Angkor: 3 days in the Temples in Cambodia

The Angkor temples are an archaeological masterpiece and a superb heritage left by the Khmer civilization. Considered as the “8th wonder of the world“, they are a paradise for archaeologists and historians, the setting for many films, a home for monkey families and a destination for more than a million people every year. And that’s no surprise!
Imagine temples, prayer places and various monuments built in the 12th century, in the middle of the tropical forest. Imagine how nature, for hundreds of years, has been the only witness to this heritage and has gradually invaded these buildings, with tree trunks piercing the stone walls. Imagine an archaeological site of 400 km² that still hides many secrets… You can then guess what is hidden in the tropical forest located in northwest Cambodia: welcome to Angkor!

In this article I tell you all about our visit to the temples of Angkor in Cambodia and I share all the practical information and advice to prepare your 3-day trip to Angkor.

 

In the footsteps of the Angkor temples and the history of the Khmer empire…

After our 12-day trip to Vietnam, we flew to Cambodia for 4 days. Our destination: Siem Reap!
This city, lost in Cambodian nature, is full of tuk-tuks, two-wheelers, backpackers and tourist buses.
No wonder, since it is home to the Angkor site. An archaeological complex, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, which testifies to the power and wealth of the Khmer Empire, a civilization that lived between the 9th and 15th centuries on the Indochina peninsula.

 Once we had our 3-day pass in our pocket ($62) and the tuktuk rate was negotiated for the day ($25), we headed off at full speed to this protected site…
We entered at 1pm into this enchanted forest, at the hottest time of the day, but we hoped to meet fewer tourists by starting the tour at a later time. To be sure not to “do like everyone else”, we even asked our driver to start the tour in an anti-clockwise direction (unlike groups)… 
So, for our first day, we started by taking the shortest tour, the one that is the shortest but goes through the most famous temples. We stopped at the first temple on our way: the Banteay Kdei. The charm took effect at a glance: it’s grandiose and it seems so unreal. In the afternoon, we discovered Ta Prohm (which we know from the film Tomb Raider with Lara Croft) Ta Keo (mountain temple), Bayon (the temple with a thousand faces), passing through Angkor Thom and the south gate (all pictures are below).
Around 5:30 we went our way back. The sun was already starting to set, but the heat didn’t seem to go with it.
The next day, we took the same route again but much earlier. It was only 5:00 a.m. when we travel this long straight road that lead us straight to the entrance to the Angkor site.
Surprisingly, we were not alone. Many bicycles and tuktuk were also on the road. They were all heading to the same place, where we were going as well: Angkor Wat.
This is the best spot to see the sunrise, the one you see in all the photos. We couldn’t escape it ! The hotel had even prepared our breakfast to take away.
April is not the high season in Cambodia, so there are not many tourists. (At least, that’s what the guides and Cambodians we met told us.) But we’re not going to lie to each other, there were still a lot of people there!

For our second day, we decided to go for the big tour, visiting Preah Khan, Ta Som (one of my favorites) and Angkor Wat (which we visited inside at lunch time around 12:30 pm, when there was almost no one there!). On our third day, we visited Angkor Thom, which includes several temples. Of course, we took our time and stopped in front of several temples and buildings along the way, but I don’t remember all names.

 
Travel doesn’t become an adventure until you leave yourself behind.

 

To summarize: What you need to know to prepare your itinerary in Angkor

  • Siem Reap is a small town in the northwest of Cambodia. A city without much interest if only a few kilometers away, we enter the privileged universe of Angkor. There is an airport so you can arrive directly by plane.
  • Angkor or the temples of Angkor, is the name of this immense complex of temples and places of prayer that was built between 800 and 1400, a complex of hundreds of Khmer temples that heralds unparalleled wealth in the 12th century in a country that today ranks among the poorest in the world and that recently emerged from a painful civil war. Fortunately, this archaeological and historical wealth has been preserved and is probably the greatest treasure in Cambodia!
  • Angkor Wat (or Angkor Vat) is the name of one of the temples, the symbol of Vietnam, which is even found on the Cambodian flag. It is one of the largest religious buildings in the world (1.5 km by 1.3 km!). Built in the 12th century, Angkor Wat is dedicated to the cult of kings and the Hindu god Vishnu, represents the Khmer Nation.
  • There are different passes: It is possible to spend 1, 3 or 7 days at Angkor. These days do not have to be consecutive, so it is quite possible to take a 3-day pass and spread these three days over one or more weeks.
    Prices are
    –  37$ for 1 day
    – 62$ for 3 days (valid during 7 days)
    –  72$ for 7 days (valid 1 month)
    The prices indicated are updated in 2018 (you can find them on the official website here).
  • The means of transport also vary and it is really not easy to decide on this point.
    – Initially, I hoped to be able to visit the temples of Angkor by bike, but as April and May were the hottest months of the year in Siem Reap, I had to quickly resign myself to the fact that it would have been very difficult to ride in this sun and heat for a whole day! However, some travellers have tested the bike at other times and enjoyed it enormously.
    – So we looked for a tuktuk driver to take us to Angkor. A perfect alternative to be able to move around freely enough where you want, to be able to go faster and farther and especially to face the heat. In addition, it allows you to visit more distant temples.
  • There are different tours: There is the big and the small tour. You can download the map in advance here and here. I advise not to try to go to this or that place. There are hundreds of buildings to discover.

All temples, buildings and constructions are worth a visit.
Some temples are particularly impressive:
Angkor Wat

  • Bayon
  • Angkor Thom (la capitale de la cité avec plusieurs temples)
  • Ta Som
  • Banteay Kdei
  • Preah Khan
  • Ta Prohm
  • Thommanon

The most convenient way is to sleep in Siem Reap.
In the city, there are all types of accommodation available: from small youth hostels to 5-star hotels.
To celebrate the end of our trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, we stayed at the Udaya Residence, a beautiful 4* hotel (with really affordable prices: 30€ per night for 2 with breakfast!).

It is important to remember to take clothes that cover both shoulders and legs (for women). Men can be in shorts.
Considering the heat, I advise you to take it:

  • long but very light pants
  • T-shirts or tank tops with a scarf
  • sandals
  • take a hat (!)
  • sunglasses
  • and water (!!!)
  • Take a few dollars to buy water or fresh produce

Travel tips

 

 


Take your time for the visit by taking the 3-day pass (or even 7 days, if you have a lot of time). Do not hesitate to save a day of visit for later


Get up very (very) early to start the day at dawn, to avoid the heat. Or arrive at the table time (around 12:30pm) to avoid the crowd.


Go around the temples in an anti-clockwise direction (or at least in the opposite direction that the tour is proposed) to avoid crowds


Don’t try to see everything: it’s not possible!


Get off the beaten track, don’t be afraid to get lost and miss the most famous temples and instead visit the less known temples, neglected by the crowd and also more distant.


Avoid Angkor Wat’s visit just after sunrise (because there are people to see the sunrise). It is better to save your visit for later, at the table time.


Plan to bring food and water for the day. Cold drinks are sold near the main temples (take $!).

Be careful with food and tap water!
Many travellers get sick

Plan on US dollars – everything can be paid in US$ in Siem Reap.

 

Wild, ancient and magical at the same time.

 

 

Do you know Angkor?
Feel free to ask your questions and leave your comments to other travellers

 

 

More from Florence

Agra, the Indian jewel

Few months ago, I had no idea what Agra was. 'It's an...
Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *