Hook up with a car and driver to explore the temples in depth from US$30 a day. Incurable romantics might prefer the local remorks (tuk tuks) - although not in the wet season - which start at just US$15 a day. Self-drive is not permitted - phew!
Touch down at Siem Reap International Airport (www.cambodia-airports.com). Regional gateways include Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. For airlines with good connections try Singapore Airlines (www.singaporeairlines.com) or Thai Air (www.thaiairways.com). It's about a 40-minute flight from capital Phnom Penh. Airport taxis are available on arrival for US$7 to any destination in Siem Reap.
Country code for Cambodia: +855; Siem Reap: (0)63 (drop the zero if dialling from overseas).
Ancient Angkor by Claude Jacques is the least likely of the often-dry temple guides to tempt you to nod off, partly thanks to the beautiful photos by Michael Freeman. River of Time by Jon Swain is a trip back to old Indochina and includes a gripping account of the French embassy stand-off after the Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh.
Do go / Don't Go
Weather-wise, the cooler, dryer months from November to February are the ideal time to visit, but this also happens to be high season when the world and his wife descend on town. The wet season, which peaks from June to October, need not put a dampener on your trip, as the landscape is lush and the showers short and sharp. Avoid Khmer New Year in mid-April, as it's outrageously hot and half of Cambodia turns out at the temples.
Thailand and Vietnam may be the gourmet heavyweights in the region, but fear not, Cambodia is no slouch when it comes to going a few rounds in the kitchen. Angkor has put Cambodia on the tourist map of Asia and amoc (baked fish with coconut, lemon grass and chilli) may yet put the country on the culinary map. Siem Reap has it all, from shabby street stalls for sampling local Cambodian cooking to designer dining rooms offering the best in French or fusion cuisine. The searing flame of the street eateries ensures fresh flavours despite the downscale appearance. Try nam ben chok (light noodles with chicken curry) and get change from a dollar or throw caution to the wind and enjoy a blue steak at a French bistrot with the atmosphere of old Indochine.
There are no metered taxis in Siem Reap, but the tuk tuks more than make up for it by offering their services every 10 seconds or so. Hotels can arrange cars on demand.
Most Cambodians don't tip, but forget 'When in Rome' and all that, as most Siem Reapers are well used to a little extra. Five to 10 per cent should be fine unless encountering exceptional service (good or bad).
Cambodian riel (KHR) or US dollar (US$); US$1 equals approximately KHR4000.
A scarf, T-shirt and guidebook: so you have something to wave at temple touts when they shout 'you buy scarf, T-shirt, guidebook?'.
Yes, yes, we do keep talking about Angkor, but that's what you're here for. Browse Banteay Srei, the art gallery of Angkor. The name means 'temple of the women' as the sculpture is considered too fine to have been carved by men. The jewel in the crown of Angkorian artisanship, it's a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. En route, learn about the culture of survival with a visit to the moving Cambodia Landmine Museum (+855 (0)12 598951; www.cambodialandminemuseum.org), established by DIY de-miner Aki Ra. It includes civil war mines, mortars and weaponry, all thankfully deactivated.
Leave the temples behind for a while with a visit to the watery world of the Tonlé Sap Lake. Bamboo skyscraper village Kompong Pluk is built here on soaring stilts and looks like it's straight out of a film set. The nearby flooded forest is inundated every year when the lake rises to soak up the Mekong's overflow. As the lake retreats, petrified trees are revealed. Explore this area by wooden dugout for a memorable adventure.
Sometimes you could be forgiven for thinking Angkor is one giant open-air mall. Hawkers lie in ambush outside every temple offering everything from checked scarves (kramas) to wooden crossbows, although the latter might not go down well with airport security. More sophisticated shopping awaits in town. The Angkor Night Market is a smart stop for a taster of all the goodies you can buy in Siem Reap, although practise your best bargaining banter before venturing forth. Artisans d'Angkor (+855 (0)63 963330; www.artisansdangkor.com) is the place to get your temple carvings and sculptures without fuelling the illegal antiquities trade. Impoverished youngsters are schooled in the art of their ancestors. Eric Raisina Workshop (+855 (0)63 963207; Wat Thmei area) is the home of French-Madagascan designer Eric and his collection is as infused with influences as you might expect for such a global nomad. Wanderlust, fash-mag editrice Elizabeth Kiester's Siem Reap project, sells clothes, jewellery and interiors pieces made by local Cambodian women (+855 (0)63 965980; www.wanderlustcambodia.com).
Despite the ungodly hour, Angkor Wat (the star attraction of the multi-temple Angkor complex) is busier than a tube station at rush hour for sunrise. Dodge the crowds with a dawn visit to the enigmatic faces of the Bayon or seek solace amid the ruins of Ta Prohm. If the morning sounds uncivilised, try a sundowner on the shores of the Western Mebon, an island temple in the middle of the immense Western Baray (reservoir).
Deep down, Siem Reap is a spiritual place (believe it or not) and strolling through the backstreets reveals a more serene side to life. Wander through the pagoda district, starting out at the old brick temple of Wat Preah Inkosei, a snapshot of architecture before Angkor. Follow this sleepy riverside road south to historic Wat Bo, complete with its traditional frescoes and eventually you come to Wat Dam Nak, a former royal palace.
January-February Chinese New Year (Tet to our Vietnamese friends) heralds the second new year of three in Cambodia. Some businesses shut up shop (although most can't resist the chance to make money) and it is possible to see dragon dances around town. Mid-April Khmer New Year (or Chaul Chnam Khmer) is the big one. Three days of celebrations include lots of water splashing and talc throwing, although it's more subdued than neighbouring Thailand. Avoid Angkor unless you like sharing it with one million visitors on their very own Khmer version of the Hajj. October-November Bon Om Tuk is the Water Festival celebrating King Jayavarman VII's victory over the upstart Chams (formerly of Champa, a kingdom that is now part of modern-day Vietnam). The Siem Reap River hosts frenetic long-boat races. The whole town is heaving at the hinges; by night the revellers sleep where they fall, so mind your step.