We came to Siem Reap solely to visit the Temples of Angkor. I’m sure the city has much more to offer but we really didn’t wander around much except to get $3USD/hour foot massages, check out a night market where I bought my first pair of ‘elephant pants’ and find places to buy $1USD fresh fruit smoothies or $0.50USD draft beer depending on the time of day. If you ever get to Cambodia I highly recommend visiting the Temples of Angkor.
Based on recommendations from our Lonely Planet book and from several people we talked to we we started our three day tour of the grounds with the smaller temples and work our way up to Angkor Wat, the biggest and most impressive of all the temples in the area. This map was our main guide:
We had no idea where the temple grounds were located, how big the grounds were, or what to expect at all so we decided to take a tuk tuk. We found a great tuk tuk driver to take us for $15USD (seemed to be the standard fare). We bought three day passes for $40USD each and then explained to Mr. Saveon that we wanted to start small and work our way up to Angkor Wat on the last day. Apparently this is very common because he knew exactly what we were talking about. Mr. Saveon spoke English firstly well and would give us a little history on each temple site and then just sit in his tuk tuk and wait for us to wander around the site for as long as we wanted.
We visited Preah Khan, Preah Neak Poan, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup, Banteay Kdei, Sras Srang and Prasat Kravan.
Preah Khan is a Buddhist temple and its name means ‘Sacred Sword’ (I’m not really sure why).
East Mebon is a Hindu temple and was Zac’s favourite of all the ones we visited because he loved the view and we could climb all the way to the top floor around the tallest tower which we weren’t allowed to do at many of the temples.
We decided to bike out to the temple grounds. We rented bikes for $2USD each for the day and set off! I was terrified about navigating the traffic in town and though there doesn’t appear to be any traffic rules we managed just fine. As long as you pay attention to what’s going on in front of you and use your horn (or in our case, bike bell) there’s no issues. Even though it was super hot we loved biking around the temple grounds. We’re not entirely sure how far the route was that we biked but we figure it was around 30km.
We visited Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, Chau Say Thevoda and Thommanom and then biked through Victory Gate on the east side of Bayon and then around the outside of Bayon to get back to the main road to lead us back to Siem Reap.
Ta Prohm is a 12th century Bhuddist temple and was used as a location for Indiana Jones Tomb Raider and Two Brothers. Mother Nature has started to claim back some of the area that was cleared for the temple grounds and the trees and their roots are absolutely massive!
Victory Gate was my favourite site in the whole Kingdom of Angkor. I can’t exactly describe why but I found it so empowering to bike up the road leading to Victory Gate!
We saved the best for last and visited Angkor Wat, Bayon and Central Angkor which included Baphuon, Terrace of the Elephants, and Terrace of the Leper King.
We woke up at 4:30am to meet Mr. Saveon outside out hostel to take us to see Angkor Wat at sunrise. It was $18USD to get a ride that early in the morning but neither of us were brave enough to bike in the dark and both our butts were so sore from biking the day before so we had no problem paying for a tuk tuk.
It was pitch black when we got there but we just followed the mass of people walking towards the temple and found a place near a pool infront of the temple to watch the sunrise. It was hazy and there were clouds hanging low in the sky so as it got light the sky turned a light pink and purple. Because we were so close to the water we could see a perfect reflection of the temple and the sky. Such an amazing site to see! Angkor Wat is a massive and stunning temple and to slowly see it as the sun was rising was something else. The pictures are nothing compared to how impressive it is when you can see it for yourself.
We ate breakfast right on the temple grounds. Very over priced pancakes (and mine was raw) but I doubt we will ever have a chance to eat breakfast while looking out at Angkor Wat ever again so we were glad we did it!
Angkor Wat is built from sandstone that was floated down the Siem Reap river from a site over 50km away. The temple itself has some of the most impressive carving work I’ve ever seen. Long passageways depict historical events with soldiers that look almost identical from one end to the other. The steps to reach the upper level are very steep and they were built that way intentionally as it is believed that reaching the temple of the gods should be no easy task.
Bayon is said to be the heart of Cambodia. It has 54 towers to represent the 54 provinces that were in existence in Cambodia at the time it was built (there are currently only 24 provinces). The 54 towers have 216 faces carved into them!
Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor did not disappoint and were a great way to kick off our trip! Next we’re hopping on night bus to travel twelve hours south in Cambodia to find beaches around Sihanoukville.