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How to Spend One Day in Siem Reap, Cambodia

If you only have one day in Cambodia, a tour with an English-speaking guide is a great way to spend it. We did the "short tour" of the temples with our amazing guide Lee and then a hike to the top of a hill to watch the sunset. Round out the day with a beer on Pub Street, and you've got yourself a great trip to Siem Reap.


Take a Short Tour of the Angkor Complex

The "short tour" included Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, and Ta Prohm, and lasted about six hours. This was a long, but really worth it trip. We opted for the "short" version over the long one in part because it was very hot and in part so we could save energy to do a sunset hike. Our guide was so good, and I feel like we learned a ton about the history and cultural importance of Angkor Wat. He also provided us cold towels after each stop, which was so refreshing and appreciated.


The Incredible Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is a must see. It's the biggest, and it is a remarkable sight to behold. We started at 8 am and drove to buy our day pass of the temples ($39 USD) and then right to Angkor Wat. Our tour around Angkor Wat was about two hours, and we were able to see the whole thing, including learning a lot of history about the temple from our guide.


Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom

Bayon Temple was much different, and it was nice to see the contrast between the two. The tour of Bayon Temple was shorter, in part because some of the temple had become too unstable to walk through, but it was still almost an hour long. There are so many towers here and 216 faces to find. While Angkor Wat has been very well maintained, not all the other temples are in as good shape. Still, this temple was a very cool stop, and it was cool to see the entrances to Angkor Thom.


Ta Prohm (aka Tomb Raider Temple)

We had a delicious lunch in the air conditioning before heading to the final stop. The last temple on our tour, Ta Prohm. This one was my favorite and, in my opinion, you don't want to miss it. The Ta Prohm temple is also called the Tomb Raider Temple or Angelina Jolie Temple, as it is the sight where part of Tomb Raider was filmed. I enjoyed Ta Prohm the most of the three because I thought it was so cool how the trees had grown down around the structure of the temple. It was a beautiful mixture of civilization and nature, although it is a conflict that the trees will one day destroy the temple if they are not cut down.


Enjoy the Sunset from Phnom Bakheng temple

We finished around 2 pm and went back to our hotel for a couple of hours. After 15,000 steps in 110-degree weather (39 Celcius), a dip in the pool felt amazing. Lee came back to get us at 4:45 pm, and we headed to the last stop of our tour. A short 20-minute hike up a hill brings you to the Phnom Bakheng temple with a great view. You can walk around the base and see Angkor Wat from a platform, or you can climb a steep set of stairs to the top for 360-degree views of Siem Reap. Phnom Bakheng is one of the best places to view Angkor Wat from a distance.


After that, we said good night to Lee and got ready for dinner.


Finish your day on Pub Street

Finally, we had dinner and a drink on Pub Street (per our guide's recommendation) and caught a glimpse of the nightlife scene. The restaurant Lee sent us to, Chanrey Tree, was delicious. Make sure to try Fish Amok, the national dish of Cambodia, and grab yourself an Angkor beer. Walking around Pub Street was really interesting because it was so different from how we had spent the rest of our day. Siem Reap exists in a unique space where you can visit 1,000 year old temples during the day and then check out a bustling, modern nightlife scene a few hours later. It was nice to have a drink and people watch.


Don't Forget to Ride in a Tuk Tuk!

On your way to Pub Street from your hotel, don't take a car! You have to try a tuk tuk at least once. This is a very popular mode of transportation in many parts of Asia, and I was excited to finally get in one. The open air ride felt nice since it wasn't too hot, and it wasn't much slower than a car, at least being a short trip. Loved the tuk tuk experience!


Final Thoughts

I loved Cambodia. I feel like it's different from any other place I've been. I loved the mix of history, art and culture. There are about 1 million people living in Siem Reap and over 16 million total in Cambodia. The food was great, everyone was so nice, and it was one of my favorite parts so far of my trip around the world. It was definitely worth a visit, and if you go, let me know so I can give you Lee's contact info!

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