Droves of tourists visit Cambodia every year to gape at Angkor Wat, which is often equated with the entirety of the Ankor Archaeological Park, however it is just one of many within the confines of the park. And as Ankor Wat is equated with the Ankor Archaeological Park, so Ankor itself is equated with Cambodia as a whole. Neither equation does justice to the rest. Don’t go to Ankor only to visit Ankor Wat, because you will miss out. And don’t just go to Cambodia to visit Ankor, because you will miss out as well.
Many travellers put aside 2-3 days for Cambodia, enough to visit the park, or so the conventional wisdom goes. Don’t put such a time restraint on yourself for this country, or for Ankor for that matter. A week (or even two) could easily be spent visiting Ankor itself if you include the outlying temples. That is if you don’t get "templed out." Moreover, Cambodia is worth a longer stay for many of its other unique sites and activities.
Activities like travelling between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh by boat through Tonlé Sap Lake wherein lay stunning mangrove forests and a chance to visit the floating villages. Or watching the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong. Or simply relaxing on the beach outside Sihnoukville, or one of offshore islands. For some more introspective sights, the Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh are highly recommended to get an insight in the evils of the Pol Pot regime and the Khmer Rouge.
The dry weather with perfect blue skies and cumulus clouds extends from December to April. In May through December, monsoons can lead to heavy flooding.
Hints and Tips for Cambodia
- Visa-on-arrival costs US$20 (at the time of this writing) and an additional $1-$2 if you do not have a couple passport-sized photos. Land crossings from surrounding countries may require more haggling of higher fees. Look into the Ordinary Visa for longer or multi-entry visits.
- Outlying temples are not included in the initial fee for Angkor Archeological Park. If you have hired a tuk-tuk/taxi driver at a fixed daily rate, fares to outlying areas will cost more than that daily rate. Most drivers will tell you in advance while others will mention the fact after the trip.
- Some areas of Cambodia have higher incidences of Malaria, Dengue and Japanese Encephalitis, so use mosquito repellent.
- Landmines tend to be a non-threat to tourists travelling in well-known areas, but heed any warning signs and exercise caution in rural areas where landmines may still exist off the beaten path .
- You will be turned away from temples if you are wearing a sleeveless shirt or shorts/skirts the guards deem unacceptable for temple attire.
- Watch out for adults (even if they are authoritative figures) and children who attach themselves to you and act like guides without any previous arrangement. They will demand payment and though some can be quite helpful and are worth tipping, others are trying to scam you for money.