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Wonderful guide for Angkor Wat Siem Reap - Personally recommended

Wonderful guide for Angkor Wat Siem Reap - Personally recommended

Feb 12th, 2010, 06:19 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 125
Wonderful guide for Angkor Wat Siem Reap - Personally recommended

To anyone travelling to Siem Reap: I would like to personally recommend an absolutely wonderful private guide. His name is Kao Virak ([email protected]) .

My wife and I hired Virak for a three day private tour of the Angkor Wat Temple complex. Virak is a licensed guide and is extremely knowledgeable about the history and architecture of the region. In addition to running private tours, Virak performs group tours for Overseas Adventure Tours and Grand Circle Tours.

Virak makes the tour interesting, educational, fun & easy. He and his driver picked us up at our hotel in Siem Reap each morning. He incorporated my desired temples into the itinerary, scheduling each visit for the optimal part of the day (avoid crowds, position of the sun for best photos, etc).

Virak is very passionate about the temples around Siem Reap. His knowledge is very deep. One thing that I really liked about his tour was how well he could read me. He started off with many, many details about the temples. About ½ way thru the first day, he realized that, while I was interested in the history of the complexes, I was probably more interested in the photo ops that they presented. Virak quickly shifted gears and gave us a ‘Readers Digest’ version of the history at each stop.

Virak knew just where to get the best photos, just the right angles, and just the right locations. The photos that he, himself, took of my wife and I were some of the best shots of the entire trip.

Virak is personable, friendly. His English is incredible – we never had a problem with anything that he told us. The driver that Virak hired drove safely from site to site, opening doors for us and always had a cool wet towel when we got into the car, and a cold water bottle when we got out.

I could not possibly recommend Virak more.

If interested in a private tour, I would recommend dropping him an email at [email protected].

If anyone has additional questions, please drop me a line at [email protected]
joearena99 is offline  
Feb 13th, 2010, 09:56 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 31
Thanks for your info! I sent him an email asking about his services for our March trip.
jetskreemr is offline  
Feb 13th, 2010, 01:16 PM
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joearena99, this is a very strong recommendation, full of positive things and without any qualification whatsoever. Kao Virak should be grateful for this promotion. I wasn't that keen on the guide we had in Siem Reap, though he was also highly praised on this site.
Can you give us a summary of the three-day itinerary and the costs, please? From your comment that he incorporated your preferred temples into the tour, I gather you did some research in advance. I'd be interested in knowing what temples you saw, the pick-up and drop-off times, how long the lunch break was, and whether the silk farm, Tonle Sap, and craft shop were included, with or without asking. One comes across so many recommendations for guides in these forums that it would be good to get some comparative basis.
WillJame is offline  
Feb 14th, 2010, 04:39 AM
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WillJame: Thank you very much for your reply and your thoughts, and for giving me the opportunity to elaborate.

I make very few recommendations on tripadvisor or fodors. When I do, the recommendation is from both my heart and my head.

With regard to your questions -

The itinerary that we followed is below. Virak had originally included Tonle Sap in the tour. Having seen it once, I asked Virak to replace it with 'something else'. Virak recommended either the land-mine museum or Beng Melea. I chose Beng Melea. (personal note - I believe that Tonle Sap is a poor choice for a tour. I believe that it is very exploitive - "Hey - look at how poor these people are")

Lunch breaks were taken at local restaurants near the temples that we were visiting - not going back into town for lunch saved valuable touring time. The lunches were very good, and ranged from $3-$5. The time of the lunch break was based on how long it took my wife and I to eat. When we were done, the break was over and we were back on the road.

Virak did not 'surprise' us with any unrequested stops at a silk farm or a craft store. At my request, we did stop at Artisans D'Angkor on the way home from our 2nd day of touring.

This was my second visit to Siem Reap (my wife's first). I did alot of research to help define the itinerary. I think that this itinerary, below, is a very good representation of several different styles/conditions of temples. I would recommend this itinerary for anyone with three days to tour.

We were picked up at our hotel between 7:00 am and 8:30 am, depending on the activities for the day. We returned to the hotel between 2:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon (with the heat and humidity, I don't believe that I could have gone any longer on any of the days).

