2 days in Siem Reap | Private Tour Experience and Review

Spend 2 days exploring ancient temples and the backcountry of Siem Reap with two amazing private tour guides. This travel guide includes highlights with tips and photo galleries. #siemreap #angkorwat #taprohm #travelguide #travelblog #travelitinerary #itinerary #siemreapitinerary #seasia #cambodia #travelcambodia #travelsiemreap #photoblog #travelblogger #travelphotography #landscapephotography #fujifilm #temples #siemreapprivatetour #atv
 
 

Like most people, I always wanted to visit Angkor Wat. I pictured these ancient temples where I would wander and unleash my inner Lara Croft. What I didn't know was how many different temples there were in the area and that there's more to see in Siem Reap than just Angkor Wat.

From Bangkok we flew direct to Siem Reap and spent an amazing two days discovering the history of the temples and the backcountry of Cambodia. On both days I organized private tours because with our limited time, I really wanted someone to help us navigate through the history and culture.

On a personal note this was one of my first trips where I started to get interest in photography. I didn't know much about my camera (Fujifilm XT-1), or composition for that matter. But hey, if we don't look back and cringe at our photography are we even really growing?

 
 

GO IF YOU LIKE:

ANCIENT CULTURES | GOOD BANG-FOR-YOUR-BUCK | WORLDLY WONDERS | DUSTY ROADS

 
 
 
 
 

Explore the Backcountry of Siem Reap on a Private ATV Tour

I don't know about you but I love the freedom of exploring places on an ATV. I'm by no means an adrenaline junkie but I could drive an ATV all day long.  We rode 8 hours in 37 degree weather. It was hot but the breeze from the open ride helped cool us down. 

Because we were there at the beginning of April we were in the middle of dry season. We passed dried up river beds with abandoned boats and saw farm animals and water buffalo trying to cool off.

 
 

Local Temple Visit

Our first stop was a small temple with cemetery. We were immediately struck by the beauty of the archway and stupas. What's a stupa? They are the colourful tall boxy objects below. In buddhism, people bury remains underneath them.  

 
 

The Stilt Houses

As we continued to drive we went through villages with the famous stilt houses. Now you have to remember, we were there at the beginning of April, which is dry season. During wet season the stilts make total sense since the entire bottom of the house is underwater and people use boats to get around.

The houses were all such vibrant colours. Kids were playing while many adults were seeking refuge from the heat in the shade. We saw large mats covered in shrimp, drying in the sun.

 
 

Meet the Locals

As we drove through the dusty backcountry kids would run out from their houses and wave at us. Everyone was really friendly. We stopped in an open field and watched some men prepare a large structure used for fireworks.

We also talked to a few kids. They took particular interest in the ATVS. One boy showed us his pet bird. While I initially felt sorry for the bird, I saw how much he loved his pet and realized that kids don't need many material things to have fun. 

 
 

Lunchtime and napping in a hammock

Towards the end of the day we stopped for lunch. Our guide, Pee, took us to a little hut that was filled with hammocks, the shade was a welcomed relief. We had the most amazing Cambodia curry, called amok. It was so fresh, we were convinced the lady who made it went out back to get the chicken.

We rested in the hammock for a little while, I ended up falling asleep it was so calm. Once we were done we hopped on our quads and headed home. 

Overall, it was a great day. Regardless of the heat, if you wear proper clothes and drink lots of water you'll be fine. On another note, if you end up at the back of the ATV pack, be prepared for the dirt and dust from the riders in front. 


Book Your Tour

Disclaimer: I paid full price for this tour and all recommendations and thoughts are my own. The link below is an affiliate link, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a booking. As always, I only recommend products and services I trust.

For the full-day ATV tour book below.


 
 
 

PRivate Temple Tour in Siem Reap

Sunrise over Angkor Wat on a full-day private tour with Happy Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #siemreap #angkorwat #taprohm #travelguide #travelblog #travelitinerary #itinerary #siemreapitinerary #seasia #cambodia #travelcambodia #travelsiemreap #photoblog #travelblogger #travelphotography #landscapephotography #fujifilm #temples #siemreapprivatetour #atv
 
 

Of course you can't visit Siem Reap without seeing Angkor Wat. We did a day-long private tour of Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. There were 4 stops on our tour plus a 5th for lunch.

Our guide, Boray, from Happy Angkor Wat, knew so much about the history of the temples. We learned more than we would have if we were by ourselves.

