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By: Julio Moreno (Entrance to “El Pipila” monument 50 cents [5 MXN] for cable cart to the top, $2 (20 MXN) for a round trip cable cart trip; Entrance to “Alhondiga de Granaditas”: $4 [43 MXN])

Sky view of the entire Historical Guanajuato City from "El Pipila" Monument.

 

Note: Info on how to get to Guanajuato city was covered in the Guanajuato Part 1, it will be assumed you already read that article and can get from your country, into Mexico, and into Guanajuato City’s bus depot OR to the Guanajuato/Leon Airport (BJX).

Simple “how to” [get there] quick walk though:

Assuming you took the Guanajuato Part 1 advice and stayed very close to the Mercado [Marketplace] follow this simple google map. A= The tram to go up to the Pipila Monument, B= The “Alhondiga de Granaditas” (Popular Granary) and C= The marketplace.

Skeezy Tip #1: If you speak Spanish, try to bring your student ID everywhere in Mexico. Although they only offer discounts to Mexican students, they often don’t check where the ID is from and you will slide with a 50%-75% discount on entrances to museums, etc. If you get caught, claim ignorance and just acknowledge “OH! only NATIONAL students”.

Skeezy Tip #2: Bring cash as credit cards are rarely accepted anywhere in Mexico except for high end department stores and hotels.

Story:

La Alhondiga de Granaditas [The Popular Granary]: Granaries are nowadays where excess grains are stored in farm towns. However it is important in Mexican history as the last stand of the Spanish Army in Guanajuato. The Spanish Army was overconfident that the Granary was too well protected and that the rebellion army was too small and poorly armed. Their assumption almost proved true as the rebels were having a hard time penetrating the wall of the fortress. It wasn’t until an unusually strong miner named Juan José de los Reyes Martínez, nicknamed “El Pipila” mounted a flat stone on his back as a shield and made it to the front door of the Granary to set the door on fire. This allowed the rebels to finally enter, capture the granary, and conquer Guanajuato City. It marks an important victory and confidence booster for the independence movement.

Inside the "Alhondiga de Granaditas"

“El Pipila” Monument: This is the monument to the brave miner who risked his live and used his incredible strength to give the rebels a fighting chance. He later joined the rebels himself and was captured a year later by the Spanish army. He was executed but lives forever as a martyr and hero of Guanajuato. The monument is also situated on a nice hill that oversees most of the city. A panoramic picture from this point is the banner for this site.

The Giant Monument to the Hero of the Independence movement, "El Pipila"

Other Things to See:

1) “La Callejoneada” [The Alley-Walk]: What started as a pass time, has turned into a tradition and fund raiser of the students at the University of Guanajuato. They meet with a large group of people and take you along the alleys of Guanajuato, telling you stories and cracking many jokes along the way. Granted, none of this is funny if you don’t speak Spanish, but if you do, you’re in for a treat. (100 MXN; Although its in the street, they do check by taking you though a small alley and checking your ticket [a complimentary jar you get when you pay] You can buy tickets along Juarez street, or at the bus depot just like any other tour, or directly, as they hang out near Juarez Theater (map below) from the afternoon, until the beginning of the event at 9PM)


2) “Callejon del Beso” [Alley of the Kiss]: One of the legends of the city if of a couple who loved each other but had a forbidden love as he was a commoner and she was a Spanish princess. The legend says they lived across the alley from each other and would meet on the balcony, until her enraged father killed her. Now, every couple who goes here must kiss or suffer bad luck.

