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angkor wat

6 Tips for Visiting Angkor Wat, Cambodia

TravelShannon Guerrero14 Comments

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Cambodia is one of my favorite countries I've ever visited.  As of now I've been fortunate to visit 30 countries, so I think that's saying a lot!  It's been a dream of mine to see Angkor Wat and experience the beautiful Cambodia culture.

I've compiled a list of tips to help make your Cambodian trip that much more memorable.  Nobody likes those little hassles that pop up during your trip.  Hopefully telling you about some of these tips will help alleviate any of the extra stresses that travel can cause.

Buy your visa ahead of time online.

When planning your trip to Cambodia, be sure to check what the Visa restrictions are for your country of origin.  If you’re an American, you definitely need to have a visa to enter the country.

Be sure to apply for this online before your trip.  It’s a super easy process.  You just have submit a passport photo (no smiling!) and $36.  My visa got approved same day.  Just have to print it out to have on hand when you land.

You can only buy your ticket from 5am to 5:30pm.

You’ll probably want to purchase your ticket at the Angkor Ticket Center which is only from 5am to 5:30pm - essentially only during day light hours.  There are 3 ticket options - 1 day, 3 days or 7 days.  These don’t need to be consecutive either! Just within a certain time frame.

If you’re looking to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat be sure to purchase you tickets the day before.  You don’t want to be stuck having to buy a ticket and then going to Angor Wat.  You won’t get a great view of the sunrise if you get there too late.  Read all my tips on how to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat

They take your picture that is printed directly onto your ticket.  Also, they recently changed the process so that they now accept credit cards in addition to cash.

Hire a car/guide, not a tuk tuk.

Your experience and visit will be that much better if you hire a car to take you to each temple.  I wouldn’t hire a tuk tuk for this because most days are extremely hot in Cambodia.  In a car, you’ll have access to air conditioning.  Second, a car will be much faster between temples especially if you’re intending on seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat, trust me, take a car.  We bypassed so many tuk tuks on the way.

If you haven’t experienced a tuk tuk ride, definitely try one out in town! They are a fun way to get around in all other instances.  

I think it’s also worth hiring a guide along with your hired car.  They are extremely knowledgable and really help you get the most out of your visit.  Best part is they are super affordable!  I believe we had a private car and guide for 2 for just $30/each for the day.

Think your wardrobe through before your trip.

If you’re a woman, for basically every single temple you visit in Angkor Wat, you have to have both your knees and shoulders covered as a sign of respect.  It’s not the most pleasant experience if you don’t prepare ahead of time.  You could find yourself wrapped in multiple scarfs, struggling to keep them wrapped just right and struggling in the heat with multiple layers.  Pack for these restrictions! 

I made sure to bring skirts and dresses that covered my knees and tops that covered my shoulders.  Off the shoulder tops proved to be extremely helpful here.  You can just lift them up so they actually cover your shoulders while visiting temples.

Don’t exchange your money. 

Trust me, this is one country it is completely unnecessary to exchange your currency.  Cambodians accept USD everywhere and in a lot of cases, you may not be able to exchange back to USD after your trip. 

IT can get really hot - bring a fan, don’t forget water.

Make sure you adequately prepare when heading out to the temples.  The heat and humidity can get really intense in Siem Reap.  Be sure to stay hydrated and bring a fan to help stay cool.

 

TIP RECAP:
1. Buy your visa before visiting.
2. Buy your entrance ticket to Angkor Wat before a sunrise visit.
3. Hire a car, not a tuk, tuk.
4. Think about your wardrobe before.
5. Don't exchange your money.
6. Stay hydrated and cool.

Moral of the story: A visit to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia should take a bit of planning.  Not much, just a few things to think about before visiting that will make your experience that much better!

 

Yours Truly // Shannon

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

TravelShannon Guerrero15 Comments

Sunrise at Angkor Wat is one of those bucket list experiences you have to have once in your life.  Sitting there watching the sunrise just behind the main temple of Angkor Wat was somewhat spiritual for me.  It was so incredibly beautiful that I almost wanted to cry.  I had dreamed about sitting there to witness that for years and it was happening right in front of my eyes.

There is a lot of thought that should go into your visit to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat because it is such a widely popular experience to have.  I’ve completed a complete breakdown of instructions from day before through day of including where to view and what to bring.

