If you’re looking for a personalized tour of Angkor Wat / Siem Reap, look no further. Sam was... read more
If you’re looking for a personalized tour of Angkor Wat / Siem Reap, look no further. Sam was... read more
I was at Siem Reap with my 2 sons by end October 2019 for holiday. We had a full day guided tour at Angkor Wat temples with Sam. The service provided was timely and very professional. Our tour guide was polite and knowledgable. I highly recommend his services and tour programs to anyone who is looking for a piece of mind visit at Siem Reap!
Sophal our guide was brilliant at planning the schedule to see the temples in the best light, avoiding the crowds and getting a great variety of temple experiences.
We only had 2 days in Angkor so being able to hand over all of the logistics to an expert and be guided around the area was well worth it.
This was my second timing using Sam's tour guide service and was not disappointed both occasions. Highly recommended!
Today started early when we were picked up by our guide Somondy and driver Taven. First we were taken to buy our temple tickets which was a simple process. Back into the car and on to our first stop of the day, Angkor Wat. Somondy is a very experienced guide and ensured we had the best experience at each temple. He didn’t take us in the usual gate but by the east gate which was much quieter and peaceful. At this temple (and all the others we were to see over the next two days) he explained the history and main features that we would see first so that we had context.
Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world which took only 35 years to be built. It is enormous with a 200m wide moat (hand dug), massive outer walls, 4 gated entrances at each compass point, inner walled compound, consisting of stone plinth, stairways to the upper levels, cloister-like galleries encircling mountain-like towers surrounding a central tower at the highest level. The stairs up to each level are steep as the journey towards enlightenment is supposed to be a struggle. Thankfully in many places the steep stairs were replaced with sturdy wooden stairs but the steep slant remained especially on the innermost climb to the five towers at the top of the temple complex. They limit the numbers allowed on the top level so we had a short queue before we went up, perfectly timed to miss many of the tourist hoards. We left by the west gate (most people enter here) and Somondy managed to take some marvellous photos of us with the temple and its reflection in the water and best of all, minus most of the tourists. This temple was even more spectacular than we expected. Photos don’t adequately show the size.
From Angkor Wat we then headed to Angkor Thom, an even bigger complex and began exploring the many temples within this walled and gated compound. There are five gates, with two on the eastern wall, one being the “ghost gate” which was used for funeral processions to cremate outside the temple. We entered through the towering South Gate to explore the Bayon temple. This temple is known for the 216 huge faces of the king carved into each side of the 54 towers. At this temple, Somondy also showed us the amazing wall carvings that depicted scenes of everyday life for those living within the temple complex. From here we trekked through other parts of Angkor Thom passing other temples, walls, terraces and piles of moss and lichen covered pieces of stone that may one day be fitted back into its rightful place in the puzzle.
The day was progressively getting hotter and more humid and I was finding it punishing despite the welcome water and ice cold towels provided by the driver after each expedition. At the next stop at Ta Keo, I elected to stay in the car aircon while my husband and Somondy went for a look. Our final stop before lunch was reached after a drive deep into the forest. The temple of Ta Nei was virtually tourist free. It was just a small temple that had been swallowed by the forest, covered in tree roots and not yet restored. The only work that had been done was trusses to prevent sections from collapsing. Very peaceful, we could see why it was one of Somondy’s favourite temples.
We had lunch in a restaurant across the road from a giant rectangular pool of water that was dug as the king’s swimming pool called Srah Srang. We had two Khmer dishes - chicken with cashews and pork with Khmer spices. Very tasty but expensive which we knew would be the case.
After our lunch and while the hoards of other tourists were having their lunch, we visited the jungle temple of Ta Prohm, used in the filming of “Tomb Raider”. We loved the feeling that the jungle was winning the battle in this temple. Around every turn, there was another tree perched precariously on top of temple ruins, its roots reaching down into the ground. This was our favourite temple of the day, if we had to chose. Really everything we saw was breathtaking.
