I admit, I am a temple enthusiast! I can never get enough of it. So, my reasons and my ways of visiting Angkor might not be representative of the majority of tourists. In fact it is not! My recommendation though would be to know beforehand why someone goes to visit Angkor. It’s not for Siem Reap town, which has developed into a Khmer Pattaya or Phuket (without the beach). It’s loud, full of people and it is neither Cambodia nor Angkor. Why would anyone go to Cambodia and then look for western food and drinks? I do my research before I go and I probably have every quality book on Angkor that is on the market. I did months of research on what to visit, where it is, how to get there and when the best time for visiting is. If you don’t want to do that, get a good tour guide. My friend Sarun Angkor is still the best in my mind and he has guided us several times before. This trip he was busy, so I did it on my own!
How to go around? I chose the most comfortable but flexible way which is either car with a driver or a tuk tuk with a driver. And I go with local services only and do not rent from larger companies, hotels or tourist offices. Reason for me is that I want to support the local economy and not an international company. I stay in local places and use local drivers because this is their only way to make a living. I don’t rent e-scooters or bikes from chinese companies and I don’t book organized bus tours or go with minivan groups. I want to be able to tell my driver where to go (or let him suggest it) and be flexible enough to avoid tourist masses. Plus the money goes to the local guy!
I also don’t usually eat at those fancy places in Siem Reap with milk shakes and non-local food. I actually think that Cambodian food is some of the best tasting food on earth! So, I pick smaller local places which are clean and good. Service might not be what we expect, but the food is great. Often I ask my driver for recommendations. If you go with your driver, he will get free food as well, so it’s a win-win for both!
While the main Angkor temples are great to see, I do invest in going outside of town as well to smaller and more unknown temples. Tourists in Angkor usually all do the „small loop“ which is Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon and Ta Phrom temples. And they get offered the „big loop“ which is usually Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, Pre Rup and the further out Banteay Srey temples. Then come the Tonle Sap lake, Beng Mealea, Kbal Spean recommendations and the price goes up. But literally everyone is doing that and no wonder those places are all full of tourists. I am more adventurous and pick smaller temples further out or even sometimes close by but relatively unknown. And it pays off. I had almost every temple to myself and I get to see the local villages and people.