 

BUY YOUR TICKET THE DAY BEFORE.

The ticket off opens at 5am each day.  If you choose to buy your ticket the same day you’d like to see the sunrise, you might risk getting a good view.  Just like all of the temples, the ticket office is still a drive from Angkor Wat.  Don’t risk a good viewing spot, buy your ticket the day before.  FYI, tickets are available in 1-day, 3-day and 7-day variations.

BRING A PLASTIC BAG TO SIT ON.

In further preparation for your visit, there are few things you should pack before you leave your hotel.  Grab a plastic bag to sit on.  The ground will most likely be muddy and you have to wait an hour and a half for the sun to rise.  Unless you want to stand or sit on the mud, go to the front desk of your hotel to ask for some plastic.  Guaranteed they will be super helpful.

Other things to pack:
A flashlight - it will be pitch black out.
Snacks - if you get hungry easily, pack something for breakfast.
Camera - pretty obvious, right?

GET TO ANGKOR WAT BEFORE 5AM.

The entrance to Angkor Wat opens at 5am even though the sun won’t rise until around 6am.  Guaranteed the will be a crowd at the entrance even before 5am.  Don’t worry, the area to view the sunrise is a good 700 meters from the spot where they check your ticket.

The crowd is not actually a line so don’t worry about queueing.  Remember you still have to walk another 700 meters.  Our guide was yelled at by a couple of Asian tourists because they thought the crowd was a line and accused us of cutting.  Our guide had the best response to the outraged tourists.  Without flinching, he calmly said, “You may go first”.  It was hilarious.

Also, keep in mind that depending on where your hotel is, it could take more than 30 minutes to get to Angkor Wat in the morning especially if you take a Tuk Tuk.  They are significantly slower than cars.

WALK THROUGH THE EXIT.

After your ticket gets checked, walk down the stairs and across the water on the floating bridge.  Just after you walk up the next set of stairs, the traditional path leads you to the left.  This is where all of the other tourists will be literally running down.  Don’t go that way! Instead just continue walking straight (you may not be able to see the exit sign as it is pitch black outside) through the opening in the wall.

I know that sounds against the rules, but it did not seem that this was something you shouldn’t do.  After all, our guide took us this way and said it was completely ok.  I wasn’t too trusting of following him at first, but it truly is the best way to get to the best place.

In the photo below, you'll see a rectangle opening just above the second stairs in the center of the photo.  That's the exit.

HEAD TO THE LAKE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE WALKWAY.

After walking through the exit, you’ll end up at a water with a view of the temples behind it.  The main walkway should be on your left.  

There are two lakes in front of the temple with the main walkway in the center of the two.  The main pathway leads to the the lake on the left of the path.  This is where most of the tourists go.  Avoid it if you can.  The left lake can have a crowd that is 30 people deep and the right side may be only 10 deep.  Also, currently (as of January 2018) the temple tower on the far left has scaffolding in front of it.  When you sit on the right side, palm trees will cover the scaffolding.

Fortunately, we were the first at the left lake and were able to set up smack dab in the center of the lake.

The photo below shows the crowd around us at the right lake which was significantly less than the left lake.

IT WILL GET LIGHT ABOUT 30 MINUTES BEFORE SUNRISE.

About 30 mins before the sunrise, it’ll start to get light out. About 10-15 minutes before sunrise is the best time for photographs. The light changes very quickly, so heads up for you photographers, you’ll have to adjusting your settings. Bring a tripod for slow shutter speeds during blue hour or if you’re sitting you can just use your knee like I did.

Depending on the weather the day you go, you can see a rainbow of colors as the sun rising and the light changes.  In the earliest stages, the sky will be more of a blue color turning to purples and then to pinks.

 

If you can help it, mornings with scattered clouds will have the prettiest color sunrises. The clouds not only create interest in the sky but the reflections from the light on the clouds create vibrant colors.  You really can't help the weather you'll have just like attempting to see the Northern Lights.

Hope this guide is useful to you to witness one of the best sunrises you'll ever see.

