Visitng Angkor Wat in Cambodia
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Angkor Wat: Exploring Cambodia’s Amazing Temples!

Have you ever dreamed of experiencing the incredible beauty and culture of Cambodia? If so, a visit to the breathtaking Angkor Wat temples should be at the top of your list. As one of Southeast Asia’s most iconic destinations, these towering monuments have been drawing visitors from around the world for centuries. From ancient Buddhist carvings to picturesque sunsets behind sprawling moats and stone walls, a trip to this historical complex is sure to leave you with once-in-a-lifetime memories!

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Angkor Wat Archeological Park is an enormous temple complex situated just outside the Cambodian city of Siem Reap. It is thought to be the biggest religious complex in the world. Although the site was once the centre of the Khmer Empire, by the 1800s most of its many buildings and temples had sustained extensive damage due to earthquakes, war and forest overgrowth. 

In the early 1900s, the French who ruled Cambodia for much of the 20th century established a restoration committee, although most major works didn’t happen till the 1960s. In 1922 the site was made a UNESCO World Heritage site which now safeguards this symbolic complex.

The archaeological park can be extremely busy! Over 2 million visitors pass through the site each year, with thousands every day trying to catch a glimpse of the sunrise over its masterpiece, Angkor WatThis majestic structure lies at the heart of the archaeological Park and is one of Cambodia’s most loved temples.

You will also find many tourists posing for selfies in and around the temple of Ta Prohm which was made famous by the film Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie. If you want to get away from the crowds then you need to visit the outlying temples, some of which are in my opinion more beautiful!

Although many people may be put off by the number of tourists that now flock to Angkor Wat, a visit to this amazing archaeological site is a must! You will be in awe of the sheer size, complexity and diversity of each structure. As you wander through many of the sites you will marvel at the beautiful detailing, intricate carvings and wonderful architecture. You will see its pioneering system of reservoirs and waterways, which form a complex irrigation system that helped the Khmer people thrive. Most of all, you will be amazed at how it was all built centuries ago!

How To Get To Siem Reap:

Plane

Siem Reap International airport (REP) is situated approximately 6 km out of the city. The city can be easily reached by Tuk-tuk or private taxi. Many hotels also include a free pick-up service. For the best flight deals, I recommend Skyscanner! 

Bus

Siem Reap can also be reached from other nearby destinations such as Bangkok by bus. However, these although cheap can be long tiresome journeys! Me and a friend I was travelling with arrived via bus from the Thai Island of Koh Chang which was a long 10-hour journey. If you are taking a route that crosses the land border, please watch out for scams!

The bus from the Thai side will stop shortly before the border crossing where you have to get off, take your luggage and walk to the border. Here you will get your visa and then get on another bus which will take you to your final destination. 

However, some bus company employees will tell you a few tales before making your way to the border. Don’t let them intimidate you, it’s all just a scam! Examples include:

  1. Telling you there are no ATMs in Cambodia so taking you somewhere to get out cash before you cross the border, usually somewhere with high exchange rates! No need though, there are plenty of ATMs in Cambodia, especially in the cities!
  2. Getting you to pay them to get your Cambodia visa for you, making out it will be so much faster and you won’t miss your connecting bus on the other side! Don’t! They will charge you extra and the bus will wait for you. I had no issues or delays getting my visa or the connecting bus.

Admittedly I was a little scared about the border and did a lot of research beforehand about possible scams. I just politely declined any offers of help and had no issues at all. 

Most of the other travellers on the bus did the same and nobody seemed to have any issues so don’t be put off it travelling this way. 

A useful app for finding the best transport options around Asia is 12Goasia.com I used this so many times for booking trains, buses and ferries throughout Thailand and Cambodia during my travels.

Powered by 12Go system

If planning ahead of time you may get a great deal on flights which may be similar prices as taking the bus! For finding the best flight deals I use the Sky Scanner App

Private taxi

If budget is not an issue you can also travel between Siem Reap and other Cambodian Cities such as Phnom Penh by private taxi. Expect to pay around $100.

