Siem Reap – Angkor Wat
13.4125° N, 103.8670° E
Deep inside a jungle in South-east Asia, archaeologists rediscovered the remains of once a Kingdom – the city of Angkor. So what attracts over 2 MILLION tourists visiting each year?
Cambodia being a country with warm temperatures all year round, the most appealing thing to over 2 million tourists and backpackers annually is once the abandoned city of Angkor – meaning ‘Temple World’ in Khmer. Fitting 1000 temples over 400 square feet originally once covered completely in gold, what lyes hidden and still intact after many wars, erosion and natural disasters it is one of the ancient wonders of the world!
REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT
- Experience a breathtaking sunrise over Angkor Wat, the largest single religious monument ever built dating back to the 12th century.
- An entrance fee covers not only covered the most iconic temple on the Cambodian flag, but also the whole ancient city of Angkor, once the the capital of the buddhist Khmer empire.
- You get to see scenes from Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider temple with your own eyes, hear the birds echoing through the stone temples with trees roots growing through its walls at Ta Prohm.
(Photo: Tree growing through temples Ta Phrom)
IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING
- Clothing – When going into the temples inside Angkor City knees and shoulders need to be covered. Tank tops, shorts and mini skirts above the knee or revealing clothing are unacceptable. Tourists who are dressed inappropriately will be denied entry or asked to cover up at the entrance. Most people wear a tee shirt and long (elephant) pants, or wear a vest and cover the shoulders with a thin scarf which can be taken off after leaving the religious sites.
- Trainers or comfortable shoes are advised by myself as the floor grounds are broken at times and some steps are very thin and deep (and wonky). You will be walking a lot around the place to make up your entry fee’s worth!
- Arrival Visa –You will need to apply for a before entering the country. Click here for guarenteed 3 day arrival visas for Cambodia. Please also remember to bring 2 passport copies of yourself upon arrival with the email approved visa. Generally the visa is about 5-10 minutes on arrival but the queue for immigration was probably the biggest queue I’ve ever seen at any airport.
- Entry Pass – There are different day passes to enter Angkor. The current prices which cover all 72 temples on the site cost $37USD for a one-day pass, $62USD for three days, and $72USD for a seven-day pass. Some tours you join online may include the entry pass but if its under $37USD for a day tour then for sure it does not include, as there are no discount on passes even when joining a tour.
- The easiest way to get around is via tuk-tuk, but some hotels do provide taxi services and shuttle services to/from airport at extra costs. A tour may also pick you up via their car/van.
- Ensure to bring sunscreen, enough water, cap/hat/umbrella/sunglasses since Cambodia is very hot all year round. If you have an electric fan that will come in use too. The heat is pretty unbearable if you stay there all day ( and I hike in 35degrees all the time). We did two half day tours on separate days and had to return to hotel in afternoon to nap and cool down by the pool – we were glad we only booked half day tours as a full day would have been unbearable!
- Currency – please note that Siem Reap mostly accepts USD.
Most iconic places to see at Angkor Wat
For tours, I want to point out that usually you get what you paid for. Over the period of 5 days I was in Siem Reap, we went into Angkor City on two separate half day tours. The first tour to see the sunrise of Angkor Wat and a general brief tour around Angkor Wat which we booked with our hotel, although this was more expensive the guide was much more patient and spoke much clearer. The second half day tour we went to visit Towers of Bayon, Ta Throm and Angkor Wat again, but it was quite rushed, we barely heard what the guide said as his accent was too strong, and the guide also had little patience so rushed us through the buildings.
Nevertheless, it was still good we found these tours, we found them very useful otherwise we’d be only looking at broken buildings alone, and since places such as Ta Throm are on the permanent state of collapsing, you can get lost on these broken paths and rocks.
There is so much to see, and too much to understand. I would say there isn’t much point visiting every single temple as a tourist, but reading up some basic history may help you understand more of the abandoned historical place it once was.
The Cambodian flag, the only nation with a building on their flag displaying their achievement, and the only Angkorian temple building built to face sunset. Til now there are still Buddha shrines active inside Angkor Wat, protected by stone statues burning incense at their feet.
Seeing this entrance at sunrising over Angkor Wat, you can’t just keep your camera in your pocket right? Remember to buy the tickets a day before for sunrise opening at 5am, otherwise by the time you finish queueing for the tickets sunrise may already be over.
Ta Phrom mentioned briefly above is most commonly known from Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider series, the remaining ruins are covered in green moss and a few tempes are held by roots of trees over 1000 years old. Most of the temples here were ruined during war, erosion or natural disasters, or are in the continuous state of collapsing. You will be told that much of Ta Phrom and Angkor Wat has been restored during these recent centuries after being discovered. Inside some of the temples you can hear echoes of a drum if you thump your chest.
Towers of Bayon
There are over 200 smiling faces looking down from the temples towers here, this is one memorable sight considering how long these faces have been built to smile for! Little did they know 1000 years later would 2 million tourists annually be visiting them. These faces are built .by Jayavarman VII, the ‘God-King’ who based these faces to look like himself.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The most touristy season is between November to February where Cambodia is considered at dry season and the temperatures are at coolest. I went in October and it was still 35degrees celsius during the day. Generally if you go earlier in the morning to beat the crowds (Angkor opens at 5am), there will be less people in your shot and it will be much cooler compared to the afternoon.
Our Hotel – Sarai Resort and Spa
We stayed at the beautiful Sarai Resort and Spa which made our days when not going to see the ancient ruins very relaxing! We also realised the hotel was pretty important as we had to rest here a lot after our half day tours in the burning sun. The weather in Cambodia is perfect for taking dips in the pool. I’d highly recommend this beautiful hotel as each room has two floors and a large balcony seating area, with a swing looking over the pool!
Click HERE to book this resort!
Tip for staying at this hotel: Don’t forget to requesting having breakfast in you’re room! There is a sun-bed by the window where you can rest and eat you’re breakfast at! You can also choose to eat breakfast on your balcony!
(Photo: Sarai Resort & Spa room breakfast over looking pool)
Click HERE to book this resort!
HOW TO GET TO ANGKOR CITY
Flying to Siem Reap would be the closest to Angkor City but you can also fly to Phnom Penh if you’re country does not fly direct to Siem Reap.
The most common (and iconic) transport will be taking the tuk-tuk from your hotel to Angkor City, but larger hotels/4 star+ hotels will also provide shuttles/private transfers from airport. We stayed at Sarai Resort and Spa which provided a private shuttle to hotel from Siem Reap airport.
If you book a day tour to Angkor Wat they should also provide you with pick-up and drop-off transport to you’re hotel!
(Photo: Walking along the outside edges of Angkor Wat)
(photo above – the uneven surfaces of an ancient building)
(Photo above: Ankgor city was a pile of ruins discovered hidden inside the jungle. The non restored areas)
Disclaimer: We were full paying guests of Sarai Resort & Spa. All opinions, photos and content belong to © Heidi Leung and Heideexyz.com 2018 All Rights Reserved.
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Photo credits: @Xpolorer and myself (@Heideexyz)