I do appreciate your questions, and I stand by my recommendation. I encourage travelers to Siem Reap to contact Virak, to determine if his services will match their needs.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to email me at [email protected]



Dear Joe Arena

On 03 Feb 10
Meet at Day Inn hotel at 8:00 am by English speaking guide and driver.
-Begin the exploration of the ancient city of Angkor by entering Angkor Tom via the south gate. Continue the journey by viewing the ruins at Bayon, Baphoun,the Royal Palace, Phemeanakas,the Elephant terrace, the Leaper king Terrace, and impressive Ta Prohm Temple, which is dramatically enveloped by jungle.
-In the afternoon, visit the epic Angkor Wat, viewing its well-known architecture and bas-reliefs. End the day with a spectacular sunset viewed from the mountain temple of Phon Bakheng . (note - at my request, we passed on the sunset - we were too tired and hot)

On 04 Feb 10
-After breakfast, proceed to the graceful Khmer Temple of Siva-Banteay Srei, 37km away from town, that dates back to the 10th century. Banteay Srei means “citadel of the women” The site has some of Angkor’s best preserved sandstone decoration,friezes, and lintels. On the way back stop at Banteay Sam re and Pre Rup.
-After lunch visit Easthern Mebon built in 10th century temple, Neak Pean and Prah Khan located on the grand tour of Angkor area then back hotel ,end of tour.

On 05 Feb 10
-After breakfast depart for Beng Melea,which is dramatically enveloped by the jungle. On the way back stop by the Rolous Group consisting of three temples, dating from the 9th and 10th century included Preah ko, Bakong and Lolei temple, return to hotel ,End of service.

-Tour guide and transportation fee
Total: 230$ us,(for car with four seats and tour guide only).

Noted: For all temples entrance fee will not be included.
joearena99 is offline  
Feb 14th, 2010, 09:00 AM
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Thanks very much for your recommendation. I'm going to look into using him for our tours.
barefootbeach is offline  
Feb 14th, 2010, 11:47 AM
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Dear Joe:
Many thanks for the added detail which helps us see what your experience was. Your three days were much like ours, with the big difference being that we returned to the hotel for several hours at noon or so--for lunch and a swim--and then headed out later in the afternoon to the temples again.
We had an additional day for Tonle Sap, where my reaction differs from yours. I thought it was a wonderful example of adaptation to living on water, and enjoyed seeing the biology station, school, volleyball court, etc. We had a boat to ourselves, and on return our captain picked up 7 kids on their way back home from school. Their boat was towed behind ours while they scampered on board, all smiles in their uniforms. When we dropped them off, the children returned to their own craft, half of them paddling and the rest bailing. Our guide told us that they rode by bike for an hour, and then paddled for 1 1/2 hours each way to get a half-day in at school.
Again, thank you for your response.
WillJame is offline  
Feb 14th, 2010, 12:24 PM
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Thank you. To quote a friend of mine, 'Pack lite, live long and travel far'.

joearena99 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 01:01 AM
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Just a warning to anyone who reads the recommendation for Kao. He confirmed with us several times , even two days before. Then when we got to our hotel, another guide showed up in his place with a heavy accent and said Kao had taken a bigger job and wouldnt be available. The hotel manager reported that this happens all the time, so if you have your heart set on a particular guide be ready for anything.
irecommend is offline  
Jun 8th, 2010, 03:27 AM
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I visited Angkor Wat in April 2010 with my family. We were lucky enough to see this marvelous great structure ever build on earth. However, nothing I have ever seen prepared me for the majesty that is Angkor Wat- it truly is amazing & is a wonder that you must see to experience it as pictures do not do it justice. I strongly believe you must spend a minimum of three days & longer would be more preferable. We spent 5 days there & still didn't get to see everything. Go now before a lot more people start to go- it is already overcrowded. We visited many temples such as Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm, Banteay Srie and other distance temples such as Phnom Kulen and Beng Melea. We love Angkor Wat the most and we went there twice during sunrise and sunset, the two period of visit make us have different feels.

Try to get a hotel with a pool. It is amazing the difference a dip in the pool can make to cool you off- especially during middle day (hot in April).

Get a guide- one of the key whom reveal the mysterious history of Angkor and we firmly believe that we gained a lot more knowledge of the ruins having a guide. He knew where to take the best photo's, which temples to see at what time, pointed out things to us we did not notice, etc. He also pointed things out to us we would have never seen or noticed on our own. We felt the price is worth it. We also knew he took some back roads through the ruins that we would have never known how to take on our own. We also saw people trying to read the guidebooks while at the ruins.

