Things to do in Siem Reap (Part 1)

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Angkor Wat is the most popular attraction in Siem Reap, or even in Cambodia. But apart of it, you should not miss the other parts of town, which do add to the charm and allure of this historical part of Cambodia.

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1. Visit the Angkor temples

The temples are what everyone’s here for, and Angkor doesn’t disappoint. Whether you’re a hardcore shutterbug or just want to see the temples at their best, a photography tour will make sure you don’t miss the hidden highlights. The best time for photos is sunrise — go in April to see the sun crest the horizon immediately behind the main shrine’s dome and to maximize your chances of a haze-free day.

Or, if you don’t mind sweating, rent a White Bicycle at any of the stands in town (your $2 daily rental fee helps support local NGOs) and spend the day seeing the main temple circuit — Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm — at your own pace. Either option gives you plenty of time to see the big three, any smaller temples that catch your eye, and still make it to Phnom Bakeng for the best sunset views.

Angkor Thom via BucketTripper

Go early to snag a spot, and be sure to make it up before access to the temple-top viewing area closes at 5:30 p.m. Grab a pate sandwich from any of the roadside vendors and picnic while you wait for the evening show.

2. Visit the other temples

Siem Reap has more than just Angkor Wat when it comes to temples. If you fancy yourself as a Cambodian Indiana Jones, visit Beng Mealea, where you can see what the temples would look like if left to nature. Full-day tours typically combine with a trip to Koh Ker, an ancient capital city, or stop at Banteay Srey 2, a rarely visited temple and working monastery where you can hear monks chanting.

If you’re after a taste of the “real” Cambodia, sign up for a tour of the Tonle Sap fishing villages, where you can see traditional stilt architecture, floating rice paddies and talk to local fishermen who might invite you home for a very freshly caught lunch.

It’s worth the extra time to venture farther afield — the nearest village, Chong Khneas, is swamped with tourists and feels like a human zoo. To make it a full day, choose a tour that also visits the bird sanctuary or any of several nearby NGO projects.

Tuk-tuk in Siem Reap via 40 Little Toes

3. Hire a tuk-tuk tour guide

Even tuk-tuk fans will quickly understand why every market stall offers T-shirts emblazoned with: “No tuk-tuk. Not today. Not tomorrow,” but don’t let the aggressive hawkers intimidate you into missing out on a quintessentially Cambodian ride.

Tuk-tuks are the local taxis, and the easiest way to get around Siem Reap. You can get anywhere in the main city for $2, while good negotiators should be able to talk drivers down to a dollar. Tip the driver well and you’ll have a friend for life, plus an eager tour guide who will show you the best of Siem Reap. Bonus points if you can find the “VIP Batman” tuk-tuk.

(to be continued)

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