Yours Truly // Shannon

Golden Temple Residence - Siem Reap, Cambodia

TravelShannon GuerreroComment

It’s inevitable.  When you return from a trip, friends always ask where was your favorite place you visited.  Usually I don’t have a favorite and struggle with this answer because generally I like everywhere I visit.  During this past trip, sure I absolutely loved so many of the stops on my trip, but I do have a favorite.  My absolute favorite place I visited was Cambodia and I’ll tell you it was definitely in part because of the people I encountered and my fabulous stay at the Golden Temple Residence hotel.

We were greeted by not only smiling faces but also a traditional Cambodian dance performance by the pool with our welcome.  This is a nightly performance, by the way.  Aside from the smiles faces you immediately will notice the beautiful and traditional Cambodian decor.  The architecture and the decor are so warm and welcoming.

This is one hotel that I will always remember.  Learn more about my experiences with Golden Temple Residence hotel below!

 

SERVICE

I’m putting this category at the very top because the service at this hotel was pretty much impeccable.  They honestly will bend over backwards to make sure you are well taken care of.  A pickup and drop off service to and from the airport or bus station is available.  The second you arrive at the hotel, you’re immediately greeted by a welcome drink and welcome snacks.  I wish I could bottle up the delicious lemon iced tea they serve as their welcome drink, yum.  Anything you need or want is handled by their staff and not just with a smile but with such genuine excitement.  If you encounter Rose or Alice at the front desk, you will absolutely know why I had such a great experience.

LOCATION

The hotel itself is only about 20 minutes from the airport which is super convenient.  It’s a nice change to most airports that are an hour or so outside of a city.  It was also nice that it’s a small airport so for an international flight we only had to leave 2 hours before our flight.  We got to the airport and through security so quickly.  

Golden Temple Residence is also very centrally located.  It is not even a 5 minute walk from the Angkor Night Market and the Pub Street bars.  It is also just 4 miles from Angkor Wat which is key if you want to try to catch the sunrise.  It’s about a 15 minute drive to get there early for the best viewing spot.

FOOD

The quality of food is incredibly high at the Golden Temple Residence.  They truly set their standard so high that it shows through their food.  Honestly, the welcome snack that was serviced was delicious so I knew their full menu of Khmer food would be amazing.  Even the room service food was just as delicious as sitting at their restaurant which can’t always be said for a hotel.  

On top of that the hotel offers a daily buffet breakfast complete with fresh squeezed juices and made to order hot foods.  They have another really awesome complimentary service for when you’re out seeing the temples.  They will pack a breakfast or lunch for you to have out at the temples.  And finally there is a one hour cocktail each day by the pool.

We, also, had the opportunity to have a cooking lesson (which you too can schedule!) with the head chef and saw first hand the care they put into prepping their food.  Everything is fresh and thoughtfully crafted.  If you have the chance, this was a great way to learn more about the Cambodia Khmer culture.

AMENITIES

What doesn’t the Golden Temple Residence have to offer? On top of the stunning pool, swim up pool bar, luxurious lotus spa and first class food, they offer tons of ways to help you see the Siem Reap area.  You can choose from any of their excursions from a full tour of Angkor, horseback riding, helicopter tours to a silk farm or even golfing.  If you don’t want to choose any of their pre-made tours, they literally will build you a tour set to your specifics.  We were able to dictate exactly which temples we wanted to do within a 1.5 day timeline and were able to fit in a cooking class back at the hotel to boot.  On top of being able to book our own tour through Golden Temple Residence, it was a private tour in a Lexus, not a tuk tuk!

ROOMS

Since the hotel only has 28 rooms total, you really feel like you’re staying with friends rather than a hotel.  I’ve already talked about their amazing customer service, but I think that really shows more since there are less rooms.  The rooms itself are beautiful as the rest of the hotel.  They’re very spacious and clean, but on top of that it’s the little details in the room that make it amazing.  When we first walked into our room, the bed was covered in lotus flowers.  The sink was also full of floating lotus flowers and boy did they smell incredible.

Trust me, when you find yourself in Cambodia, stay at the Golden Temple Residence.  You will feel like a king, be able to discover what Siem Reap has to offer and experience firsthand the amazing kindness, service and hospitality of the Cambodian people.

Check out the Golden Temple Residence, here.

There are actually 5 Golden Temple locations in the Siem Reap area.  Learn more about each of them, here.

*Sponsored Post: My hotel stay was provided in collaboration with Golden Temple Residence! All opinions are my own.