We had a wonderful tour guide and I am very happy to recommend him. He was a delight to be with and we got to know so much more about Cambodia, Angkor Wat and the people because of him. He undoubtedly saved us money as he helped us buy bus tickets (the hotel wanted a commission), brought us to a laundry, knew what things cost, gave us advice on how to save money etc. He was always on time and checked if everything we had prepared before starting the tour. We enjoyed his attitude and a vast knowledge. He speaks fluent English while he used to be an English teacher for almost ten years. He has been a guide for 9 years. His name is Sovann Eath and email : [email protected]
kaceo1 is offline  
Jun 8th, 2010, 10:20 AM
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I was in Siem Reap a few years back, sitting at an outside bar when they played the song "Holiday in Cambodia." That was something special!
krgystn is offline  
Jun 18th, 2010, 10:18 PM
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krgystn is offline  
Jul 27th, 2010, 05:25 PM
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I can second the recommendation for Sovann Eath (or David, as we called him). He made all the difference for our trip!
Brewsters_mom is offline  
Jul 27th, 2010, 07:18 PM
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I don't doubt that any of these guides are fine. Just to note that there are over 2,000 fully registered and licensed guides in the Angkor Wat parks. You do not need to book ahead of time. All the guest houses and hotels have a short list of the guides they recommend to their guests and are available on a few minutes notice. Our guide was wonderful but in the interests of fairness I will not mention his name or try to promote him to anyone. What one person thinks is a good guide may not work for another. That's why you should just meet your guide and work with him one day. If you don't like him, (or he doesn't show up as in the above example) just thank him and hire someone else for the next day. Our costs for 3 people for 3 days were US $25 a day for private air con car with driver with cold water and cold towels, $ US 25 a day for english speaking guide. Of course we paid our own entrance fees of $40 each for 3 days total. total for 3 people 3 days= 150 Divided by 3 people = 50 per person for all 3 days. If we had decided to go much further out, perhaps to the Lake, it would be $5 extra. We tipped generously as we were very happy with the superlative service.

The next time I go I will certainly contact "my guys" again and stay longer!
kuluk is offline  
Aug 9th, 2010, 04:00 AM
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My husband and I just returned from our trip to Thailand , of which 4 days were spent in Siem Reap. Based on what I had read on internet I knew that in order to get the most out of your trip you should book a guide to take you around to see the best sights. So that we would not miss out on this highly recommended guide. Kimsan will very promptly answer your emails, and will do the best to make your trip fantastic. We were first timers so we let him take us to places he thought that we would like. We had only booked 2 days, but enjoyed it some much that we spent a 3rd day with Kimsan and his driver. The very best though is all of the priceless pictures that Kimsan took, with us in them, in the most perfect places. It is amazing as we all know that you don’t often get to be in your own pictures. Priceless! We have kept in touch and will continue to do so I am sure. Don’t waste your time in Cambodia , contact kimsan and enjoy! Pl contact (www.angkor-guides.com).
Kara12 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2010, 11:35 PM
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"It is amazing as we all know that you don’t often get to be in your own pictures."

Kara, you must have never traveled anywhere before and I am sorry for you. Anywhere in the world you go, you can easily ask a stranger to take a picture of the two of you and they will happily do it. You don't even need to speak a word of their language. Hold a camera toward them and gesture to yourself, and rarely will anyone NOT take your picture. If you have never done that but wished others would take pictures of you, I am unsure why you never thought of that!
Forgive me, but that seems like a very silly reason to recommend a guide -- that he would take pictures for you.

I have not yet been to Siem Reap -- but I will go within a month. My hotel has told me there is NO reason to book a guide in advance. They will even introduce me to several and let me choose one that I prefer. The mention by many people of pre-arranging a guide who then didn't show up, makes me think also that that may not be the best idea.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Aug 10th, 2010, 05:44 AM
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LOL, Patrick. As you know we get recommendations here from people who loved their guides and recommendations from the guides themselves disguised as someone else's recommendation. This is Kara's first and only post, so you may well be right that Kara has never traveled anywhere.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 10th, 2010, 06:15 AM
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Oh, Kathie, far be it from me to suggest that this was an AD!!! Gasp.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Aug 10th, 2010, 07:45 AM
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What should we do then?
visitcambodia is offline  
Aug 10th, 2010, 08:31 AM
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Start by reading the advice above. Buy a guide book. Research. Follow your nose. Travel is an adventure. If all else fails, grab a tuk tuk and just go. The temples are things of beauty. Go look at the beauty. You actually don't need to know a damn thing about anything. You won't hear anything anyway - let alone remember any of it.

Just look, wander, go in the opposite direction from everybody else, take the road less traveled...


You might just find that YOUR Angkor is better.

Or not. It'll be entirely up to you.
dogster is offline  
Aug 10th, 2010, 08:53 AM
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I love this post!!!! We went to Egypt two years ago and had an Egyptologist guide. He was great -- personable, perfect English, very knowledgeable. In the end, two years later, I remember what I liked, what was interesting to me, what was beautiful, what was boring (not much!), but do I remember what he "taught" us -- HARDLY ANYTHING!!
sf7307 is offline  

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