Couple Kissing in the Alley of the Kiss

Museum of Don Quixote: Don Quixote is possibly the most famous of stories in the Spanish Language. Writer Miguel de Cervantes is to Spanish Language literature, what Shakespeare is to its English counterpart. Since the University of Guanajuato is famous for the arts, this museum has been erected maintained to house not only original paintings of Don Quixote by famous painters, but many other art pieces in a 4 floor building. (20 MXN, 5 MXN for students)

http://museoiconografico.guanajuato.gob.mx/

Statue of "Don Quixote"

Teatro Juarez: Juarez Theater is a world class performance theater a little over 100 years old. The architecture is notable because its authentic Mexican architecture, using no non-Mexican architects. It is beautiful inside and if youre lucky, can still catch a play. (50 MXN for a tour)

”]”]

Where the magic happens

Diego Rivera House: Diego Rivera is widely considered, along with his wife Frida Kahlo, amongst the best paintors in Mexican history. Rivera lived in Guanajuato for some time, and his house is preserved as a museum with many authentic original paintings. Like is the case in most art houses, you cant take pictures. (20 MXN, 5 MXN for students)

Map: A=Teatro Juarez, B= Diego Rivera House

Torture Museum, Inquisition Machines: While a very small museum, they have many torture devices used during the holy inquisition. Some are just simple hanging devices while some get…creative for lack of a better term. The Inquisition was the Catholic Church’s attempt to weed out all impurities within its ranks, often leading to accusations very similar to the Salem Witch Trials. Sadly however, the Inquisition lasted more than 3 centuries and spanned the entire Catholic Domain, which at one point was 1/4 of the world’s population. (This along with the “Church of Murals” are in the higher levels of the city. It is however one of the offered tours [along with some useless museums] as the morning “tour of Guanajuato City” and is your most economical bet at 100 MXN. A round trip cab to just one of these could cost you just as much. You can find a tour with any tour company found along Juarez street, or at the bus depot, as noted before.)

I know what youre thinking. There are a lot of nails so it wont actually poke anyone. Thats why they put scorching hot coals to heat up the nails.

 

Church of Murals: This church, like many in Mexico, is just beautiful to see. What makes this one unique however is inside, massive canvas paintings decorating the interior of the church. Such artwork, religious or not, must be appreciated. (see above paragraph for info on how to get here)

Two of the four huge murals in this very unique church.

The huge murals in this church make it quite unique

 

Skeezy Tip: Apparently, everyone works free in this city as every small museum claims to have volunteers to guilt trip you into a tip. If you want to save face instead of flat out not tipping, its a good idea to bring 5 MXN peso coins with you

Tourist Traps to Avoid!!!:

The Museum of Leyends “Museo de Legendas”: is located at the told of the cable cart ride and is sold for a discount price with the cable ticket. It is under no circumstances worth it! The museum includes about 10 rooms of very backward 1950s mechanics of barely moving figures trying to tell a story over the squeaky and old voice over microphone. It explains the leyends of Guanajuato city, but does so in the most boring and corny way possible (wind moves a red sheet to show fire, a blue one to show water). What worse, even though you will be so bored by the 4th one, the doors seal in front of you and behing you so you have to wait through the whole thing.

Mummies Museum “Las Momias”: While this is one of the biggest things Guanajuato is known for, it is one of the least impressive. These are mummified bodies, however once you see one you’ve seen them all. Also, if you come late, there will be an enormous wait for something that would barely be worth it free. It is also the most expensive museum for this reason.

The Haunted House: One of the first stops in the “Guanajuato City” tour is this haunted house. It is not scary and the mechanics remind you of 1980s Disney, or worse! You can try it if you like, or you could skip it and say you already did it, and just wait outside. It only takes about 20 minutes to go through. (20 MXN)

Authentic Candy Stores: If you go on all tours, you will more than once be told to avoid the “fake candy” in the street and wait until they take you to the real thing. However, this is just another tourist trap as the tour guides are paid off to make that stop, and the candy is grossly over priced.

Wax Museum: A tiny museum with only a handful of wax people, and while it starts with Mexican icons, it progresses to US movie stars and nonsensical objects.

Logistics:

Airplane info, lodging, and everything else was covered in the Guanajuato Part 1 article.

