My 16 hours layover in Cambodia, Siem Reap, was too short and slightly delirious.
This was my first time in Cambodia, and it gave me a great first impression. Although it’s still a developing country, there’s a lot Cambodia has to offer. Hopefully, the next time I visit it’ll be for a week, exploring the entire country and its rich history.
What can you do in 16 hours in Siem Reap, you ask? A lot, apparently!
My flight got in at 6pm at night, my tuk tuk driver greeted me at the gate (organised by the hotel) and we drove about 20mins in his open roof tuk tuk. There is something about this experience that feels so unapologetically authentic – because when I booked it I thought my transfer was a car!
On a side note, you can apply for a visa upon arrival or online prior, to skip the lines.
As we’re driving down the dusty road, I distinctively noticed the juxtaposition between the multi-million-dollar hotels residing beside run down houses, built next to newly paved roads connecting to other roads which are still under construction. This country will soon be the next up and coming top tourist destination before we know it. We drove past shops and signs that looked all too familiar to me (brands), as my worries of the western world slowly investing into this born-again country is becoming increasingly speedily.
We reached the hotel and it’s beautiful, but part of me was disappointed in the lack of Cambodian décor. Once checked in and freshened up in my room, I went downstairs for dinner in the hotel. Siem Reap isn’t an area where you can wander down the road looking for a restaurant, you would need to research and plan beforehand. I didn’t, and opted for the hotel restaurant.
The hotel menu was as I have predicted, catered for tourist with western cuisine such as pizza, pasta, chicken and vegetables, with some options of Cambodian dishes. And of course, a long extensive cocktail menu you would find at any hotel around the world.
Prices are cheap from Australian standards, dishes less than US$10 and cocktails US$5. No doubt you would find food cheaper at a local restaurant.
I’ve asked my hotel to help me book my Angkor Wat tour the following day, as my flight was at 3pm, my tour would start at 5am to watch the sunrise and because it was a private tour, I could go at my own pace. Other options are by cycling around or walking around, but I personally don’t recommend the walking, it’s quite a big area. Think of it as a city with a lot of temples all spaced out.
After my 5am pick up for the sunrise, our first stop was at the ticket office. Lines of tourists have already formed. There are three ticket options, 1, 2, 3 day passes. Most people pick the three days pass. Due my lack on time there, I picked the 1 day pass for US$20.
My tuk tuk driver dropped me off at the entrance to the main temple and directed me to follow the crowd in the darkness to the main area to watch the sunrise.
The main temple – Angkor Wat
This is the main area, you can opt to get a guide who can tell you more about the history of Cambodia and Angkor Wat. I would have liked to be guided but not worth it when you’re on a tight schedule.
My tuk tuk driver was very accommodating, he would advise me where he will be and was always there waiting for me, no matter how quick or slow I was.
It’s all in the details.
This particular temple was giving off Tomb Raider vibes.
I finished my temple tours roughly around midday before the sun got too unbearably hot, returned back to my hotel for some room service before making my way to the airport.
To me, this marked a very successful layover, at least I got the chance to see and experience one of the wonders of the world! Worth losing sleep over!