Angkor Thom of course !
Angkor’s temples are mythical, mystical and the first source of tourism in Cambodia. Maybe you saw it before in famous movies like Tomb Raider or Deux frères 😉
Few entry pass exist (not cheap !) and many ways to visit it. A pass just for a day (I paid 37$), which not allows to see them all but it was enough for me 🙂 and a 3-days pass. Temples are not near to each other, but we can visit the site by tuk-tuk, motocycle, bike…
I visited four temples (over hundreds…) in Siem Reap area : Beng Mealea (1h30 of tuktuk from the city, the pass doesn’t allow to visit it), Angkor Thom, Bayon and Ta Prohm.
Beng Mealea’s ruins
I didn’t want to be in a crowd in Angkor during new year’s eve, so I choose to do 1h30 of tuk-tuk to see Beng Mealea‘s temple. It cost me $35 for the day, but I think I could have had a better price… it was my first days in Asia and I didn’t really know about negociation yet !
This temple is beautiful, huge, with a nice forest all around and animals everywhere. Not a lot of tourists, a cute path along the ruins; it took me 2h30 to visit.
I spent the last day of cambidian nye (and my birthday 🙂 ) in front of Angkor entry the next day. It was the first time I saw it; illuminated, with thousands of laughs and music. It was so great !
Sunrise on Angkor Wat
Tips before visiting Angkor’s temples :
- Transportation -> whatever the way you use (bike, moto, tuktuk), don’t forget to always negotiate the price. They know you are a foreigner and will try to make you pay more than you should 😉
- Sunrise -> Most of the visitors choose the “sunrise option” on Angkor Wat. It doesn’t change the cost of your pass, but it increases tuktuk’s price, because he will come pick you around 4h30 at your hotel. Personally I didn’t find sunrise on Angkor Wat that amazing. I went there in “low season” but tourists were everywhere, stressed to take THE picture of their life… Good point though : I did this site pretty fast, so I enjoyed others temples from the opening (around 7) before the sun hits too hard and before any crowd.
- Meals -> there are some restaurants all the way, but I think you better take your snack with you 😉 meals there must be expensive and not really good.
- People -> you will meet a lot of children “offering” you guides or other services. Everyone choose what they want to do, but I think it’s better to not participate to this kind of business, ’cause this is an incentive for children to stay in the streets and not go to school. Be careful too with people working in the sites; they can nicely propose to help you, with your pictures for example, to ask for money after.
My favorite temple, Bayon.
You can find small altars with gifts in many temples
Which temple should you visit ?
I visited just four temples, but on Cambodian people advices as being the most interesting and beautiful. I really loved those I’ve done, so of course I think you should do them; but if you’re not in a rush, maybe you can take a 3-days pass and do them all !
About Beng Mealea, I already told about it above 😉
Angkor Wat is huge and it’s really the pride of Cambodia; the monument is even on the flag. So it’s essential to do, kind of like Eiffel Tower in Paris. But more beautiful !
Bayon (picture above) has been my personal favorite. Some sculptures remain almost intact, and I love the architecture of this temple. I really want to revisit it someday, and more take my time. I was kind of in a rush when I was there, because a monkey team came and they weren’t glad I was in their playground… I got scared and I ran away ahah.
Ta Prohm is big and ideal if you’re craving for nature. It’s really alive here, trees are growing on ruins, we can lost ourselves in the temple’s corridors (happened to me), it’s really awesome. The site is in renovation right now but it didn’t bother me 🙂
When I think that all those ruins were the capital of Khmer empire 12 centuries ago… It’s fascinating to imagine the life, the interactions, the culture happening there around this time.