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By: Julio Moreno (Entrance to Angkor Archaeological Park: $20 for a 1 day pass, $40 for a 3-day pass, $60 for a 7 day pass / person. Tuk-Tuk Drivers: $8-$25 a day.)

Simple “how to” [get there] quick walk though:

1) By bus from Phnom Penh ($5-$7 ): Any hotel (including the “Indochine 2 hotel”, recommended in the Phnom Penh article, check categories)can arrange a bus to take you to Siem Reap with pick up in front of the hotel. Also, almost any hotel (including the recommended “Golden Temple Villa”) can pick you up from where ever the bus drops you off or from the airport,  free of charge. “Buses” can range from a large van, to an actual bus. Just make sure to contact your Siem Reap Hotel to tell them your time of arrival. Once in Siem Reap, your most economical choice is to get a tuk-tuk driver for the day ($8-$15 / day) (see recommendation below). He can take you to the Angkor area containing all the main temples, just tell him where to go first (you will be charged the prices at the top depending on which pass you want). Hint: Start with Angkor Wat.

2) By airplane from Siem Reap International Airport: Same as above, but have your hotel pick you up from the airport instead of the bus depot. When you arrive into Cambodia, you will be required to pay $20 for an entry visa to be processed. You will also be asked to bring with you 2 passport sized pictures with you [tip below]. When you leave, you will have to pay another $25 as an “exit visa”.

Skeezy Tip #1: While the passport pics are “required” my friend lost hers on route. Apparently, its only a $2 fine if you forget. That is cheaper than the $9 I paid in Korea and probably cheaper than passport pictures in most countries. They instead just make you take a picture with a digital camera they have.

Skeezy Tip #2: This applies to all of Cambodia. The US dollar and the Riel are used interchangeably with no problem at a street rate of 4000 Riel to 1 USD. If you are American, dont bother trading for Riel as you can consider the dollar  the actual official currency, and the Riel as coins or change.

Story: The temples at Angkor were build from the 9th-15th centuries by the Khmer Empire, with all the main ones mentioned here built in the 12th-13th centuries. They were build to be the capital city of the empire, which moved between the Angkor locations depending on the time period and belief system.

Angkor Wat: Built in the 12th century, it is the largest of all the temples in Siem Reap. What is interesting to note, is that on the walls, there are many Hindu inspired drawings, while the rest of the temple has many Buddhas all over. This is because when the ruler of the Khmer died, sometimes, his successor was of the opposite religion. Angkor Wat served as a temple to the corresponding gods, thus a constant switch between Buddhist and Hindu influence. Angkor Wat was built during Hindu rule, thus the lower level walls are dominanted by Hindu legend, while the upper levels have many Buddhist statues. Not often shown in pictures is the existence of 2 libraries on the courtyard of the site, as Angkor Wat was also a place of learning.

The lower part of Angkor Wat, shows the story of a great battle in Hindu myth.

Ankor Thom (Bayon Wat): Is the famous temple with faces sculpted all around the towering spires. The area is massive and includes many smaller ruins, but the main attraction is Bayon, sometimes called Bayon Wat (Wat means temple). Bayon is the main central temple where on all four sides of almost every tower, there is a carved face. This was historically the last capital city of the Khmer, and a testament to Khmer art. Make sure not to miss the giant Buddha sculpture before entering the Bayon temple.

Ta Prohm: If you saw the Tomb Raider movie, you definitely are familiar with this temple. Personally, it was my favorite, as it has a more rugged look than the rest, with wilderness surrounding not just the outside of the temple, but growing as part of it too. This temple, is known for having many trees growing within the temple, giving it an other worldly look. This site has the distinction, like Angkor Wat, of being a university as well as a monastery.

