For our first stop in Cambodia, we travelled straight to Siem reap with the remaining members of our Thakhek loop gang we had met in Laos. The predominant reason most people visit Siem Reap is to check out the magnificent ancient temples of Angkor, and many will agree that no trip to Cambodia is complete without a visit.
Warning: This post is very image heavy!
From word of mouth, we had been advised that the thing to do was to either head to the temples super early for sunrise or to leave late morning and stick around for sunset. Knackered from our journey from Laos the previous day/evening, we decided on the latter although others have said that watching the sun rise over the temples is more impressive.
Most people hire a tuk-tuk for the day and your driver picks you up from your accommodation and takes you around the different temples for the day. The complex really is huge, and we weren’t too sure which were the best temples to see, so for us it was completely necessary to hire a driver. We were a group of 6 so took two tuk-tuks holding 3 people each for $15 a vehicle. For only $5 each, it really did seem a pretty reasonable price and we even spoke to others who had managed to get theirs for $12 a tuk-tuk. Our drivers were so lovely and really helped with recommending which temples to see and at what time of the day to avoid crowds and to take better photos, so that made it all the more worthwhile.
As we arrived we were given a choice of buying a one day pass, a three-day pass or a week pass. As we were all travelling on a budget and have seen hundreds of temples on our trip already, we decided to risk it with a one day pass. Grudgingly handing over a whopping (by SE Asia standards) $20 each for our one-day passes, I remember sincerely hoping that these temples would live up to the hype.
As soon as we were dropped off at Banteay Kdei, our first stop of the day, I could feel myself feeling overcome with admiration. It truly was absolutely mesmerising. As clichéd as it sounds, as I strolled through the narrow stone doorways I felt at such peace. I couldn’t stop taking photos because it all looked so incredible and I even had to remind myself to stop and take a real look around. It’s hard to describe just how wonderful the temples all looked, so I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. I certainly took enough!
My favourite temple visited was Ta Prohm, as featured in Tomb Raider with the wonderful Angelina Jolie. I adored the charm of the overgrown winding trees and the crumbling brickwork – very fantastical. Although it seems I wasn’t the only one who loved it – it was pretty crowded but you can only really expect that when visiting such a place.
Around midday, we stopped for lunch. The ‘streets’ in the complex were littered with stalls, markets and restaurants and I happily munched down a bowl of sweet and sour fried vegetables and rice. Yum. We were sure to invite along our kindly drivers and treat them to lunch, it was the least we could do for their extra help.
As we headed towards our last stop for the day, the breathtaking Angkor Wat for sunset, we noticed a gathering of monkeys fooling around! None of us could resist hopping out of our tuk-tuks and stopping to take a couple of snaps – especially when we spotted a baby clinging on to the back of its mother!
Arriving half an hour or so before sunset, we found we had to queue to climb to the top of the temple for the best view. This didn’t take too long though thankfully. The view was simply stunning, and hot air balloons could be seen drifting along in the horizon. Unfortunately, we were asked to leave the actual temple before the sun had properly set so had to make do sitting outside on the grass. This however in no way spoilt the end to what was one of my favourite days travelling South East Asia so far.
- Be sure to bring trousers and/or a top covering your shoulders in case you need to cover up. I was slightly cheeky and wore my shorts to keep cool(er) in the sun, but was asked to cover up the very last hour as we climbed up Angkor Wat to watch the sunset.
- Drink plenty of water – it’s a lot of walking around in smouldering hot temperatures.
- Sunrise or sunset over Angkor Wat makes for a perfect start or end to the day.
- Don’t feel shy to barter at the stalls and restaurants as the prices that are given are usually pretty high. We managed to grab a decent lunch for a measly $2.50, including water.
- Make sure your camera is fully charged – you will want to take lots of photos!