Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cambodia - Temple Hopping at Siem Reap (Intro)

I believe I need to post about the things that might be of help in case you plan to go temple hopping at Siem Reap, Cambodia. It is better to be prepared so you can maximize your temple hopping experience because this could be once in a lifetime opportunity for others.

I went there expecting to see the famous Angkor Wat and nothing else. I've never expected that there are several dozens of ancient and equally magnificent temple ruins waiting to be explored as well. Not to mention the floating village and Tonle Sap, to name a few. Fortunately, I got some extra bucks to cover these unexpected expenses.

some temples are not even included on this list

Every tourist needs to pay temple entrance fee.

20 USD for 1 day unlimited temple visit           
40 USD for 2 or 3 days unlimited temple visit
60 USD for 7 days unlimited temple visit

I paid 40 USD for 3 days unlimited temple pass. Tuk-tuk fare is not yet included. As indicated on Ta Som Guesthouse board, the tuk-tuk fare is as follows:

12 USD for first day
14 USD for second day
32 USD for third day

Total fare was 58 USD. Moori gave me 4 USD discount so I paid him 54 UKSD after 3 days of temple hopping. The price is not per head but rather per daily contract of the tuk-tuk service. Thus, you pay the same daily rate even if you are two. Moreover, you can also hire car or bus depending on how large is your tour group. The price is much higher.

Moori provided chilled bottled water during our entire 3 days trip. Lunch was not included. But through his help, I was able to get at least 40% discount on my lunch. I simply followed his instruction on where to eat. Additionally, he gave me some tips about the souvenir vendors. Bought a good quality "Ancient Angkor" book for 5 USD. It was a bargain considering that the vendor was initially asking for 20 USD. You can also ask your tuk-tuk driver to stop in case you want to buy something along the way. You may try the steamed sticky rice with banana filling wrapped in banana leaf then roasted on charcoal. It was like our barbequed "suman," 3 pieces for 1 USD. I got 4 pieces for 1 USD due to Moori. It was yummy and filling. In fact, they served as my dinner. You may try also the 1 USD palm juice.

There are temples which are quite far thus they normally arrange the trips to these temples on the third day. If you have extra bucks and time I would suggest that you try to visit these temples as well especially the so-called "lady temple."



On your first day of temple hopping, your tuk-tuk driver will bring you to Apsara authority office where you will pay the temple ticket. Your photo will be taken by webcam while in queue and will be imprinted on your pass or ticket. In my case, I paid 40 USD for 3-days unlimited temple visit.



At the first temple you'll visit on that day, a staff manning the temple entrance will punch a hole to your ticket in order to mark the number of days you have spent visiting the temples. Hence, for 3-days pass you can have maximum of 3 punched holes on your ticket. More so, you may consume your 3-days temple pass within the week. The ticket is non-transferable. For 7-days pass, the ticket is laminated and comes with larn yarn.

I advise you to bring the following for your convenience and safety. Trust me, I found myself crawling in some temples due to steepy and narrow stairs. Usually, you won't find any shade when you are entering or climbing the temple.

- fully charged cam & tripod if you're alone
- dust mask
- sunscreen/sunblock lotion
- hat or umbrella
- comfy/rubber shoes
- face towel
- USD for food and souvenir items

In some temples, you'll find a group of local musicians. Some of them are disabled due to land mine. You can buy a copy of their CD/DVD. If you plan to have a photo-shoot with them then it is nice to give some donation to these hard working guys.

Souvenir and food vendors abound in almost all the temples. Saying "no" sometimes is not enough. Just ignore them. Some of them would even try to befriend you and ask you to buy "coconut" after your temple visit. In addition, upon learning you are a Filipino, they would even mention Mari-mar. Yes, they are watching some of our telenovelas. Because of this, it would be very difficult to refuse their chilled coconut even if that would be your third coconut of the day. My tip, buy a chilled coconut if you like it but don't throw it after consuming the juice. Place it inside the tuk-tuk and show it to the other coconut vendors in case they would keep on pestering you on your next temple. It worked for me.

Be forewarned that most of these ancient temples are still being used as place of worship by their devotees. Try to be respectful whenever you are inside any temple. Clothes should cover your shoulder up to knees otherwise you will not be allowed to enter some temples unless you shell out extra dollars to rent a shawl or sheet to cover your body. T-shirt and long shorts are acceptable.

Likewise, touts abound in some temples. You might be enticed to lit some incense sticks for a fee while some of them are even wearing police uniform. They would show you which places are good for picture taking; sometimes they would even offer their service as tour-guide or your personal photographer. But at the end of the day, you will be asked to pay. Just ignore them and don't even try to make eye-contact with them. They normally prey on solo tourist like me. The guy was wearing a cop uniform, can't say no. Shelled 5 USD reluctantly but the places he showed to me for photo-shoot was equally superb.

For toilet, just ask the tuk-tuk driver to bring you to the nearest toilet. Nothing to worry because the toilets are secured, decent and well-kept; they are located few meters from the main road. You are free to use the toilets as long as your temple pass is valid otherwise you pay 0.50 cents. 

For a 3-days unlimited temple visit, prepare around 100 USD excluding hotel. You can now start planning your temple hopping and be ready for an experience of a life time.

ENJOY!






Stay tuned for my Angkor temple hopping.