Serene and I spent 3 days in Cambodia in June 2006. We took the Jetstar Asia flight to Siem Reap from Singapore (where we were spending a few weeks visiting family). The flight was not bad except that the airline says you can't eat anything onboard except for the food you buy from them; needless to say, almost everyone surreptitiously broke that silly (and annoying) rule.
In Siem Reap, we stayed at the Peace of Angkor guest house located in a local neighourhood on the outskirts of town. The rooms are clean and the staff made us feel at home. More importantly, the owners are photographers, and their tours and guides cater to the sunrise and sunset desires of their clients. We were also very pleasantly surprised that the food in the guesthouse was very good; good enough that we didn't bother venturing out for dinner on most nights. Admittedly the long days tramping about in the sweltering heat had its part to play in this decision. We recommend the guesthouse to anyone visiting Siem Reap. The only drawback is that the guesthouse is not within walking distance of the main dining and entertainment area in town; on the other hand, because of its location, it was peaceful and quiet.
Since we didn't have much time, we arranged to have a guide and driver for all three days to maximize our time in Siem Reap. We had a really good time with our guide and driver, and we highly recommend them. Our guide, Ta, speaks excellent English and arranged a very enjoyable itinerary, we thoroughly enjoyed chatting with him about local life in Cambodia; he can be contacted at "email@example.com". Our driver, Tim Thy, speaks excellent English and his car was clean and reliable; he can be contacted at "timthy_Angkor@yahoo.com".
The weather in June was horrendously hot, far hotter than Singapore. The silver lining on this cloud is that it is supposedly less crowded in June than in the high season months between December to February. We were fairly exhausted from walking around from dawn to dusk in this weather, and didn't muster up enough energy to visit Siem Reap downtown at night. On the other hand, from the one foray that we made, I don't think we missed much.
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Ta and Thy met us at the airport in the morning and our first stop was Angkor Wat. Stepping out from the plane, we immediately wilted from the oppressive heat and didn't get used to it over the next three days. Angkor Wat, as expected, was spectacular. We stopped at Angkor Wat twice more after the first morning. The first was on the way back to guesthouse after hiking up Phnom Bakheng for sunset (disappointing and very crowded so don't bother); on the way back, I noticed the beginnings of alpenglow on Angkor Wat and got Thy to stop the car outside Angkor Wat; we didn't have time to enter the temple before the glow faded. We again visited Angkor Wat at sunset the next day but unfortunately the light wasn't as nice as the previous day.
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The main highlight of Angkor Thom is the Bayon, a temple with many stone faces carved into the walls and towers. Bayon is smaller than Angkor Wat but is at least as spectacular. We also visited Prasat Kravan, Preah Khan, and other temples within Angkor Thom, but Bayon was certainly the most enjoyable.
Pre Rup and Ta Prohm
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The only sunrise we caught was at Pre Rup, a temple east of Angkor Thom. Pre Rup's stone lions set against the sky made for good pictures but I unfortunately didn't notice them till the sun had already risen. Ta Prohm is probably my favourite temple of this trip; the silk cotton trees and strangler figs growing on ruins, as well as the dappled light filtering through the trees, lend the temple an atmosphere of exploration. For this reason, parts of the first Tomb Raider movie was filmed in Ta Prohm.
Banteay Srey and Beng Melea
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We visited Banteay Srey and Beng Melea on our last day in Cambodia. We liked Ta Prohm so much the previous day that we changed our itinerary so that we could visit Beng Melea, which is another jungle temple. It was fun scrambling up and down ruined walls and roofs in Beng Melea but we didn't think it was quite as scenic as Ta Prohm. Banteay Srei is famous for its intricate carvings in the pink sandstone. Unfortunately, I don't think we fully appreciated it because we were slightly tired of temples after two full days of wandering around temples.
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We had a few hours extra after visiting Beng Melea, and so we made a quick stop at Preah Ko and Bakong, which belong to the Roluos group of temples. We were pretty templed out at this point so we certainly didn't fully appreciate the two places. Serene was swarmed by scarf vendors at Preah Ko and ended up with quite a few silk scarves.