 

Skeezy Tip #1: [For Angkor Wat] “Official Tour Guides” can only be reserved before you arrive at the site for about $25 for a single temple, and in high season, this can go up to $40. When you enter the gates at Angkor Wat (past the moat), you will see some shops on the (very) far left, selling anything you want, food, souvenirs, and if you ask, even tour guides. They aren’t the “trained professionals” the state sells, however, I purchased one for $10 (need to bargain) and he did quite a good job explaining the site. While $10 is a lot of money in Cambodia, the story is well worth the investment (and you came all this way!), as there are almost no plaques explaining anything in the site (or any of the sites for that matter). Quality can not be absolutely guaranteed, but everything he told me checked out once I got home and did my homework.
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Skeezy Tip #2: The Tuk-Tuk driver I recommend below, Barang, has a surprising knowledge on the Angkor temples, and his English is better than most (including the official tour guides). Although drivers are forbidden from acting as tour guides, you can easily say he is your Cambodian friend who invited you to Cambodia and is showing you around. While I can’t guarantee that Barang will agree (as he is risking getting fined) it could be easily pulled off, as I noticed many foreigners in the sites with their Cambodian friends explaining the history. It would save you the $10 of the first skeezy tip.
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Other places to go/ things to see:
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The Floating Village of Konpong Phluk (~$12 plus tip): There is a large lake adjacent to Siem Reap, the largest in the country. You can get a half day tour to the floating villages, which is pretty much a city in the lake. There are two villages, one Cambodian, and one Vietnamese. The tour takes you around the village, and stops a while in the villages school.

A school on a boat. Sadly they didn't know the "I'm on a boat" song.

Students learning Vietnamese.

