For a complex of 162 hectares, it is impossible to see everything in Angkor Wat in a day. Much less in 5 hours – the only time we have to spare. If you want to know how big 162 hectares is, think of a rugby or american football field. That’s about 1 hectare. Okay, you’re doing good. Multiply by 162.
So, since the size is impossibly huge for a day, most tours are divided into small and grand tour. I will explain that in a bit. The tickets also varies from 1 day pass, to 7 days.
First, let me show you the small tour, which we did one February afternoon. We were expecting to be in Siem Reap by 9am. But a lot of unfortunate events happened from Bangkok, which I will share in a separate post. Thus, the shortened trip in Angkor Wat.
Second, a few things you need to remember:
- Negotiate the tuktuk fee. Mostly it’s $15 for up to 4 people. If you want the sunrise tour at 430am, add a little and maybe make it $20. I know a couple of friends who take Angkor tours and they speak good english so you won’t have to worry about language barrier problems. Alann can be contacted at 0973143231 while Sochea’s number is (+855)81880098
- You could also rent a bike or scooter. Please only do this if you’re confident about your driving skills, have had consistently good cardio exercises and you know what to do if something breaks down. You don’t want to get to the next temple too tired.
- Light clothes, but not too revealing. Bring a hat as it can get really hot.
- Your tuktuk driver will provide you with cold water – rehydrate.
- If you plan to get the 3-day pass, break down the temples so you don’t get the “temple fatigue”
- If you plan to catch the sunrise, I suggest you stay at a hotel near the temple. It gives you time to go back and have breakfast after the sunrise. Nobody gets up at 4 to prepare a guest’s breakfast right? And you need the free breakfast, you’d have a long day. I suggest Bloom Garden. Cozy and very friendly staff. They have a pool for your evening cool down too.
The small circuit usually has Ta Prohm, Bayon Temple and Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat. If you have more time, you can also stop by more of the little, less crowded temples.
The entrance fee has recently increased from $20 a day to $37. It almost doubled and most non-first time visitors were discouraged, but not Mary. She’s bent on going to Angkor despite all the bad things we’ve heard and experienced on our way from Bangkok.
The 3-day pass used to be $40 but it’s now $62 and the 7-day pass was $60 and it’s now $72.
While the entire Angkor Wat complex was originally built as a Hindu temple to the god Vishnu, later centuries have seen Buddhist influences. This explains why Indonesia’s Borobudur remains to be the largest Buddhist monument in the world.
This temple is famous for the huge (Tetrameles) trees that have grown through the temple ruins. Like most temples in Angkor, it faces the east but is largely flat in structure so less stairs. It has carvings and the roots of trees can sometimes play with one’s imagination.
When there are too many tourists, it may take an hour to get a clean shot of its temples without anyone making it in your backdrop. But for Mary, she likes taking pictures with people in it because it becomes more realistic with different emotions caught in a frame.
ANGKOR THOM AND BAYON TEMPLE
You’ve probably seen photos of this temple on the internet before you realized it’s called Bayon because of the many smiling faces on the temple’s wall. It is being conserved by the Japanese Government Team for the Conservation of Angkor (JSA) and it describes Bayon as “the most striking expression of baroque style of Khmer architecture.
This was the last temple built in the Angkor complex and is primarily Mahayana Buddhist dedicated to Buddha.
The outer gallery has a rich catalog of bas reliefs that anyone can marvel at and take pictures of.
The terraces show the many faces of the bodhisattva (Lord who looks down) who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.
For starters, why is Indian literature very evident in Cambodia? I heard one Caucasian ask a local tour guide. I wanted to answer but that would be rude, right? India has influence not only in Cambodia, but in the other SE countries like Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Vietnam and parts of Malaysia.
That’s why it’s called IndoChina because this land mass is bound by India and China, and have largely controlled and influenced the “states” in the early centuries.
A massive, unfinished mountain-like temple made of sand stone. If only we had more time to climb its steep steps, it would be a real breath-taker!
This temple is the only one facing the west (sunset) as it is used for burial purposes. Any temple associated to death faces the west while all the other temples face the east. This is also why Angkor Wat is famous for the sunrise behind it.
The sunset is also spectacular and but crowded.
There is a causeway leading to the temple, a moat to the right side and an outer gate with a bigger moat. It has a restored headless lion and a restored head of a naga will greet you before you ascend the steps to the balustrades.
The best photos of the Angkor is when it is reflected on the moat so even if there were people around, we tried to squeeze in so we could snap a few.
Inside the Angkor, there are more places to take pictures of, the only question is, how much time did we have? It was dusk and we had to leave the place. But part of hearts stayed there. For good.
Checking Angkor Wat off the bucket list is not only satisfying, it is also a story worth retelling no matter how many times your friends ask you the same question, “so, how was it?”.
If I were you, you won’t miss it when you do your own Indochina trip. Good luck.