted them the permission to live in the country and they made their living based on tourism.
These women stick out by the brass coils that they wear around their neck, starting from the age of five years old and each year adding weight as another ring is added.

Although the children start wearing these rings around five or six years old, at about 15 they are given the choice to continue wearing them or take them off permanently.
In order to get an idea of how these rings felt, I tried them on. Within just a few seconds all I could think about was the discomfort that these women must feel wearing this every day, even as they shower and sleep.
While the Karen women mentioned that there was no discomfort to their neck, it was hard for me to believe that the pressure of these rings did not create some sort of discomfort and soreness.
However, despite the discomfort they it might bring, many people wear the rings and have been following this tradition for decades. Through a translator, the Karen lady explained that the rings were originally put for two different reasons: to protect them from tiger attacks (tigers tend to attack first from the neck), and then to keep men from other tribes away.

During my visit I met a Karen lady that had 26 rings around her neck, which is equivalent to around 4 kg (8.8lbs). Her rings were placed on her at five years old she has never taken them off.
Every country around the world has their own definition of beauty based on different factors: skin color, length of hair, height, body shape, weight etc.
The Karen women believe that the real beauty is determined by the amount of rings one wears around their neck. The more rings one has, the more gorgeous and appealing she is.

Vestido

Karen women are seen throughout their little village hard at work, typically weaving on a back strap loom. The children in the village were running around and playing, but apart from their energy and happiness, the village was dead.

The general feel of the village was unpleasant and left me feeling solemn.

 

While many people think that the purpose of the rings is to make their neck longer, when it reality it only compresses the should blades, forcing them down and giving them the appearance of a long neck.

Many people say that if you wear the rings during an entire lifetime that your neck would snap, but the Karen ladies mentioned that it is untrue and there have been many cases of ladies that have taken the rings off without a problem.

The more one looks into information on the Karen Long Neck Tribe, the more one will find about their negative feelings on the issue. However, the real question to be answered here is:
Is it better for these families to be in Thailand, making money from tourism so that they can live and take care of their families, give their kids education, or return to Burma where living and working conditions may not be so favorable?
In my travels around the world, I strive to travel as ethical as possible, only supporting tourism that is based around the fair treatment of humans, animals, and children and for that reason I had such mixed feelings after leaving this village. I was misinformed on the village before visiting and it turned out to be something completely different than I thought.

To be honest, I write this article with very mixed feelings, knowing that it might raise controversial feelings in the minds of the readers.
To answer the question from earlier “is it better for the Karen ladies to be in Thailand working in tourism or in Burma,”  the answer is I don’t know.
In my heart I believe at times that it’s OK to not know. I would need to spend more time with the ladies, do more research and take more than just one trip to the village in order to form a well rounded opinion on this topic.

Would I return?

Probably not…..

Do I regret going?

No, Because I learned a lot from the trip and I was able to base my Opinion around my own personal opinion and experience.
It’s not a place that I would highly recommend to visit, but I think if you Want to see it for yourself, there are some steps you can implement in order to travel and respect the situation as much as possible.
1. Learn as much as you can before going
2. Ask first before taking a a picture
3. Don’t be afraid to Ask questions
4. Buy a local handmade craft
5. Don’t judge without taking time to get to know the full story
6. See them as humans with feelings and not just an attraction

Don´t forget to check out:  

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