Monday, December 23, 2013

Angkor Wat Tour

Angkor Wat Day Tour, Siem Reap, Cambodia:
Our Siem Reap Day Tour was courtesy of Sam Pho Tours. We contacted him thru email months before the tour date, to request a quote and itinerary. His reply was prompt and straight to the point, complete with rates, approx time of temple visits, where we'll have lunch, and option for dinner with cultural performances. We reconfirmed days before the tour.
From our hotel, a private van picked us up, with a driver and tour guide. We requested to visit Angkor Thom first, including the temples of South Gate, Bayon, Baphoun, Elephant and Leper King Terraces. There were very few people before 7AM, so we got to take a lot of good photos.
Bayon Temple
Baphoun Temple
Elephant Terrace
Maze-like pathway to Leper King Terrace
Preah Khan temple was next, with several tourists in sight. It wasn't peak season, and raining all day. Our guide came in ready and brought umbrellas and bottled mineral waters for us, complimentary.
Banteay Srei is one of the popular temples. It's about 30mins drive from Angkor Wat. The well-preserved temples and mini buildings make it unique and crowd favorite. Our guide wanted us to come here before late morning to avoid the rush of tourists.
Pre Rup temple has this super long stairs, but view from the top is fascinating. Tourists were starting to pick up around 10AM. Vans and shuttle buses park outside each temple and you can see more or less how many people are in already.
It's nearing lunch time and tourists were staying shorter in temples. One look, one round and they're off. Except for those with tour guides. We were told stories about the temples, historical events about how it came to be.
Ta Prohm was the location for Tomb Raider. Our tour guide said Angelina Jolie and the crew stayed for about a month in Siem Reap for the shoot, and she went boating on the moat outside  Angkor Wat (for a scene). 
Mind you, there are hundreds of visitors at this time. You just gotta pick 2 seconds where everyone's cleared the view to take a decent photo.
We were taken to Sam's cousin's local restaurant for lunch. The rich red soil is prominent in Siem Reap, that's probably why the trees are giant. Even with rain, I appreciate the cleanliness of the whole town. On the right is a large moat part of the Angkor Wat.
This is included in the itinerary- Lunch for approx $12 each.. Near the temples, there are rows of eateries serving Khmer dishes. This is a ground floor of a house converted into a restaurant.
Real Khmer Food Restaurant Houses are usually two storey, with living quarters on the 2nd floor. Ground floors are used for housing pets, vehicles, and others converted into stores or eateries like this.
Hot Lemon Juice: $1.50
Coconut: $1
Noodle Salad: $5
Green Curry Chicken: $6
Beef Lok Lak: $6
Complimentary fruits
It cost less than $12 per person. There's a menu to choose dishes from, it's not a set lunch. Main dishes come with complimentary rice.
Last stop is Angkor Wat. We came in from the South entrance where there are very few people. It's really nice because the length of the temple is on clear view, and several monkeys were loose near the gates. They're harmless but not afraid of humans. My companion was asked to skip entering the room where a Buddha is because of a sleeveless top and above-the-knee shorts. Best to bring a coverup of some sort at all times.
As we approach the front side of Angkor Wat, more and more tourists kept rushing in. This was around 3PM and it was raining mad outside. Our guide told us that it would be 5x the amount of people if it were peak season. That's one good advantage of rainy tours. Just bring an umbrella and prepare for muddy shoes.
After a couple of hours of freshening up at the hotel, the same van, driver and tour guide picked us up around 6:30PM for a 7PM buffet dinner at Angkor Mondial Restaurant.
This is definitely part of the tour one shouldn't miss. The long tables were set up nicely, as tour guides assist their guests to their respective reserved tables and seats.
Assorted viands, part of the buffet.
Rice choices
Salad bar
It's not too crowded, as there are several buffet tables spread across the room. It's best to try each dish at least once.

Our beloved Sam Pho Tours picked a front table for us. Thanks Mr. Sam! When the dance started, guests flock near the stage to take videos and photos of the dancers.
The cultural dance was beautiful, and the performance was quite long so it's definitely worth a visit. A dinner and a show.
After the show, the whole ensemble stays on stage for photo ops. It's free and you just have to step on stage and take your pic.
We took a tuktuk (tricycle) going home. Central Siem Reap is a pretty small area. You can walk or ride around to see the shops, bars, hotels, spa, ATMs, etc..Currency used is $ US Dollars all the way. You don't even need to exchange to local currency. Everyone prefers $.
Sam Pho Tours
Tel: (+855) 99616606

Angkor Mondial Restaurant
Pokambor Avenue,Wat Bo Bridge,
Siem Reap Town. Cambodia

Tel: (+855) 63 760 875

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