We elected to end the day’s tour at this point, skipping one last temple in favour of cooling down in the hotel pool. Everyone talked about temple overload and we knew there was a lot more to see the next day.
We had a slightly later start today being picked up at 8:30am. Our first temple of the day was another big one, Preah Khan which has been restored by WMF project. Rather than taking us straight through the west entrance, Somondy took us across the bridge of the moat and we walked around outside past moss covered broken pieces of the temple then we entered through the far east entrance and walked through back to the front west entrance.
For our next temple, we had to walk along a raised walkway across a newly refilled lake to a man made island on which Preah Neak Poan known as the hospital temple was built. This temple was really different as it offered spiritual healing. Each of the four elements were represented by animal fountains at each of the compass points, issuing holy water into pools that pilgrims bathed in to cleanse their spiritual impurities. The central pool had a shrine to Buddha and offered enlightenment. Pilgrims in ancient times came here to pray, cleanse and heal.
Our last temple before lunch was different again. Most of the East Mebon temple structure was made of bricks (as opposed to quarried limestone or sandstone as was usual). The base of the temple is guarded by carved stone elephants that were still in very good condition. We had lunch at a restaurant beside Banteay Srei enjoying chicken amok and pork with khmer spices and cool drinks.
We really enjoyed Banteay Srei, also known as the Lady Temple. It is a small but exquisite rare pink sandstone temple with some of the best ancient carving that exists. Every surface was covered in deep relief work, crisp imagery and decoration. There were charming scenes of gods and men, dancing ladies, animals and floral motifs.
Our last temple was the partially restored Banteay Samre, a temple in the style of Angkor Wat, but much more compact. It had a lovely collection of inter connected outbuildings around a central tower, covered promenades, naga balustrades and fine carving, a perfect end to what was an astonishing experience. Our guide, Somondy turned out to be absolutely fantastic, astutely judging our levels of fitness and fatigue, guiding us to the very best vantage points, helping us avoid the hordes of other tourists, and really being personable and informative about all things Temple and Cambodia. We cannot speak more highly of him, his guidance really made the 2 days unforgettable.
Sunrise Angkor Wat and Surrounding temples (Full Day)
We booked a full day tour of Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples in the Siem Reap area starting with collection from our hotel at 04:40 am. An early start but to prove well worth it. Our guide Mam was instantly welcoming and during the drive to Angkor Wat explained to us what to expect. We were introduced to our driver Pov (Pronounced “Pow” we think) who would become our driver the next two days.
Mam helped us through the purchase of tickets for the attractions in the area we were to visit and seamlessly handled our entrance to each Historical site.
The beauty and awe of Angkor and the Jungle temples goes without saying so I will not elaborate here except to recommend the early start to see the sunrise.
Our guide Mam was exceptional. Such a breadth and depth of knowledge not only of the history of the sites and carvings within the temples but also explained in detail the way in which Angkor Wat is also an enormous sundial calendar. Mam also explained the complex numerology involved in the construction around the magic number 9.
At each of the five temples we visited with Mam and Pov we were never rushed, were kept away from the noisy large groups and taken to the iconic areas and photo opportunity spots expertly and always with a fascinating running commentary.
The icing on the cake for us was the wizardry that Mam has with the Photo App on an iPhone not only choosing brilliant shots but also creating amazing vertical panoramic and trick photos. Just lend him your phone and you will see what we mean.
We finished the day earlier than our guides expected but that was due to the pace we chose and not a reflection on our hosts.
We strongly recommend that you book your visit to Angkor Wat with these guys and ask for Mam and Pov in person. You will have a fabulous experience and come away with some unique photos to remember it
Note: Pov was our driver and guide for a second full day trip to Sleeping Buddha, Kulen Waterfall (Phnom Kulen National Park and Kom Pong Plok Floating Village the next day.
The cold towels soaked in eucalyptus was a heaven.
