Angkor Wat is one of the places in the world that is near the top of my bucket list and I’m sure it appears on a lot of lists as well. I have always been reluctant to cross it off my list because I was nervous about safety. My love for travel and adventure finally won over my nervousness and in 2017 I was able to visit this magnificent and humbling area.
I’m a planner when it comes to travelling to new places, I like to research and like to have lists. I don’t like to miss out on experiences in case I don’t get a chance to come back. Since Cambodia is completely new to me, I decided a guided tour is best as opposed to exploring on my own.
I have done a number of guided tours that had 20 or more people in them and I try to avoid doing those again. The experiences of them are great and you get to meet new people but I like to travel on my schedule and have a little bit of control. So the search began for a tour company that offered private tours. Siem Reap Private Day Tours kept coming up with very high (and recent) reviews on TripAdvisor so I decided to book through them.
I found Mr. Kriss to be very pleasant and easy to deal with. He was very quick to respond to my emails, considering I was across the globe. In about 4 emails, I had my itinerary in hand, all I had to do now was show up at the airport and look for my name on a placard! Mr. Kriss didn’t even want a deposit to secure the booking. Which honestly made me a bit nervous!
In Cambodia, guides who are not certified by the government are not allowed to enter the sites with you. Most tour drivers are not certified so you will likely need to hire a separate guide which I ended up doing. I didn’t want my first (and maybe only) time in Cambodia aimlessly wandering ruins that I didn’t know the significance of. Siem Reap Private Day Tours is able to arrange a certified tour guides, you just need to advise them at booking that you need one and what language.
If you are a Canadian citizen, you are required to obtain a visa to enter Cambodia. You can either apply online for a visa or get one when you arrive at the airport. I would suggest getting your visa online as the line I saw when I arrived at the airport was easily an hour long or more. However, please be aware that there are a number of websites offering Cambodian visas that may not be legitimate. Make sure you are accessing the Official Government website.
When I arrived in Siem Reap, I found out that Mr. Kriss wasn’t available to personally drive us to tour the sites but the driver (Sotea) he sent in his place was great. Sotea was always on time and very attentive to our needs. He was very quick to give us more water and a cool cloth to wipe down after a lengthy tour of dusty ruins. Our guide, Aime, was very knowledgeable and had a great sense of humour. He was very quick to answer our questions and explained the history thoroughly. Aime knew I loved to take photos so he would give me extra time to get the shot I needed and even recommended off the beaten track spots that I would never have found myself. One of these spots involved me having to climb into the ruins itself. Something he told me was ok but not a lot of people do because of the difficulty of it. It was very worth it as I got to explore a courtyard all too myself.
All in all, I spent 3.5 days touring Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. Some would say that’s too many days but I disagree. I was able to spread out the touring and was able to slowly explore each site and soak everything in. The days weren’t too rushed, the day often started at 830-9am instead of 7am and ended at around 3-4pm instead of 6-7pm. This let me enjoy the city of Siem Reap and its many hot spots instead of being dead tired at the end of the day. I was also able to travel to sites that were further out of the city of Siem Reap which was a treat because there were fewer tourists.
In part 2 of the Angkor Wat series, I will do a quick review the Prince D'Angkor Hotel and Spa. Stay tuned and as always Mahalo Nui Loa.
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