My boyfriend is not much of an early riser, so unlike most people we did not wake up before dawn to see Angkor Wat in the light of the sunrise. We slept in and found a tuktuk driver while walking downtown, lol. It worked out great and we were able to see Angkor Wat, the Bayon, and Ta Prohm, the Indiana Jones Temple! While these are the most popular temples they are also really cool. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run across people talking about these or sharing pictures. I have no regrets.
Angkor Wat is actually just one of the temples that are in Siem Reap. There are tons and you can choose to see a bunch in one day in one grand loop. Most places start with Angkor Wat and go in a clockwise loop, but you can also go in the opposite direction in order to beat the crowds.
In order to see Angkor Wat you buy a ticket to enter the park area with all of the various temples. We decided on a one day pass at $20. You can also buy a pass for three days for $40 and a seven day pass for $60. This does not include temples that are located outside of the Angkor Archaeological Park so check out the page and do your research before you go. You will be asked for your passport and to take a picture for your ticket.
Actually we managed to get to the temple at lunch time and it was great timing. There’s a bit of a lull between the early morning crowds and the afternoon ones and while there were still a few other tourists there it wasn’t too crowded.
The first statues you see as you enter Angkor Wat. There really are people everywhere!
There are also a bunch of touts hanging around trying to sell you various items. This can be useful, for example I picked up a hat that probably saved me from some sun burn. Honestly they just can’t compete with everything around you.
Here were are crossing the moat.
This is the entrance to the inner part of Angkor Wat. Once inside you walk for a quite a bit before you come to the main structure. Unfortunately the sun was not cooperating with me and I didn’t get any good pictures of it.
In order to get to the top you have to walk up some steep narrow steps. I’ve read online that this is supposed to represent the difficultly of getting to heaven, which is what the highest point of the temple represents. Here is the view from the top.
Once we finished exploring the top we started to view the outer walls. This is one of the murals that I found interesting.
After Angkor Wat, we were invited by our guide to check out a hot air balloon view of the Angkor Archaeological Park. This was kind of disappointing as we did not know that it would be a quick up and down ride while tied to a tether! Oh well, it was still a nice view. I recommend you skip this one and move on to the next temple on your itinerary.
Next we went to check out the Bayon. This was actually one of my favorite places of the day. The smiling and sanguine faces make this place almost eerie, and the bas-reliefs are beautiful.
At this point we were pretty hungry and decided to stop and have an early dinner. Our guide drove us to a restaurant in the area. It was not very good and I think it was mostly recommended because of the incentive that the guides receive for bringing customers! If we were to do it again I we should have done more research on good places to stop for a meal.
After our disappointing dinner we went to our last stop of the day, Ta Prohm.
Ta Prohm was the place I was initially most excited about. It is famous for the huge trees that have grown through its ruins and is just like stepping into a movie set. Here are a few of the pictures that I took. It was a little difficult with take good pictures with the light and the crowds, but I just took a bunch anyway.
Funny story, even with our shortened itinerary we were exhausted from walking around all day. There are two entrances to Ta Phrohm, one on the east and one on the west and they look pretty similar. We were so turned around that we ended up walking straight through the complex and looking for our tuk tuk driver on the wrong side! It took us forever to figure out what was wrong as the entrances looked so similar.
In any case I think that it was the perfect trip for us and it was one of the highlights of my trip to Southeast Asia. I’m a big Anthropology nerd and this was so cool! Honestly I see so many references to Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and the Bayon online and I don’t feel like I missed out on much by not seeing the other temples. If you aren’t that much of a walker or just want to have a more relaxing trip don’t feel like you need to see everything. Pick the places that you’re interested in and go see those.
Some tips for going to the temples are to bring a hat or buy sunscreen, there is a lot of walking in the sun. You can also buy a hat from one of the many vendors but know that the prices they quote are 3-4 times that of what the item is worth. Wear comfortable shoes. These are massive sites and you are going to do a lot of walking. As for drinks and snacks there are actually tons of shops along the way so you don’t really need to bring those.
That’s all I can think of for now. I hope that one day you will get a chance to go see Angkor Wat for yourself! Next time I am going to talk about riding Quads around the outskirts of Siem Reap.