A beginners guide to Angor Wat and friends
Now if you are like me, you know where Cambodia is and you know that Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are on the to do list, and most importantly you need to visit Angor Wat, but that’s about as far as your knowledge goes on Cambodia.
The two cities are very different, and here is your first tip – you’ll find Angor Wat and a multitude of other temples in Siem Reap so this is where you need to go to check this world heritage listed site off the list. We booked in at Lotus Lodge, which is the first accommodation we have booked through hostelworld over our usual Agoda. This place is great, breakfast included and they basically do the research and get you organized for your trip to the temples without you having to lift anything but your head from your pillow at 4:30am.
It is best to visit the temples early for a few reasons:
1. It gets extremely hot from about 11am onwards, and to be allowed into the temples you’ll need to be covered up (will get to that later).
2. You will beat the crowds, it was still pretty busy first thing in the morning but is bearable.
3. It is so much more exciting and adds to the majestic nature of the trip arriving in the dark at Angor Wat and waiting for the sun to shine some light on what is sitting right in front of you.
Our accommodation was totally equipped for these early morning adventures and I am assuming most are, as the millions of tourists that visit the city each year are basically there for one thing. So much so we let reception know at 6pm the evening before that we would like to take a sunrise trip the next morning. With a nod of the head the tuk tuk was booked and we were told to be in reception at 5am, breakfast boxes would be waiting for us. If your accommodation does not have this similar setup you can easily find a driver just by stepping foot out onto the road to let them know you would like to take a trip to the temples the next day and you can go from there.
We were charged $20US (everything is in US dollars in Cambodia) for a 5am pick-up that took us to the ticket office and then onto Angor Wat to see the sunrise. The temples are not far from the center city at all, so a 5am pick-up should see you there with plenty of time. Tickets to the temple complex were again $20US for one day, you can also purchase 2/3 day passes at $40US. A photograph will be taken of you after you hand over your money and your ticket will then be printed with your snap on the bottom corner. Keep this ticket accessible throughout the day, as you will continuously need to show this to security each time you access a new temple.
Once you hop out of the tuk-tuk and make plans with your driver as to where you will meet him once you are done at Angor Wat, you should follow the crowds into the temple and grab a spot at the left hand side pond to await sunrise. Now it isn’t a spectacular sunrise, and sunset would probably be a better photo opportunity but I personally am much more comfortable forgoing the photo op to not be dying in the afternoon heat. If your accommodation does not supply you with breakfast and you have nothing prepared, not to worry there are locals selling food and coffee nearby which you perhaps could grab after your walk around Angor Wat. This visit took us about 2 hours, once the sun was up and it was light enough, we ventured into the temple and took a look around, we also waited until 7:40am when the stairs opened to the tower set in the very middle of the complex.
Your visit to the temples doesn’t end once you are done at Angor Wat, there are dozens more temples to explore hence why a 2/3 day ticket may be a great option for you if you have the days up your sleeve – we didn’t. We visited Bayon Temple and then Ta Prohm , these two I felt were actually better and more magical than Angor Wat itself. Neither have the shear enormity that Angor Wat has, and a lot of effort has gone into it’s restoration, whilst you will find the other temples are currently having work done to them or it is in the pipeline. These temples are old, and have been battered and bruised by Cambodia’s menacing history but seeing the temples in their forlorn state appealed to me more than Angor Wat which has been restored and reflects more of what they use to look like.
We spent another 2 hours at , and then around one hour at which was hands down my favorite. Ta Prohm has ** trees that have taken over which are slowly engulfing the smallish temple. It is enchanting and really gives you the sense of the maturity of these structures, and just how long they have been sitting here in the jungle. It is also important to note that scenes from Tomb Raider were filmed at Ta Prohm which might make this one even more appealing.
Following this we made one last stop in at , purchased a whole pineapple on a stick for $1US and we were back at our accommodation for lunch and a swim, which was ideal as it really was becoming unbearably hot.
As mentioned before it is important to cover up when visiting the temples, and also other religious sites in Cambodia, the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh included. It is important to note carrying a scarf to wrap around your shoulders will not suffice, you need to be wearing a shirt/t-shirt with sleeves, short sleeves are fine – for both men and woman. I was a little confused when it came to lower half, and ensured for a visit to the Royal Palace I was wearing longs to my ankles, however to the temples I tried my luck with baggie shorts that came to just above the knee and this seemed fine – which was a relief as I really battle with the heat. We both wore hats, which only had to be removed when we entered really scared areas, this is spelt out to you in signs before you enter. Note below what we were both wearing for our visit to the temples.