Visit Angkor Wat @ Siem Reap

Korat is remarkably close to one of the most famous Unesco world heritage sites and it's relatively easy to get there. The Khmer Empire stretched as far as Nakhorn Ratchasima and enveloped the province and much of Thailand before it eventually succumbed to the jungle and was not to be found for centuries. In fact, the ancient ruins of Phimai are an almost exact replica of Angkor Wat and can be found just 40 minutes outside the city centre of Korat.

There are many ways to get there, but taking a taxi to the border at Chong Chom is the easiest (though a bus to Surin and then taxi to the border would no doubt be a cheaper alternative.) We managed to arrange a large taxi for three passengers for 2,300 Baht and the drive took 3 hours on the nose. Leaving Korat at 4:00pm, we arrived at the border at 7:00pm and took an hour to pass through immigration. It had a very sleepy feel to it and the immigration officers were not even in their office when we first got there, so we were told to have some beers and wait for them to arrive. Ice cold export Leos in old school cans with removable ringpulls was the first indication that we were about to enter the Kingdom of Cambodia. Next, we saw a couple of giant casinos, the second indication that we were leaving Thailand.

The visa into Cambodia cost 1,000 Baht, or 20 USD (about 600 Baht), so it is worth carrying dollars with you. There was a mild bribe needed because the immigration officer said we couldn't pay in dollars, and that if we were going to do so, it was going to be 25 dollars each as a sort of tax. He ended up settling for 5 dollars between us when we pointed out that we knew his game and that we weren't going to pay over the odds. After getting the necessary stamps, we passed into Cambodia and were immediately told that there was only one taxi that could take us on to Siem Reap. The starting price of 2,000 Baht only mildly decreased to the more manageable 1,740 Baht (don't ask!)

2 hours later, we were arriving down a boulevard of glamourous hotels and entering Siem Reap. The taxi dropped us off at Bopha Pollen Hotel, which was cheap at just 20 USD a night for a single room or 25 USD for a twin room. Breakfast was included and all trips were arranged through the reception, who were very helpful.

The first evening was spent on Pub Street which was a 10 minute walk away from the hotel and provided excellent food and drinks options. My favourites included the Red Piano, a Belgian beer house with European classics and great music, and the Mexican halfway down, which had draft beer for 1 dollar a glass and margaritas for 1.50! The tacos and burritos were both enjoyable.

The first day at Angkor was tiring. Relentless heat and crowds at the busier temples took their toll, but after seeing Angkor and Tha Prom (the Tomb Raider temple), we had lunch and then moved on to quieter ruins. Truly amazing! Having a 1,000 year old temple to yourself is quite remarkable. The Buddhist and Hindu cultures of the temples are plain to see and it would take a lifetime to get around all the temples and experience everything they have to offer. I had 2 days.

Day 2 saw me templed out and we headed back to the hotel in the early afternoon after a 4:00am start to see the sunrise behind Angkor Wat. A relax and a swim got us in the mood for the Phare circus which is performed every evening at 7:30pm. Tickets are just 15 USD and the show is well worth seeing with a mixture of dance, strength, art, skill and showmanship. The money goes to a good cause and you have a chance to take photos with all the performers at the end.

Overall, this trip is something that can be done for a long weekend, and won't break the bank. I can highly recommend it and it is very likely that I will be going back again soon.

Please click for the Bopha Pollen Hotel website

Please click for some background reading on Angkor website

Please click for the Phare Circus website

One way taxi from Korat to Chong Chom = 2,300 Baht
One way taxi from Chong Chom to Siem Reap = 1,740 Baht
Cambodian visa = 20 USD -- 2 day pass for Angkor Wat = 40 USD


Best Bites

Chock Chai Steak Burgers @ Chok Chai Farm
Mango & Sticky Rice @ I am Café
Chicken with Cashew Nuts @ Ozone
Pad Krapow Tuna @ Yen Hey
Beef Madras @ Staffords in Prasat

Thing's to do...

Buy a Car Battery @ Chung Battery Shop
Know your Myna Birds @ Your garden
Learn a Thai song @ your PC
Watch a Sunbird @ Your garden
Grab a bargain @ Craigslist, Thailand

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