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Skeezy Tip: There is what I believe to be a scam while heading to the school. The people giving you the tour will tell you that it is customary and it would be nice to bring the children of the school food and school supplies. Naturally, he knows a shop. The shop is, you guessed it, grossly overpriced, selling notebooks you find in the city for 25 cents, for $1 a piece. Same goes for the food. Oh and they only sell by the box (of 20) of both food and notebooks. Do yourself a favor and if you don’t want to feel duped, nor cheap, buy a few notebooks in the city before doing this tour.
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The War Museum: While this is just a rag tag collection of Civil War weaponry tossed into a big empty lot and charging $3 to see it, how often do you get to take pictures holding rocket launchers (with the rocket on it) and all kinds of other weapons? There are just 2 guys in the front door and no one telling you to please “put that down”.
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Street 63 (Not sure if I got the number right…its 60 something): This is a street where many Cambodians come and rent a spot (literally a square) to just have a beer and chill. This spans for a good 2-3 kilometers, and even has a fair in it. The food is also quite different from what you get in the city, and pretty cheap. You know you are in a place where not many tourists go when you are charged in Riel, and not dollars.
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Night Clubs: There are 2 clubs everyone and their mother will recommend, “Temple Club” and “Angkor What?” which are in the downtown area. While they aren’t bad, and the music is generally American pop, and don’t expect to get a feel of a real “Cambodian club” in either of these. They are filled with foreigners, prostitutes, transvestites, and con artists.
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1) Temple Club: Drinks are 2 for 1 (at $4 each) and is a lively place with traditional ‘Apsara’ dances on the second floor for free, and pretty good food. However, if you decide to dance with the locals, expect to be asked if you want to “boom boom” for $20 within minutes. The walls also have big screen TVs which show important sporting events.
On Pub Street (should have no problem finding it)
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2) Angkor What?: Across the street of Temple club, and besides its darker venue, very similar too. Also has American pop, and similarly priced drinks. This club however doesn’t have the dining capacities of Temple club. One thing which makes it different is that anyone is allowed to write on the walls, which gives it a graffiti wall look.
On Pub Street (should have no problem finding it)
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3) Zone One: In my attempt to find a more “Cambodian club” Barang (see below) showed me this place. A new, enormous club, some distance away from the downtown “pub street”. By the size of this place, I assume that electronica and house are more popular than pop amongst your average Cambodian. With lasers flying everywhere, you will not see many foreigners here, as most don’t venture this far from “pub street”. While a foreigner will be given the royal treatment, sadly your Cambodian friend(s) will be frisked like if this was an airport. This club also has an (expensive) Kareoke bar on the second level.
517 Tep Vong Street
Tel: 855 63 965 251
Logistics:
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Airplane: Fly into either Phnom Penh, or Siem Reap. Use sites such as AirAsia.com, Kayak.com, Ctrip.com (chinese airlines only) or Cheapoair.com, as they consistently give the best rates.
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Skeezy Tip #1: If you will visit more than just one city, you might want to consider buying a one way flight to one city, and flying out of your final destination. For example, you can buy a flight into Siem Reap, and out of Phnom Penh.
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Skeezy Tip #2: Airasia.com offers extremely cheap one way flights within South East Asia. Sometimes as low as $10 for a flight.
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Lodging:
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1) Golden Temple Villa, as low as $13 a night for a single person.
This is a recommended spot because, while cheaper do exist, this comes in a very established place, with all the services (including free pick up), free internet access, and a complimentary 20 minute Khmer Massage. The massage room also offers additional massages at $3 an hour. Furthermore, there is a decent restaurant attached to the villa, with a complimentary pool table.  The place is pretty central, and the rooms are quite beautiful and clean too (not something you want to risk here).
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2) Hostels as cheap as 2USD a night
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Transportation and Guides:
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Tuk Tuk: A tuk tuk is a camper like cabin attached to a motorcycle, and the most common taxi type in Siem Reap, and other cities in South East Asia.
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While transportation is usually not required in other tourist areas, as buses drop you off in front of sites, it is highly recommended here. Furthermore, none of the temples have any signs telling you about them, so a guide would be nice. I got just the guy for you:
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1) Barang Hang (hangbarang@yahoo.com , http://www.facebook.com/pages/Barang-Hang-Cambodia-TukTuk-Driver/155971414415325http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001575593984) is a student (22 yrs old) who yearns to be a professional in tourism and hospitality. Furthermore, he is a young guy who will not only show you the temples, and other things around Siem Reap but if you so desire (totally up to you) he will go clubbing, drink and party with you too. He even took me to see his house, but again, the level of comfort and closeness is up to you. He also takes payment as a “whatever you think is fair” however, given he has become a personal friend, please dont rip him off. Take note that most tuk tuk drivers ask for $8-$15 a day (8 hours) and he usually does a lot more than 8 hours. This guy hung out with me, one day, until 4am, and was ready to take me to the next place at 9am the next morning!!! That kind of service is just phenomenal (pun not intended). Also, if you come with more than one person, the load on a tuk-tuk is heavier, thus more gas is spent (which isnt cheap in Cambodia). Keep that in mind when paying him.
All you have to do, is email him and ask if he and his tuk-tuk are available to show you around, and give him your dates, and hotel, he will pick you up! If he is unavailable for your date, he will surely have friends who will be available.
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2) If for what ever reason, you dont trust my guy (shame on you) you could either ask your hotel to get one for you, or many tuk-tuk drivers hang out near the down town area.
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Skeezy Tip #1: Many tuk-tuk drivers will quote you something, then try to charge you per person at the end of the trip. Make the cost clear before agreeing. (This isnt an issue with Barang)
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Skeezy Tip #2: Some tuk-tuk drivers will agree for a rate, but change their mind and add more if you want to go to more distant temples, make clear where you want to go before agreeing (again this isnt an issue with Barang).
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Skeezy Tip #3: The time in a “full day” is often just 8 hours, which really isnt a lot in Siem Reap, as the temples are huge. Make sure to start your day early, and make clear how long he is willing to stay up with you. (again, with Barang, dont worry about time).
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3) To get an “official guide” for the temples, you must have your hotel make reservations with anticipation. Keep in mind, this is not necessary if you follow the Skeezy Tip on Angkor Wat above (or just ask Barang!)
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Map:

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