During a recent visit to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat we had the good fortune to be shown around by a local independent English-speaking guide, Mr. San Park. Park is a government-certified guide to Angkor Wat and the other nearby temples.
While we toured Angkor Wat, Park was a wealth of information about the history and the architecture of the ruins. He pointed out details in the art that I would never have seen on my own. But he also realized that when our eyes began to glaze over at yet another scene that looked like Raiders of the Lost Ark, that we were "templed out", to use his phrase. So he just asked what else we would like to do. My partner is an elementary school teacher and was interested in seeing a Cambodian classroom, so Park dropped in at a school where he knows one of the teachers.
The next day, Park took us to a fishing village on the lake near Siem Reap. That, in itself, is not unusual. Many of the tour operators go to one of the villages that are pretty close to SR. Park took us a bit further away (about an hour's drive), to a village where we were the only Westerners. We walked through the village and Park was right at hand, answering the dozens of questions that we had about what we were seeing. We arrived at the lake shore to find that he had already rented a boat so that we could see another village -- a floating village, complete with floating school, floating church (Catholic) and floating hardware store. I only know about the hardware store because my camera pooped out midway in the trip and we docked briefly at the store to get batteries.
What sets Park apart from other guides is that he is a Siem Reap native who knows the entire area and is extremely sensitive and flexible when planning your tour. Park will arrange any sort of transport that you like -- from a tuk-tuk to a motorcycle to an air-conditioned car -- and you pay the driver separately. In fact, Park will arrange just about any sort of experience you want. He told us about previous clients who wanted to stay overnight in the fishing village. Before the clients arrived, Park went to the village guest house to make sure there were clean mattresses, mosquito nets, and ceiling fans. And then he spent the night in the other room at the guest house to make sure his clients were ok.
We were lucky to find Park because a friend of ours used his services. Park is independent, so his prices are much lower than the commercial tour operators in Siem Reap. You can contact him at his website.
He responds very promptly to emails. I cannot recommend him highly enough.