- How to get an extra hour in Cambodia – A top tip for any first timers who are landing in Siem Reap. Remember to sort your tourist visa out BEFORE you start queuing through customs. Don’t do what we did and waste your time by queuing for the same thing twice! I know us brits love a good que, but that was taking it too far; and turned out to be a common mistake we later saw many people make. When you get in the arrivals hall with the big buddha head, turn right and go to the visa desk before joining the que through customs.
2. How to avoid the hoards of tourists at Angkor wat and other temples – We went to Cambodia in April which is the height of the hot season and gets up to mid – late 30’s in temp during the middle of the day,. Its also low season for tourism. Even though it was low season, there were still alot of tourists around. We managed to avoid many of them by going to the temples either early in the morning or later in the afternoon. On one of the first days, we went to Angkor wat at 3pm, leaving only 2 hours before closing time. This was plenty of time to see just one temple, and meant that there were less people there, and the temperature was slightly cooler which made it more manageable to walk around. Highly recommend going at these times to avoid the crowds.
3. How to get inside knowledge on the temples and life during the regime of poll pot – We decided to splash out on a tour guide for one day as he was recommended by some people we met, and we are so glad we did! Aside from being driven along hidden jungle paths around and through the temples in an air con 4×4, we also got to spend the day with a really cool guy who told us stories about his life growing up during the time of the regime, and how he and his family were affected. He lost both his sister and father during the regime, and spent many days living off bugs in the jungle to avoid starvation. It was a very humbling experience to hear his stories, and to be witness to a man who is so proud of his country and heritage, and the positive future it now holds for him, his children, and the next generation. He also had loads of great insider travel tips and recommendations. His name is Phat and he works for a company called www.travelloops.com, you can email him direct for bookings on firstname.lastname@example.org. He also recommended a local market that is well worth a visit, called phsar Krom market – watch out for the random cat fish moving about on the floor of the fish market!
4. How to protect the coral reefs – During our stay on some of the islands, we went on a couple of snorkelling trips to bays with coral reefs that are still alive, i know! a rarity in this day and age. What was sad to see though was either the lack of knowledge or just the lack of care and responsibility that some of the other tourists who were on our boat showed towards the coral reefs. Some of the people on our boat, although they had the same pep talk about not standing on the coral because it kills it, as we had, they still managed to stand all over some parts of the reef and most likely killed it off. By the time i had noticed and had mentioned it to them, it was too late. It takes on average 2 years to grow just a small patch of coral about 4cm big. So the family i witnessed probably killed off about 5-6 years worth. Please, if you go snorkelling DON’T stand on the coral, or if you see any others who do, then tell them not to! Its all of our responsibility. We don’t want the next generation only being able to see coral at an aquarium.
5. How to maximise the phosphorescent plankton experience – This has got to be hands down one of the most magical things i have ever seen. At night, all around the Cambodian islands, hundreds of thousands of phosphorescent plankton fill the water, and i would highly recommend going out and swimming with them! But take a snorkelling mask with you. We went on two different trips to see them in deeper water. The first time we wore masks, and could see all the sparkles as we moved our hands and feet through the water, lighting it up like some kind of under water disco glitter ball! The second time the guide didn’t think we needed masks, but it wasn’t the same without one. You really have to dip your hear right under the water and get fully involved with the plankton to get the best results. Its like swimming through the night sky, with tiny little twinkly star particles all around. Truly magical and something you have to get lost in at least once in your life!