Stop 1 - See the Sunrise at ANGKOR WAT

First Stop was seeing the sun rise at Angkor Wat. I highly recommend investing in a local tour guide for Angkor Wat. It's the difference between walking by a mural and thinking it's pretty, vs. walking by a mural and knowing the story of the carvings. Bonus is that Boray was an avid photographer so he would often point out great areas to take shots, and was always willing to take photos of us too. 

The sunrise tour is a popular option. You will be told no one will be there, that is false. There are lots of people but it's really cool to see the sun come up behind the temple, even with hundreds of people enjoying it with you. The best part is that once you finish seeing the sun rise you get to explore the temple with perfect, golden light.

 
 

One of my favourite things to see was the unfinished artwork. Angkor Wat had a torrid history, with many religious groups fighting over it. As a result you see carvings that were never finished, or buddha's with their heads removed. All signs of a long and brutal war.

We were also told that lots of the carvings are wearing away because tourists touch the walls. The oils from our hands are slowly destroying the history. So while it can be tempting, avoid touching any part of the temples.

 
 

Related Travel Guide

If you enjoy learning about ancient history and ruins, consider a trip to Pompeii in Italy. You’ll get a greater understanding of what daily Roman life was like.


 
 
 
 
 

Stop 2 - UNLEASH YOUR INNER LARA CROFT AT TA PROHM

Where jungle meets temple, Ta Prohm was one of the coolest things we saw. After Tomb Raider, it became a popular tourist destination. The Tomb Raider DVD was in our hotel room, just waiting to be watched.

With much of its structure falling apart and most of the remains held up by steel rods you get the sense at how old it really is.

It's the temple that's gives you the most accurate glimpse into what it was like back in the 12th century. While most of the surrounding temples, like Angkor Wat, were able to keep the jungle from encroaching on their structures, Ta Prohm is different. You can tell by the trees and massive roots that emerge throughout the facades. How this was able to grow when I can’t even keep my potted plants alive is beyond my comprehension.

 
 
 
 
 

Stop 3 - MARVEL AT THE INTRICATE CARVINGS AT BANTEAY SREI

I had never heard of Banteay Srei, nicknamed citadel of the woman, and boy was I blown away. This temple is predominantly made of red sandstone which gives it such beautiful colouring.  

So why are the carvings so much more intricate?

Well Boray told us that this is the only temple to have not been constructed by the King. At the time, King Rajendravarman II had an advisor named Yajnavarah. This advisor was highly intelligent and built Banteay Srei. Since it wasn't a king's temple it couldn't be grand, like Angkor Wat, so Yajnavaraha decided to show how smart he was by creating carvings more beautiful than all the other king's temples. The result? I'd say game, set, match for Yajnavaraha.

 
 
 
The Temple of Bayon is known for the buddha faces in the wall peaks, Siem Reap. Travel photography and guide by © Natasha Lequepeys for "And Then I Met Yoko". #siemreap #angkorwat #templebayon #travelguide #travelblog #travelitinerary #itinerary #siemreapitinerary #seasia #cambodia #travelcambodia #travelsiemreap #photoblog #travelblogger #travelphotography #landscapephotography #fujifilm #temples #siemreapprivatetour #atv
 
 

Stop 4 - Spot the hidden faces at the Temple of Bayon

Our last stop of the day was the Temple of Bayon. Another magnificent structure, Bayon is known for the buddha faces hidden in the facade.

Take a look at the above picture. How many faces can you see?

The main temple can be explored and it's incredible to see how the faces align in different ways depending on where you look.

When you've finished counting faces, head over to the temple of Baphuon which is right beside Bayon. It's structured like a pyramid and as such you need to walk up quite a few stairs to get to the top.

Once you're at the top you'll notice what looks like a wall of rubble rocks. But take several steps back, and you'll see the formation of a laying buddha. We would have easily passed by it if Boray hadn't pointed it out.


Book Your Tour

Disclaimer: I paid full price for this tour and all recommendations and thoughts are my own. The link below is an affiliate link, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a booking. As always, I only recommend products and services I trust.

For the full-day temple tour book below.


 
 

Where to stay in Siem Reap

The link below is an affiliate link, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. As always, I only recommend products and services I trust.

The Privilege Floor by Borei Angkor

We spent two blissful days at the Privilege Floor by Borei Angkor. The staff were so friendly, and I mean SO friendly. They did everything they could to make sure we were having a great stay. Always smiling and kind. Because we were on our honeymoon they also gave us two beautiful Cambodian scarves.

