Without a doubt, Angkor Wat and the complex of surrounding temples is one of the most breathtaking wonders on this planet. It is a sight and memory I will keep with me for the rest of my life. It also ruins any future Temple visits you may come across in South East Asia and world wide.
As I Stated above, Angkor Wat is just one temple within a multitude of Temples within the UNESCO World Heritage sight. These temples include; Bayon, Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider) and Angkor Thom plus many more. Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. The options for exploring this world wonder come in the form of park passes spanning one – seven days of discovery.
Getting to Angkor Wat
Safe to say, seeing Angkor Wat during sunrise is probably one of the best sunrises I will ever be fortunate enough to witness. If you want to see this beautiful sight (alongside 100’s of other tourists) it requires a nice and early wake up call.
At 4.00/4.30 AM we arranged to meet our Tuk Tuk driver at our hostel to set off for our day of adventure. Pick up and full Angkor Wat site tour cost a total of $40 USD for our entire Tuk Tuk. These can fit up to four people so works out at an incredibly cheap $10 for the day per person (pre warning: its a very long day).
FYI: You cannot buy tickets for Angkor Wat online.
The only place to legitimately purchase a park pass is through the official ticket office located around 4km outside of Siem Reap. Your Tuk Tuk driver if organised yourselves will take you to this ticket office prior to heading to the Angkor Wat Sight. If organised through a tour group etc. a similar process will apply.
Ticket Box Office opening Hours: 4.30 AM – 5.30 PM
Any one day tickets issued after 5PM are valid for the next day.
In order to see any of the temples within the park: you have to have a photo ID ticketed Pass.
There are three types of passes available:
1 – Day Pass: $37 USD
3 – Day Pass: $62 USD
7 – Days Pass: $72 USD
All of these passes require a beautiful photo of you looking your best, especially at 4.30AM.
Children under 12 are free but require a passport for proof.
Most of the temples in the park can be visited from 7.30am – 5.30pm, but there are exceptions!
Angkor Wat and Srah Sang can be visited from 5am – 5.30pm, to make it possible for visitors to witness the sunrise. Whereas: Phomn Bakheng and Pre Rup can be visited from 5am – 7pm, to make it possible for visitors to witness both the sunrise and sunset.
Angkor Wat is expectedly the busiest of temples for Sunrise – Below I will give you some further tips to avoid the crowd.
As with any religious site, respectable clothing is a must when visiting Angkor Wat.
Ladies: Shoulders and knees need to be covered – if you forget, there are many local khmers waiting to sell you many of their beautiful sarongs, shawls & overpriced I Love Angkor Wat T-shirts.
Gentlemen: Long Trousers that covers the knees and tops which cover shoulders.
Angkor Wat Temple
Head through the gates of Angkor Wat (past the first lakes outside) to get your spot for sunrise. If you head to the left of the second set of lakes (seen in the picture above) you will get a less busy spot.
Tour Guides: If you have organised your trip to Angkor Wat independently, there are plenty of opportunities to hire one if you want a guide to add further knowledge and information when looking around.
Being on a backpacker budget a tour guide was not on the cards for our group. However, a trip to the Siem Reap National Museum can answer any major questions you may have (see my Siem Reap Blog).
Top Tourist Tip
To the left by the lakes, as if you are heading towards some of the food stalls and market vendors listen out for a specific Khmer local Legend.
Follow the sounds of ANGKORRRRRRR WHAAAAAAAAAAT? For the best photographer you will find, give him a tip of $1 – $2 and you will have some priceless tourist pictures for Angkor Wat.
So most Tuk Tuk drivers will have a map of the Angkor Site laminated in the roof of their cabs. If I can remember correctly there are three set routes you can follow a Red, Blue and Green route. Somehow, by a lucky travel miracle, we managed to pursued our lovely driver to abandon the route and take us to our top three temples we wanted to see, regardless of route options.
This lucky break allowed us to break away from the chain of carriages heading to the next set route temple. This meant that we had the next three temples completely to ourselves!!
An unheard of tourist miracle.
Just as we were leaving each temple from then on, the other tourists arrived. I have never been more grateful to a beautiful Tuk Tuk driver for making our Angkor Wat experience both priceless and tourist free!
Ta Prohm Temple
Our next requested Temple on the tour was Ta Prohm. We left Angkor Wat immediately after sunrise at around 6.00 AM to beat the crowds. To the exception of the Angkor Wat Temple, Ta Prohm is probably the next best known Temple on the site. This is down to the feature and filming of Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie.
The temple’s records state that the site was home to more than 12,500 people. Which is an insane thought, the busiest the temples can get to avoid overcrowding is around 300 tourists at a time within the main temple complex. My friends who visited the temple at a later point in the day, said this was closer to cattle moving and go pro avoiding. So the thought of having 12,500 people within the vicinity is mind boggling.
Ta Prohm was my favourite out of all of the Temples on the Angkor Site. This was due to a couple of reasons;
1. We were the only living souls at this temple when we visited – it was an incredibly humbling experience.
2. The Trees! These incredible tree’s are currently in a complimentary war with the temple, growing through, around, over and under. Yet, they only further enhances the magnificence of the temple.
Bayon Temple: Two Hundred Smiling Faces
A beautiful temple with approximately 216 serene smiling faces adorning the many temple pillars and towers. It almost seems to big for the size of the temple grounds, like somehow it doesn’t quite belong where it sits. It makes you feel very small and awe struck in the architecture of the Temple. How it was built to the specifics and intricate detail, especially lasting to this day is beyond belief.
This Temple is the most impressive in terms of entrance. You drive through the gates with your Tuk Tuk and the temple appears. To think thousands of years ago each temple was home to a city of people is beyond belief. In this temple we saw monks in deep meditation and a calm serene atmosphere surrounded the temple with again little tourists to share the moment with.
There are many other Temples of a smaller size and scale dotted around the Angkor Park, we only bought a day pass but on reflection I could have spent two more days cycling around the area and exploring this incredible place.