The magnificent Temples of Angkor Wat, appear to rise out of nowhere in Siem Reap. You go from a typical Cambodian city, to the area where the Temples are and it has a completely different feel. The rustic Khmer ruins are what attracts many people to Cambodia in the first place. So much so that it is the only place people seem to go.
The typical visitor to Siem Reap, will do a tour on one day, get up and see the sunrise on the second and leave on the third. Whilst the typical backpacker, will do the same and then spend each night getting wasted on the famous Pub Street.
During my 6 days in Siem Reap, I met so many people doing that, and saying “Oh yeah, we’re just here to see the Temples and then going, there isn’t much more to see in Cambodia.”
Are you kidding me? There is so much more to Cambodia, and in general, in any country, than just one tourist attraction!
I spent about 2 weeks in total in Cambodia, and didn’t see half of what I wanted to see, but I still managed to get to some off the beaten track places during those two weeks.
For those wanting to see the Temples of Angkor Wat, I did it a little differently on some of the days. So here is my guide to the Temples. What to see, which ones to go to and at what times.
How much does it cost to see the Temples?
It is best to get a three day Temple pass. This will cost US$40, but can be used in any one week period, so you don’t need to go three days in a row. I think that would be overkill. I felt a little ‘Templed out’ after just one day.
You can get a one day pass, if you are short on time. This will cost you US$20.
Tickets can be purchased at the main ticket counter, and you get your photo put on the pass, so tickets are non transferable, and you have a nice souvenir to take home with you.
Tickets are checked at each Temple entry point, so having these to hand is a good idea. Some people purchase a lanyard, to hang around their neck, for easy access.
How best to see the Temples of Angkor Wat
As soon as you arrive in Siem Reap, every Tuk Tuk driver and his monkey, will ask you if you want a tour of the Temples, so you won’t be stuck for getting transport there. You can of course get on a bus tour, but I wouldn’t reccommend this. A tuk tuk is the better way to see them – natural air conditioning!
Generally most people start out doing, whats known as the ‘Grand Circuit’. A 26km round trip, seeing 5 Temples, and various other small ruins.
Tuk Tuk drivers generally charge US$15-20 to hire them for one day. I managed to go with Liesbeth, the Belgian girl I met in Laos, and another guy called Simon, from Colombia, so we paid just US$5 each for the day – not bad. This was arranged through our hostel. We were recommended a tuk tuk driver called Mr Nam, and he was great. His English was good, we got a bit of a history lesson at times, and generally had a laugh with him.
What Temples do you see on the Grand Circuit?
Most people will set off around 8 or 9am, but in reality, you can leave whenever you want. On our Grand Circuit, we were taken to the following Temples:
Banteay Kedi. This is the Temple were I failed to haggle with a lady selling Books. I told her I’d return later ad buy one, but ended Up buying it off someone else, afterwards she saw me, and I swear I thought she was going to kill me. She was so angry thst I didn’t buy from her.
Tip: Don’t ask prices if you aren’t interested in buying.
This was directly oopposite Battery Kedi, and was a small set of ruins overlooking a beautiful lake. We choose to return here for day two, to see the sunrise.
Pre Rup (this is a cool Pyramid style set of ruins, with a number of steep stairs to climb, but with a great view at the top)
Ta Som this is a cool Temple, with trees draped over some of the walls. A small complex, ere we got plagued by small Cambodian children to buy postcards and other tourist tack.
Preah Neak Pean – This is a small Temple based in a lake.
Ta Keo is known as the Temple mountain. It is a large complex, and has abut three sets of steps to climb up. You’ll need to wear long pants and cover up, to get in here.
Day two – Sunrise and a bike tour (the best way to see the Temples)
On the morning of day two, whilst most people head to see the Sunrise at Angkor Wat, we rented a bicycle for US$1, and cycled to see the sunrise at Ta Prom Temple. We were one of about 5 people there. It was just beautiful, it was across from the Temple, at the lake. It was so peaceful, and quiet and it just felt like a more real experience. No one trying to sell you things, or annoy you. Just natural beauty.
After this, around 7.30am. we went to Ta Prom. Otherwise known as the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’, we were so early, that there weren’t any guards inspecting tickets, and again, we were the only few people there. I felt like Lara Croft on a mission as I wandered through.
Our next stop was to Angkor Thom. An ancient god’s face carved into the ruins guarded each entrance.
We then got to Angkor Wat, and again this was relatively quiet, as most people start at Angkor Wat, and work in the opposite direction to us, so we were usually beating the crowds everytime.
We ended our cycle trip at 9.30am at Angkor Wat, which was still quiet busy. It took a lot of time to wander through, but come 10am, it was scorching hot, and after a full day of the Temples the previous day, we felt a little ‘Templed out’. So ended the small circuit there.
Day three – Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Although this is ‘the thing’ to do in Siem Reap (the sunrise that is), it can be skipped! OK, yes it is beautiful, but you are not guaranteed to see an amazing sunrise all the time. I have friends who have put up great sunrise photos, on Facebook of Angkor Wat, but it won’t always be that great, as happened on the day I went.
What I didn’t like about the sunrise at Angkor Wat, was the constant annoyances from the local people. Every five steps, you had someone in your face trying to sell you breakfast for after the sunrise, pants, books or other tourist tack. I felt like screaming at them. NO, I AM HERE TO SEE THE SUNRISE!
Another thing was that it is SO TOURISTY, and there are hundreds of people there, so much so that it actually ruins the experience. you have people pushing at you to get the perfect picture, and angle, and well I just didn’t like it.
I guess no matter where you go in the World. Any Tourist attraction will always be crammed full of tourists. Though, I think there are always ways to get around the busy periods.
Visiting the Temples of Angkor Wat was a great experience, and I am glad I did it. However, there are certainly more places in Cambodia, with numeous things to see and do. I haven’t got round to writing about these yet, but they will be on the blog soon.
Tips for visiting Angkor Wat
Don’t buy things off children, although they will say that it will help them go to school and learn English, these children rarely go to school.
Be careful of the monks, who will hand you and incense stick, and tie a brightly coloured band around your wrist. They’ll teach you a blessing, and you’ll feel oh so cultured, but they generally want about $5-10 ‘donation’ at the end
Be careful of the ‘tour guides’ at Angkor Wat Temple. These people are unlicensed and generally overcharge.
Wear long pants and cover your shoulders (not necessary for all Temples, but its respectful)
Don’t climb over or on top of the ruins, this area is still a religious site, and doing so is very disrespectful.