Andy Booth, founder and CEO of ABOUTAsia and our partner in Siem Reap, reveals his top tips for a quieter, more authentic day among the ruins…
The crumbling, vine-entangled temples of Angkor, Siem Reap, are the first stop on every traveller’s Cambodia itinerary – but as visitor numbers swell, is it ever possible to dodge the crowds?
1. Sunrise: Angkor Wat in Siem Reap
While the crowds jostle at the more-frequented South Gate, I like to tiptoe by torchlight to the quieter North Gate, arriving ahead of everyone else to watch as the sun rises behind the temple. Then, as everybody else heads back to their hotels for breakfast, I have Angkor Wat almost to myself until the second wave of visitors return after 9am.
2. Morning: Forest temples
This is a challenging time of day, as everyone’s keen to make the most of the (relatively) cool morning hours. A quiet picnic breakfast by the ancient baray (lake) of Srah Srang followed by a walk through the dappled sunlight of Ta Nei is my favourite way to dodge the crowds – and it’s even possible to find a quiet corner of root-strangled Ta Prohm at this time, as long as you’re willing to branch out from the usual tourist path.
By midday it’s usually hotter than hot, so after this I like to slow down for a couple of hours with a coffee or a nice cold beer in the laid-back Kandal Village district of Siem Reap.
3. Afternoon: Angkor Thom
Most visitors follow a well-trodden route through the temples, hitting Angkor Thom in the late morning. After lunch you’ll find the ancient city much quieter, giving you free rein to walk or cycle along the city walls and get a sense of the sheer scale of the place.
Then, diverging from the ordinary route through the Terrace of the Elephants, take a back road to the great stone faces of Bayon, which tend to be at their quietest in the two hours before 5pm.
4. Sunset: Cruise on a temple moat
As evening draws on, the temples begin to fill up with visitors keen to see the bas-reliefs illuminated in the dying light. At this time, I like to remove myself from the crowds and take to the water with a sunset cruise on the lake of Angkor Thom.
5. Evening: Dinner at Villa Chandara
Hidden away in the midst of rice paddies and spice gardens to the west of Angkor Thom, ABOUTAsia’s private villa really is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the town centre.
Indulging in a five-course dinner with free-flowing drinks, on a terrace surrounded by candlelight, is the perfect way to end a wonderful day in Siem Reap.
Our To Angkor and Beyond itinerary is perfect for those who want to see temples away from the crowds.