Sleeping Buddha, 1000 Lingas carvings, Kulen Waterfall (Phnom Kulen National Park) and Kom Pong Plok Floating Village.
Driver and Guide: Pov
Second full day trip we had booked with these guys. Today just Pov would be our driver and guide.
Pov had pre purchased our tickets into the Phnom Kulen National Park the night before saving us time on the day.
Picked up from our hotel at 08:30, first stop was the Reclining Buddha carved out of a huge boulder atop the mountain in the national park. It was raining heavily but this somehow added to the atmosphere.
From there just down the mountain a little Pov showed us the 1000 Lingas carvings in the rock river bed running down the mountain carved in 11th century which apparently are a Hindu representation of male and female genitalia, Balance, Yin/Yang.
Next stop was the Kulen waterfall down a slightly dodgy in places set of metal steps. Apparently the falls Lara Croft dives off in Tomb Raider movie. Great swimming opportunity but watch out for the occasional large boulder waiting to trip you up.
Onwards from here back down the mountain stopping for lunch and then heading for the North East of Lake Tonle Sab and the Kom Pong Plok Floating Village most of which is not actually floating but consisting of many dwellings high above water level on stilts.
Not too busy when we visited but potentially could be crowded high season judging by the large quantity of tourist boats.
We recommend spending an additional $10 to be rowed through the mangroves on a small local boat for a change of pace from the noisy and in some cases fast little boats whizzing up the canals between the houses. Look out for the monkeys in the Mangroves and be prepared to buy a drink or a snack from one of the ladies in the little floating market your driver inevitably takes you to.
Throughout our day with Pov he kept us informed of interesting facts, locations, history and culture while not being intrusive and provided us with a memorable day.
We would highly recommend this company great booking communication and our guide & driver in particular was fabulous and should we return to Cambodia would definitely use them again.
During our short time in Siem reap we wanted to see as much as possible in one day.
Our tour guide Nol and driver Tavan picked us up at the hotel, right on time in the morning.
We stopped to get our tickets on the way and Nol was at our side all the time and handled everything.
We started with Angkor Wat, which is an amazing temple to see in the morning when there are not so many tourist. So we can say the timing of the tour is just right, it was never too crowded and we had the chance to see everything with no rush. Here I can recommend to come out of high season.
Nol explained everything, knows all about the history and there wasn’t any question he could not answer. I think he always knew when to talk, but he also gave us enough time to explore and experience in silence so that we could really feel the atmosphere.
There was no hurry, he always looked after us, we took enough breaks and always found a place in the shadow to escape the sun. He knew where to take the best pictures and was never tired of taking more and more pictures of us.
We also talked a lot about life in Cambodia, about the country and Nol spoke to us honest and it was so interesting to hear more about the development of that beautiful country from a resident. All in all we just had a great time together and in the end it more felt like a fried showed us around.
The car always awaited us with cold drinks and told towels and Tavan was a careful and friendly driver.
We can say we had a perfect day with Nol, we got to see the most important places in Ankor and we still had some time left during the late afternoon to relax in the hotel.
If you only have a limited time in Siem reap, the tour is perfect. Also the arrangement and booking of the tour via email with Sam was really easy and fast. No problems, everything worked out perfectly. He arranged the tour for us in only 1 day.
Thank you Nol for that awesome day. We won’t forget all the great and unique impressions. We couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide.
All the best from Kai and Kristina from Germany
Despite early rise (left hotel at 4.40) the hotel packed a good breakfast & the guide Thean was excellent! Very knowledgeable but recognised that early morning was not the best time to talk! He understood his customer very well.
Our tour was private so set at a pace to include children. Enough info but not too much!
After seeking the monkeys in the forest of 1 temple for my children we we finished with a river boat to the floating village - fascinating to see another aspect of Cambodia.
Really enjoyed this tour & we felt looked after by the guide & driver.