These are the images that should make you want to visit Cambodia.
The background location shots in Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie were no Hollywood fakery. The movie was filmed on location in Siem Reap Cambodia. The temples, overgrown by jungles, are naturally epic looking.
These photos were taken a decade ago, but Cambodia has changed little since that time and the temples even less so. One recent area of improvement has been in their effort in clearing the land mines and unexploded bombs that have littered Cambodia for decades.
If you purchase a private tour you can tailor it to your specific interests once in Cambodia, regardless of the temple list shown on your tour pamphlet. Your private tour handlers in Cambodia (guide and driver) want to give you the adventure you desire and will happily take you wherever you want to go.
Group tours are rigid. You’ll save some money but unless you are strapped for cash, you want a private tour in Cambodia.
Also note that many people feel they can do these temple tours “on their own” with a $17 guide book in their hand. Don’t kid yourself. You won’t have a clue what you’re looking at and will be envious of the people who have a local Cambodian guide explaining what everything around them is and helping them see the hidden gems on the large temple grounds.
There are dozens of temples within driving distance from your Siem Reap hotel. On a private tour you can direct them to show you more beautiful, intricately carved temples or more dilapidated temples that have been overtaken by the jungle. You may enjoy (or hate) the temples that require a bit of athletic climbing skill to get to the top. If you have a fear of heights, some temples will push that fear to the limit. If you fear getting onto (and off of) the roof of your house, some of these temples have scarier and much more dangerous ascents than that.
A private tour is what you really want. They’ll keep you safe and advise you per your specific needs. A highly rated tour operator in Southeast Asia is East Meets West Travel. You can’t go wrong with that outfit.
At the very least you should see a travel medicine physician and get anti-malarial pills specifically for Cambodia before your trip. Medical/dental treatment should be avoided completely once in Cambodia. It’s one of the poorest countries on the planet and their assistance will likely do more harm than good. If calamity happens, if there is any possible way to get yourself across the border to Thailand, do so at all costs. Thailand has First World level medical care.
2006 VIDEO (1hr 10min) See comments below.
This is a four-day “Temple Tour” of Cambodia. A lot of folks get their fill of old temples after two temples. Their mantra is, “If you’ve seen one ancient temple, you’ve seen them all.”
I find the differences to be striking, but that’s me. There are quite a few temples on this video and they are covered in depth. For the curious archaeologist types, this will be a fun show and Cambodia is a must Bucket List item.
Also of note, unlike other areas of the world where rain can ruin a trip to an outdoor tourist attraction, rains add a mystic if not Gothic feel to the visit of thousand-year-old temple ruins. Put on your rain gear and forge ahead.
After the introduction section about Cambodia – The Ayutthaya, Thailand ancient ruins are covered first.
Bangkok coverage at the 9min 10sec mark. (Skytrain, shopping & entertainment)
At the 11min 45sec mark the Cambodian footage starts.
At the 1hr 2min mark I head back to the Golden Triangle area in very rural Chiang Rai, Thailand (north of Chiang Mai).