Angkor Wat: Where To Stay

There is no shortage of accommodation in Siem Reap, whatever the budget you will find somewhere suitable. Most mid-range hotels are situated around the old town near the famous ‘Pub Street’ with its many bars and restaurants. Whereas the most luxurious accommodation options are located slightly outside the old town towards the quieter North. 

For the best deals on hotels, I recommend using Booking.com.

Booking.com

During my trip I had opted to stay in hostels and guesthouses with an average price of $10 a night, however, my stay in Siem Reap also coincided with my birthday so I decided to stay somewhere a bit fancier! After a lot of research, I choose to stay in the fabulous Angkor Elysium Suites.

This hotel was located just outside the city close to the airport in a rather peaceful location offering some tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of the city! Although it wasn’t close enough to walk into town, it did offer free drop-off and pick-up tuk-tuk rides to Pub Street. 

The hotel was amazing with some of the biggest rooms I’ve ever stayed in, a swim-up bar, a spa and an amazing restaurant! All this only costs $40 a night! They even surprised me with a birthday cake!

Angkor Wat: Best Time To Visit

Cambodia’s dry season runs from November to February so naturally, this is the best time to visit, although it’s also its busiest time of year! Meaning Crowds! I decided to take a risk and travel during the rainy season in September. This turned out to be a great choice as the weather was hot and sunny virtually every day with just the occasional rainy downpours.

In my opinion, any time of year is a good time to visit just be prepared for some sudden downpours! Although they don’t tend to last long.

Angkor Wat Tickets:

All foreign nationalities much purchase the Angkor Pass to gain entrance to the Archaeological Park. Tickets can be purchased at the official ticket centre located about 5 km from Siem Reap town. The office is open from 5 am to 5.30 pm every day.

There are three types of tickets available:

  • 1-day pass – US$ 37
  • 3-day pass – US$ 62
  • 7-day pass – US$ 72

The 3-day pass is valid for 10 days from the issue date, the 7-day pass is valid for 1 month from the issue date. So with both of these passes, it’s not necessary to plan your visits on consecutive days.

Tickets cannot be bought in advance, although if you buy after 5 pm they are valid for the following day. If you choose to explore by tuk-tuk or private taxi then they will take you to the office to purchase tickets before taking you to the park.

Angkor Wat: Getting Around

There are many ways to get around the Archaeological Park such as by bike, taxi or tuk-tuk. Don’t even attempt to walk as the site is huge and you’ll soon regret it! Even think carefully about hiring a bike, there is a lot of distance between each temple and the heat can be really tough! 

I choose to book a tuk-tuk via our hotel which cost $25 for the day, although you can hustle with the drivers in town and probably get it a bit cheaper at $20. I was happy to pay $25 knowing I was going to be picked up, this also included bottled water and umbrellas to use.

Our driver picked us up early in the morning and took us straight to the office to purchase our tickets. There are several different routes to take around the park depending on which sites interest you the most. We just wanted to see the main attractions in one day so we just chose the short circuit. 

Angkor Wat:

This was the first temple we visited. We knew it was going to be busy inside by the sheer number of tuk-tuks parked up outside! There seemed to be hundreds of them! Our driver parked up and off we went to explore our first Cambodian temple. Surprisingly, once inside the temple we found large parts of the site to be empty.

Angkor Wat temple is truly a magical place to explore. From its enormous and impressive stone structures to the incredible detail of its intricate carvings, this ancient wonder must be seen with your own eyes to fully appreciate its grandeur. The temple was built in the 12th century by Khmer King Suryavarman II to honour the Hindu god Vishnu, but it eventually became a Buddhist shrine. Touring the grounds of Angkor Wat is an awe-inspiring experience, as you can feel history come alive with every step. 

Every corner of this incredible landmark was breathtakingly beautiful and its historical significance made it all the more special. Everywhere you looked were intricate carvings and stunning sculptures, some depicting scenes from Hindu mythology while others showcased the daily activities of an ancient civilization. 