Nothing says romance like swan towels. At the Privilege Floor by Borei Angkor.

The rooms were beautiful, the restaurants had yummy food, the pool was refreshing and the spa... just go to the spa. I had a four hand massage. Yup, two people, four hands, it was luxury. 

Beautiful floral display inside the Privilege Floor by Borei Angkor

Beautiful floral display inside the Privilege Floor by Borei Angkor

Siem Reap Photography Tips

Bring your wide angle lens if you want to capture the scale of the large temples. The widest I had was 18mm (APS-C) but I wish I could have gone even wider than that at times. 

If you do the sunrise at Angkor Wat note that lots of people arrive early for this shot, so you likely won't have a calm area to set up. If you do, hold your ground or you risk losing your place.

Depending on what's most important, consider visiting other temples for sunrise to avoid the crowds at Angkor Wat.

The ATV ride is super dusty. I mean SUPER dusty, so make sure your gear is properly covered. I kept all my gear in a plastic bag, inside my backpack. I'm sure glad I did because I can't imagine having to deal with a dirty sensor in the middle of the trip.   

 

Language in Siem Reap

The native language is Khmer and lots of Cambodian people speak French too. Siem Reap has become such a tourism hot spot that anyone working in tourism has a good grasp of English.

Our two guides spoke great English and we loved learning from them. 

Getting Around Siem Reap

Flying to Siem Reap

Getting to Siem Reap in the first place isn't too difficult. We spent a week in Thailand beforehand so our flight out of Bangkok was quick and easy. Was it a good flight? No, in fact I hated it. I'm convinced the pilot was still in school, but that wouldn't stop me from visiting again. I recently interviewed a pilot and she helped put my mind at easy when it came to airline travel. I highly suggest reading our interview if you’re an anxious flyer.

Once you land in Siem Reap you get your entrance visa at the airport. It's a bit of a disorganized system, but eventually we got the visa and were on our way. Make sure to look up the requirements before entering, we needed to bring passport photos with us.

Drivers and Tuk Tuks

Private drivers are pretty cheap in Cambodia so whenever we needed to get from point A to B I had the hotel organize a driver for us. The two tours we did were great because our drivers picked us up from our hotel and dropped us back off. Pretty standard procedure. 

Other than private drivers, you can easily find taxis and tuk tuks. 

Our tour guide Pee, taking us to our backcountry quad tour

Fill that Belly

Both full-day tours had lunch stops and they were both delicious. If there's one thing you must try in Siem Reap it's Amok.

Amok is a curry cooked in a banana leaf and often with either fish, chicken or tofu. Flavourful and hearty.  

Chicken Amok at our lunch pitstop during the Quad tour

Safety In Siem Reap

Having only spent a few days in the city, and never really venturing beyond the organized tours and hotel it's hard for me to really gauge this. 

Petty theft is possible so keep your valuables locked safely. 

While we never had issues with food, avoid tap water and I read you should be cautious with fish. Simply because Siem Reap is far from the water and refrigeration can sometimes be an issue.

Traffic seemed a little chaotic, so I personally wouldn't drive myself anywhere. The ATV's were totally fine though, we were in the backcountry with no traffic and the few times we had to use the road our guide made sure we were safe.

 
 

Borey from Happy Angkor Wat Tours and Pee from Quad Adventure Cambodia were so kind, insightful and made sure we had fun in a safe way. Much love to them both.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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Spend 2 days exploring ancient temples like Angkor Wat and the backcountry of Siem Reap. I review 2 Siem Reap private tour experiences. Includes my highlights with tips and inspirational photos. © Travel photography and guide by Natasha Lequepeys for “And Then I Met Yoko”. #siemreap #angkorwat #taprohm #travelguide #travelblog
Spend 2 days exploring ancient temples like Angkor Wat and the backcountry of Siem Reap. I review 2 Siem Reap private tour experiences. Includes my highlights with tips and inspirational photos. © Travel photography and guide by Natasha Lequepeys for “And Then I Met Yoko”. #siemreap #angkorwat #taprohm #travelguide #travelblog
Spend 2 days exploring ancient temples like Angkor Wat and the backcountry of Siem Reap. I review 2 Siem Reap private tour experiences. Includes my highlights with tips and inspirational photos. © Travel photography and guide by Natasha Lequepeys for “And Then I Met Yoko”. #siemreap #angkorwat #taprohm #travelguide #travelblog