Not far from the gorgeous town of Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat sits in the jungle as it has for countless years. Having seen the images of stunning temples online for years, we decided it was time to see them in person.
We ‘splashed out’ for our stay in Siem Reap at the Golden Banana (in their Superior Hotel) which was a bargain at USD40 a night for a gorgeous double-storied room with a rooftop shower and bath. Only in South-East Asia!
From our accommodation, the walk into town was easy where we enjoyed the market and a number of (very tasty) dinners in town. Siem Reap has a lovely, relaxed atmosphere and although it didn’t look much like Chiang Mai in Thailand, it has a similar feel about it.
A relatively short tuk-tuk ride from town will get you out to the entrance of Angkor Wat. You’ll want to arrange a driver to stay with you for the day – but don’t worry if you come out of the temple to find your driver’s taken up a better offer as we presume ours did!
You’ll also want to make a move relatively early, in a bid to avoid both the crowds and heat of the day.
What makes Angkor Wat special?
These temples are recognised as being amongst the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. They were home to the Khmer Empire between the 9th and 15th century (that’s right, as far back as 800BC!) and the sense of history was unlike anything we had experienced before.
We had visited temples elsewhere (in Indonesia and Thailand) but the size of these temples and the visual differences between each of them really blew us away.
There’s a reason they’re one of the seven wonders of the world.
How are the temples different? Which ones should I visit?
We decided to spend one day exploring the temples in the area and found a day enough time to cover Angkor Wat, Bayon and Preah Khan (which were all recommended to us by locals).
Of course, much more time can be spent really immersing oneself, but a day was enough for us to get a good sense of the area and to enjoy the experience without being rushed. It’s definitely a good move to visit multiple temples as each offers distinctly different things – the only question will be which ones you include in your itinerary.
Angkor Wat, it’s infamous entrance way, has striking pinnacles and intricately carved walls and by far, covers the most ground. If you can drag yourself out of bed, sunset is the perfect time to arrive at Angkor Wat but be prepared for the hordes of tourists doing the exact same thing.
Bayon is stunning with its beautifully carved faces and perfectly square stone doorways – be sure to keep an eye out for the monkeys as you enter this part of the site too!
It’s hard to call a favourite area of Angkor but I was really taken by Bayon. There was something about the expression and size of the massive rock faces that completely drew me in.
There’s also a great spot to stop and have lunch near Bayon, but be careful with what you order – I think my lunch might have been the hottest I’ve ever experienced but thankfully Nathan was luckier in his choice!
Our final stop was Preah Khan, which is instantly recognisable as one of the locations used in the Tomb Raider movie – the roots intertwining with the stone is really a sight to behold.
Climbing carefully over tumbling rock walls covered in centuries worth of moss, it’s hard to describe the experience as anything other than surreal.
Our exploration of Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples was the main reason for our trip to Cambodia and, as expected, ending up being a real highlight!
The temples were some of the most memorable ancient sites that we’ve visited (to this day) and though there were plenty of other travellers around, the site somehow managed to retain a sense of calm and a heck of a lot of magic.
Have you travelled to Angkor Wat? We’d love to hear if it touched you in the same way.