Siem Reap in Cambodia – the land of UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Wat, jungle-infested ruins, and ancient Khmer craftsmanship – can sometimes be unfriendly to senior citizens. The weather can get oppressively hot between the months of March and May, the temple tours entail hours of exploring (including walking, climbing, and ducking), and there are no special lanes, shortcuts, or concessions for those above the age of 60.
Still – if you are reasonably fit – you can have a stress-free, temple-hopping experience with these six tips:
1. Bring your own water. There are no vendors inside the temple complexes, so fill up your reusable water bottle before leaving the hotel and remember to take small sips every 20 minutes. Dr. Rainier Lutanco of Chinese General Hospital in Manila points out that older people are at higher risk for dehydration, a condition where the body overheats and excessive loss of body fluids through sweating becomes hazardous. “When the body becomes overheated and dehydrated, the brain and heart can get stressed, which may lead to dizziness, disorientation, fainting, or even a heart attack or coma,” Dr. Lutanco says. Forgot to pack your water bottle? Buy a reusable one from establishments that support the country’s Refill Not Landfill campaign. Don’t be afraid about needing to go to the bathroom — the public restrooms in Siem Reap are amazingly clean and have toilet paper.
2. Wear airy clothing. While temple visitors are required to wear clothes that cover their shoulders and knees, you can still keep cool without being offensive. Dri-fit or loose tops, leggings or wide-leg pants, and sneakers are ideal.
3. Bring all your cooling props. Wearing hats or caps can further stave off overheating and dehydration. Collapsible umbrellas are even better so that you can shield more of your body from the sun. Handheld fans are also helpful, while wet wipes will leave you feeling clean and refreshed after a tour.
4. Time your visit. Go at sunrise or close to it (the Angkor Park opens as early as 5am) to lessen the chances of getting heat stroke or a nasty sunburn. An early start also means fewer fellow tourists jostling you at places like prime photo spots, narrow hallways, or steep stairs.
5. Make sure you get enough rest. Siem Reap’s Night Market is full of affordable Cambodian souvenirs but resist the urge to shop the night away so that you have enough energy the next day.
6. Know your limits. Many of the temples are photo-friendly no matter where you stand; Angkor Wat itself is already a sight to behold even from just the entrance, while the pyramid Koh Ker is more impressive at ground level than from the top. So if you feel you can’t walk any further, or you find the stairs too steep to climb, just stop, rest, admire the Apsara carvings on the walls at your eye level, and soak in your surroundings. You are already a part of history just by standing where you are.
As long as you pack right, pace yourself, and be mindful of your needs, you can make your Siem Reap trip an adventure to remember.