Monday 25 January 2016

A guide to visiting the temples of Angkor, Cambodia

Visiting the temples of Siem Reap is a must do when in Cambodia and if you are pushed for time then you have come to the right place. When most people think of the temples they immediately think of Angkor Wat, the most famous, but there are so many more beautiful temples in areas to visit.

I was in Cambodia for a month on a volunteer project and was assigned to a child care centre in Phnom Penh. We worked from around 7:30 in the morning until around 4:30 in the afternoon which left only our weekends to explore. On one of the weekends two of the other volunteers and I travelled from Phnom Penh via an overnight sleeper bus to Siem Reap. The sleeper bus was perfect as it meant there was no time wasted during the day. 

WANT MORE: Read my post about Volunteering in Cambodia here

We caught the Giant Ibis night bus at 10pm for the 6 and a half hour ride to Siem Reap at a cost of $15USD. The trip didn’t quite take the 6 and a half hours as there were a few stops along the way and the roads in Cambodia are not known for their smoothness. We had been looking forward to spending time on the air-conditioned bus as it had been so hot and with no air-conditioning at our volunteer accommodation or at the Child Care Centre I was telling anyone who would listen how excited I was. Of course I regretted that excitement about half an hour into the bus ride as my top bunk was closest to the air vent and with the air-con on full steam I was freezing!

Despite this I did manage to get a little shut eye before arriving in Siem Reap just before sunrise. We had enough time to haggle with a Tuk Tuk driver, and venture the entrance to the Angkor Temples. And haggle we had to! There were PLENTY of Tuk Tuk drivers waiting for us as we got off the bus almost begging for our business. We started speaking with one who wanted to charge us $20 each to be our guide for the day. Luckily we had already been given the heads up from some of the other volunteers at the house to not pay any more than $15 for the day for the whole Tuk Tuk…. So $5 each! We found a driver and headed straight to the Angkor Temples entrance, paid for out tickets ($20USD will get you a pass to visit the World Heritage Sites for the day and is open from 5:30am to 5:30pm, your photo is taken and printed on the ticket) and took off to watch the sun rise over the famous Angkor Wat Temple, along with a few hundred other people. Sunrise is an extremely popular time and it wasn’t long before we realised why.

There’s plenty of places to have breakfast there and if you are “lucky” you’ll get people showing you menus and begging you to eat at their ‘restaurant’ when you have finished taking your photos. They are likely to tell you their name is Lady Gaga or something similar and will come and escort you to their area. The food prices were a little more expensive than other places but that is to be expected when you are in such a tourist thick area. The banana pancakes were amazing though so I was more than happy to pay the little bit extra.
We spent a fair bit of time exploring the grounds of Angkor Wat before heading off to our next stop, Bayon at Angkor ThomThe temple of faces. This area is believed to have been established in the 12th century and covers an area of 9 km squared and is home to many different monuments.  

Our final stop of the day was at Ta Prohm – the jungle temple. Located about a kilometre from Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm was abandoned in the 17th century and has remained relatively untouched since that time. Work has been done to stabilise the ruins to make them safe for visitors but its ‘neglected’ status is evident as over the years it has merged with the jungle. This area is also extremely popular with tourists as it was the main site for the filming of the Angelina Jolie movie Tomb Raider. 

By this time it was 1 in the afternoon and despite having more time to explore the temples, we were hot and tired and hungry so decided to head to back into town to our hostel.

The temples of Angkor in Cambodia are rich with history and importance to the Cambodian people. They are a must visit when in the area but remember to be a responsible and respectful tourist by wearing appropriate clothing, knees and shoulders covered, sticking to designated areas and keeping the noise at a minimum.Take some time to wander around, enjoy the magnificent views and soak up the atmosphere.

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