Bayon Temple:

Bayon temple is located inside Angkor Thom and was one of my favourite temples to explore! From a distance, the site looks like a pile of rubble and rocks but as you get closer you see all the intricate detailing.

Built by King Jayavarman VII, Bayon temple captivates visitors due to its impressive blend of stone and wood carvings. Every turn provides an opportunity to take in intricate details from both nature and Buddhist art. Since the temple rises 35 meters high, it’s easy to climb to the top and observe a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. On the walls of these ancient towers, you’ll find several enormous faces with peaceful expressions that are believed to be impressions of King Jayavarman himself.

Baphuon Temple:

This impressive structure has a long and fascinating history that dates back to the mid-11th century when it was built as a Hindu temple by King Udayadityavarman II. Sadly, the temple suffered significantly after the 16th century and wasn’t even restored to its original splendour until as recently as 2011. During this restoration process, archaeologists discovered stunning reliefs, sculptures and inscriptions that are sure to take your breath away.

Climbing to the upper levels of the temple allows you to get a bird’s eye view of Angkor Thom and soak up thousands of years of history! Be warned though the steps are very steep! Not so bad going up, but pretty scary coming back down!

Royal Terraces

The Terrace of the Leper King and the Terrace of the Elephants are two of the most spectacular vantage points of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Not only that, but these stone structures give insight into a powerful ancient civilization long gone. The royal terrace was used as an area for royal ceremonies, while its five tiers were meant to represent symbols and imagery essential to Angkor’s golden age. Meanwhile, The Terrace of Elephants served as a grand viewing stand for public processions during those times, dedicated particularly to funerals or charitable events for centuries. Exploring these fascinating structures is like stepping back in time, allowing me to gain remarkable insight into one of history’s great civilizations.

Ta Prohm

Exploring Ta Prohm is an experience unlike any other and is the second most visited site in Angkor Wat thanks to the film Tomb Raider. This enchanting temple captivates travellers with its remarkable combination of beauty, history and intrigue. Dating back to the 12th century, this amazing ancient site was originally used as a Buddhist monastery.

Its majestic stone structures are covered in large trees and floral roots that weave around their walls, which adds a magical quality to the atmosphere. From trekking through the grounds and discovering how nature has claimed this temple as her own to learn about its fascinating history, you are sure to feel inspired after visiting Ta Prohm! Just be warned! It can become extremely busy with selfie-takers!

Banteay Kdei:

The final temple of the day was the peaceful Banteay kdei. This temple was lovely to walk around with not another tourist in sight!

Built-in the late 12th century during the reign of Jayavarman VII as a Buddhist monastery, this complex is one of the oldest and most expansive temples in the whole area. Although it was heavily pillaged by the Thais before its rediscovery in 1914, there are still several fascinating artefacts here to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for Siem Reap’s largest sanctuary cross or simply want to admire ornate carvings and detailed statues, there’s something here for everyone to appreciate.

Tips For Exploring Angkor Wat:

  • Dress appropriately, remember Angkor Wat is a religious site! Both men and women should have shoulders and legs covered.
  • Bring plenty of water! Do not underestimate the heat! The temperature inside the complex seems to be hotter than anywhere else in Cambodia!
  • Bring a parasol or umbrella! Our tuk-tuk driver offered us the use of some but we politely declined thinking we knew better! Wrong! We struggled so much with the heat and in many sites there is little shade from the sun.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, you will be walking around a lot! Also, be aware of lots of uneven surfaces.
  • Whilst walking around the complex watch out for monkeys, you can even buy bananas from sellers to feed them.
  • There are plenty of places around the complex to stop, catch a drink, a bite to eat and even buy some souvenirs. You may find the Prices are a little more expensive than in town but still pretty cheap compared to western standards.

Final Thoughts

Overall, visiting Angkor Wat was an incredible experience. From the grandeur of the temples to the feeling of being transported back in time, there is truly nowhere else like it in the world. If you find yourself in Southeast Asia, make sure to add Angkor Wat to your itinerary, you won’t regret it!

Read more: A guide to visiting the S-21 Museum and Killing Fields in Cambodia

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