A Temple-tastic Family Trip To Siem Reap

If you want to be wowed by temples, Cambodia houses the big daddy of them all, Angkor Wat.  The gateway town for this temple adventure is Siem Reap, now accessible directly from Hong Kong (hurrah!).  Having visited the temples in my backpacking youth, I am waiting for my youngest (3yo) to reach temple appreciation age.  Luckily Kara was kind enough to share a review of her recent trip.

Siem Reap - family

Who went?
Kara + husband, nanny and 4 four kids aged 1-8 years.

When did you go?
Early Feb 2015 (over Chinese New Year).  The weather was really nice, it got hot during the day but it was manageable and nice for swimming.

How did you book the trip?

Through Dragonair Holidays. Dragonair has a direct flight from Hong Kong to Siem Reap (not daily). From Oct 1st 2015 you will also be able to fly with HK Express.

Obtaining a Cambodia visa

Most passport holders (exceptions are Philippines, Indonesia, a few other SE asian countries) need visas to enter. You can get visas at the embassy in TST (Hong Kong) or do on arrival. It only took 15 min on arrival instead of trekking to TST and back so that worked out fine. But you need a passport sized photo for the adult visa applications.

You can organise your tourist visa online in advance (cost USD $37 per person). I looked into it but it was a little confusing. You need to have a digital version of the passport photos and it wasn’t clear what was needed for the children’s visas (i.e. if they needed a photo too and the cost of the children’s visa). There is also a processing fee for the e-visas so I gave up on that option. Probably a good choice for two adults.

Where did you stay?
We stayed four nights at the Sofitel which was perfect for younger children. The pool was great and we had connecting rooms.

Siem Reap - hotel

It is a short tuk-tuk ride from most things and the kids loved the tuk-tuks.

Siem Reap - tuk tuk

If you have older kids, the Park Hyatt would nice.

Kara’s Top Tips

  • We hired a great guide named Bon (bon.awguide@gmail.com) with driver and van (the van sat all 9 of us but there were only a couple of seat belts). We brought the baby’s car seat and really glad we did as she sat comfortably on some of the longer car rides.
    Angkor Wat 3
  • You can get 1 or 3 day temple pass. Children under (10?) are free. We bought the 3 day temple pass and did 1-2 temples each morning. Beng Melea is not part of the temple pass and is an additional US$5 per person so we did 4 days of temples in total but a max of 2 per day and usually in the morning when it is cooler.
  • The Leap & Hop Cambodia book was fantastic but best suited for ages 6 and up. I also saw a book at the airport on our way back called Wandering Angkor that looked like a good storybook for younger children.
  • We did a variety of non-temple activities that the kids loved.
    Siem Reap - potteryThey loved the pottery class at the Khmer ceramics centre. They also really enjoyed the silk farm tour. We did the one hour horse ride at Happy Ranch which was fun too.
    Siem Reap - horseridingWe also stopped at the Butterfly Centre. It was small but they enjoyed it. Also really recommend the Phare circus show and the kids loved it but we didn’t bring the baby and were glad we did not as it was hot inside and lots of loud noises.
  • We went to Tonle Sap to see the floating village but our guide suggested going to a different part of the lake that is less touristy but the floating village part is smaller.
    Siem Reap - boatingIt worked out well and we enjoyed seeing it. But it is about 1 hour drive each way and a little bit expensive relatively speaking. Also the water is quite low in the dry season so it is not quite as amazing as it would be in say October.
    Siem Reap - on the boat
  • We had some very good meals thanks to the suggestions from HK Moms. We loved Marum and Haven. We also went to a good pizza place called Il Forno but it was a bit hard to find since it is on an alley. The highlight was the Bugs Cafe though. The kids absolutely loved trying the scorpions, tarantulas, silkworms, crickets, ants, etc. It was a really fun experience. Although I wouldn’t recommend arriving there really hungry as it isn’t really a full meal unless you really eat all of what is on your plate which would be a challenge!
  • You need US$ and lots of small change (one dollar bills).
  • Bring a lot of snacks for the kids in the car to keep them going and for the early morning temple visits.
    Angkor Wat 2
  • Bring long lightweight pants for kids and adults for horse riding and for the temples (such as Angkor Wat where shouldn’t wear shorts and tank tops).
    Angkor Wat 5

For further info on visiting Angkor Wat, check out these tips from the Lonely Planet

If you’re wondering when’s a good time to visit weather-wise, Selective Asia has a great site where you can view by month

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