3 Days at Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat temple complex and archeological site is a MUST if you come to Cambodia. Its such an amazing part of history and is such a different experience than any other temples I have seen in my life. Much like the great pyramids, you can’t help but wonder how the heck did the anchient Khmers build these magnificent structures.
The temples are located 15 minutes from downtown Siem Reap, and are extremely easy to access. You can hire a car, or a Tuk Tuk to take you around for the day. A car starts around $30USD a day and includes AC, cold water and a driver. A Tuk Tuk starts around $15 USD a day and is a fun adventure!
We arranged with our wonderful new friends we met at the airport to split an air conditioned car for the first day at Angkor Wat. A car is around $30-$35 USD a day, split that between 4 people and its a steal! We arranged the cars with our hotel, making the process smoother. We decided to be at the park on the first day to watch the sun rise over the Angkor Wat temple. Which meant a 4:30am wakeup call... (or 4:50 if you are like me and just roll out of bed and go). The driver picked us up from our hotel at 5:00 am and we headed to the ticket office. The ticket office is located at the entrance to Angkor Wat park along the main road. Our driver dropped us off at the door and we joined the lineups of hundreds of people all buying their tickets too. There were about 15 ticket stalls open though, which made the lines go faster than I though it would go. Two of us grabbed coffees at a cafe while the other two held our place in line. I was able to pay for our passes with my CIBC visa debit card which was nice. Saving us some ATM and interest fees.
We arrived in the park around 6:00am, the sun rises at 6:30am around here so we had lots of time to find a good place to watch from! It was a 10 minute walk from the parking area where or driver dropped, into the temple. Our friends said the best place to watch the sunrise was from the north west corner of the north pond. Or the very left when you enter the Angkor Wat site. From here the sun will come up and reflect into the pool. Which makes for the most gorgeous photo! It is also less crowed and you can see all 5 towers of Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat is only one specific temple. But the whole Archaeological site that includes hundreds of temples is called Angkor Wat park or Complex. We only got to scratch the surface and visit 7-8 of the temples. We did all of those temples over 2 days in a car. The time we spent at each temple varied on its size and our level of tiredness! It was 35+ degrees Celsius most days. And girls had to wear more clothes to respect the cultures that still worship in these temples. So it got hot fast, and climbing up and down temples can really take it out of you!
Here are the names of the temples we visited, and the amount of time we spent at each.
Angkor Wat 2.5 hours including sunrise
As soon as the sunrise ended we headed around the north side of the temple and entered into the main courtyard. There was a line that started here to enter into the main part of the temple. They only allow so many visitors in at a time, and even though we get in relativity early there was still a lineup waiting for us. Once it was our turn to go in, we were given a pass to hang around our necks and began the sketchy ascent to the temple. To get up into it you have to climb some 180 degree vertical stairs (I may be exaggerating) that were a bit harrowing for me since i'm scared of heights.
Inside was a beautiful area with many intricate carvings and glorious towers. We took our time wandering around marveling at the beauty. None of us could comprehend the manpower and brains it would have taken to build this beautiful temple.
Angkor Thom 2 hours
Angkor Wat was decently touristy, but since we got there early in the day I think we avoided the majority of crowds. Sadly, the crowds were in full swing when we got to Angkor Thom.
Angkor Thom was a beautiful temple with many interesting spots to take pictures of. Angkor Thom is well known for all the large faces that are carved into the temple. We had to push our way around and wait turns with other tourists to get photos of some things. But that's the harsh reality behind the pictures at Angkor.
Thommanon 20 minutes
A small temple, but no less magical. We were just driving through the site when we saw this gorgeous, empty temple calling our name from the side of the road. There were very few people here which was great. This temple was so photogenic and had many interesting parts to it! This small temple was probably one of my favorites we visited due to the peacefulness.
Preah Khan 1 hour
Preah Khan was another one of the favourite temples. It was widely spread and in a nice state of ruins. Which gave it a more ancient, natural look. This one was fun to look around and adventure through the corridors and tumbling rocks. This was also one of the less busy temples we visited. I really enjoyed the quieter temples more, due to the fact the didn’t appear as much like an exhibition.
Ta Som 45 minutes
This temple was beautiful. It was in semi ruins, with structures crumbling down. I appreciate these temples more because there is a lot less intervention by modern man visible.
Many people come here for the picture at the south gate though. We came here for the same reason. We spent most of our time here searching for the infamous gate being strangled by a large fig tree. After running around the temple for about 30 minutes trying to locate the gate with no success, the boys were getting tired and were going to wait for us in the car. But after learning the true location of the gate was at the furthest point from where our car was parked, we all decided to go over there and snap a picture of what we came for. It was a very cool sight to see and a great photo op. But there were about 10 other people there trying to get a picture too, which was fine. You just have to patiently wait your turn.
Ta Keo 1 hour
Ta Keo was also one of my favourite temples we visited. It was pretty unoccupied. I assume due to the fact you had to hike up the most terrifying stairs I have ever seen. They were so steep, and were the original steps to the temple which were left slippery and uneven. Death trap. But once we got to the top we were rewarded with gorgeous views of the complex and neighboring temples. They were in the process of surveying the temple while we were there and we could see how each stone was being counted and recorded. I think they were going to being restoring it soon. Which is a shame becuse it means more tourists will come and it will be scarred by scaffolding.
Ta Phrom 1 hour
This temple was one of the main reasons I had to come to Angkor Wat. I needed to see the beautiful ruins that Laura Croft Tomb Raider ventured though on her way to kick some Daniel Craig butt. Angelina Jolie is a huge role model in my life and has been since I was a little girl. Tomb Raider was one of my favorite movies and is partially filmed at the Angkor Wat site.
We made it to Ta Phrom later in the day, and it was engulfed with tourists. I almost dreaded going in but I needed to see where the movie was filmed. We followed he herds as everyone was funneled through the same pathways and corridors. This temples is probably the most touristy, and for the same reason I wanted to go there. Everyone had the same idea in their mind. There are platforms and walkways you have to follow to get through the temple. Its a lot less free and open like the others. We eventually made it to where the scene was shot and I was kind of let down. The scene was nice, but it was ruined by the hoards of tourists all trying to get the same shot. It was a lot less majestic than I had worked it up to be in my mind. But I am still extremely glad I went because who knows if you will even be able to access these sites in the future.