I have recently returned from Cambodia and a visit to Angor Wat was in no doubt a highlight of my trip. I wanted to in this post share our experience so if you wish to visit yourself, you may find this information useful.
About Angor Wat
Angor Wat is a centre of a collection of religious temples of Angor dating back to 12th century. Today Angor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and the one that carries so much history and tradition related to the Khmer empire. The temple which is the part of Angor complex that consists of over 1000 square kilometres. The complex has 3 main temples as a core out of which Angor Wat is the most well known. There are many other temples in the Angor complex but the most famous are Angor Wat, Angor Thom and Ta Prohm. You must have heard from Ta Prohm from the Tomb Raider movie with Angelina Jolie as the main actress.
Angor Wat is seen as a home to the gods in Hindu cosmology. The temple was built by King Suryavarman II who according to the myth has come to the throne after winning the battle with a rival prince leaping onto his elephant and killing him. I’m by no means a fan of killing beautiful creatures such as elephants but back in those days, elephants were used in wars as weapons and play a significant part in the Khmer culture.
Angor is not only a religious temple complex but one the largest pre-industrial cities with the temples at its core. Actually, Angor was considered as a hydraulic city because of its water management network apparently supporting one million of its inhabitants.
Temples today are being preserved and looked after however, there is visible damage from the vegetation and soil but surprisingly, temples weren’t damaged during the recent war in Cambodia.
We started early as we chose to come and see the Angor Wat at sunrise. Our hotel Templation was only a few miles down the road was a perfect base for the adventure. I highly recommend the sunrise visit as it will help you deal with the heat better. It gets so hot in Siem Reap that sometimes doing activities in the afternoon may not end well. However, if you go early you will be able to see all the three temples by midday leaving you enough time to lounge by the pool in the afternoon.
I rented a city bike from our hotel for $6 per day and it was truly one of the best ways to get around. Although little tiring but the exhilarating feeling of the adventure and the surrounding keeps you going. We spent just over an hour at the Angor Wat catching the first sun rays and walking through the years of history. At some point, I had to pinch myself and couldn’t stop the feelings of gratitude to find myself in such unbelievable beautiful setting. It was only when we sat down on rocks in front of the lake overlooking the temple and when small kids under the age of 5 shouted yum yum, did I stop myself from daydreaming landing back to the reality of today’s Siem Reap. It made me think how such powerful force of the Khmer empire, once standing as the most powerful nation in Asia stooped to the level of having small kids that are meant to be in school beg for bread from strangers. We gave them some food but the feeling of somebody making them do this left me with an unsettled feeling.
We walked behind this cute girl that carried a bag filled with leftover bread, fruits and juices and I was just so sad. This feeling of being amazed and then travelling back to the opposite feeling sadness was present through the entire trip in Siem Reap. It’s very difficult to explain but I will try to share more in my upcoming posts.
After seeing beautiful Angor Wat we cycled to the Angor Thom which was one of my favourite temples. Angor Thom was built in the Bayon style and features face towers that represent gods, goddesses and buddhas. Each tower had a different facial expression and it made me wonder how people in the later 12th century with the vastly limited amount of tools an technology managed to create such unbelievably beautiful architecture. The entrance to this temple and the road the leads to it was stunningly beautiful and honestly quite difficult to put into words.
We arrived at the Angor Thom around 9 am and felt really thirsty and tired so I really recommend you pack a substantial amount of liquid as you will get dehydrated. There are trucks selling drinks and coffee but I honestly didn’t fancy paying almost $4 for a cold brew in Cambodia.
From here we cycled around the Baray Lake stopping at a couple of more temples before reaching Ta Prohm. It was already past 12 in the afternoon and Ta Prohm was our last stop. This is probably the most famous temple due to Tomb Raider but somehow it was my least favourite. The temple in itself was beautiful but it was the most destroyed out of the whole bunch but the restoration is in progress. This temple is well known for its big trees that provide a perfect backdrop for your photos.
We did the entire visit in about 8 hours with a minimal amount of stopping. If you get a car, I don’t think your experience will be as good as being able to have the wind in your face so I don’t recommend. Although people in your hotel will tell you that this is probably the best way to which I disagree with. If you don’t feel like cycling, get a tuk-tuk for a day as they will stop anytime you want and you can keep your water in it.
All in all, this was an unforgettable experience and a must in Siem Reap or Cambodia for that matter. You have to buy tickets at the ticket sales point and the price is $37 for one day, $62 for 3 days and $72 for a week. The tickets are not transferable as they contain your photo and you will have your ticket checked outside each temple.
I can recommend you to get your tickets one day before so you can visit the Angor Wat at the sunrise.
Have you ever been to Siem Reap or do you plan to? What are your thoughts?