Cambodia – Exploring the ancient temples of Angkor

We set out to explore the ancient temples of Cambodia and headed over to Angkor in Siem Reap. If you are visiting countries in South East Asia, you can plan a short stop-over to cover this Heritage area…

Itinerary

Day 1 – Land in Siem Reap. Half day tour covering Angkor Thom and sunset and Phnom Bakheng

  • We landed in the morning at Siem Reap – The small airport looked more like a resort !
  • After freshening up, we bought the 3 days pass (USD 62 pp) and headed over to Angkor Thom – the ancient walled city which was lost for centuries…

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  • Off we went to the main attraction, Bayon Temple. The temple is famous for the large faces sculpted on the structure. This was one of the most majestic temples in the complex…
  • Next, we headed to another impressive structure, the Baphuon Temple – walk up the steep staircase and head to the top for panoramic views.

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  • As it just started to drizzle, we walked through the erstwhile palace grounds to Terrace of Leper King. The carvings on bottom floor are impressive and have withstood test of time…
  • Right next to it is the Terrace of Elephants. This flat terrace was once used as viewing stand and is decorated with elephant structures…

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  • From Angkor Thom, we headed over to the last spot for the day – Phnom Bakheng. We walked along for 10 minutes from the main road on a steep path to reach the summit. As there is a limit on number of people, we waited few minutes for our turn. The closer it gets to sunset, the wait times get longer ! We however reached early and had 1.5 hours to kill before sunset 😦 The sunset is beautiful from this spot but consider the wait times involved! Btw, don’t miss Angkor Wat on the other side…

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  • We finally headed to the hotel and after quick change headed over to the bustling night market! Lots of restaurants and bars – everything from junk food to Khmer cuisine. And quite a few massage places starting from USD 1 for foot massage!

Day 2- Sunrise at Angkor Wat. Full day tour covering Ta Prohm, Pre Rup, Banteay Kdei, Banteay Srei, Ta Nei and Preah Khan

  • We set off by 5 am to Angkor Wat. We found a spot right at the edge of lake to view the changing colors. We came on a cloudy day but the views were worth it!

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  • We then decided to beat the crowd and explore Angkor Wat before it gets hot. The place is massive and it makes sense to have a guide to take you around and tell you the various stories (lots and lots of them inscribed on those walls)…

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  • After breakfast at hotel, we set off to Banteay Srei which is an hour drive. The pink temple is small but beautifully decorated and was worth the trip.

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  • We then headed back towards Angkor and went to Ta Prohm, made famous by Tomb Raider movie. What set this temple apart are the large trees growing out from the ruins.

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  • Next stop was the pyramid-shaped Pre Rup. Do walk up the steep stairs to head up to the main temple area.

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  • Quick walk brought us to next stop of Banteay Kdei, which is a flat Buddhist temple. Less popular spot but the ruins are good for a quick stop.
  • To really see ruins, go through the winding jungle route to Ta Nei, which is a small isolated temple without any restoration. With hardly any visitors, the area is peaceful

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  • We ended the tour with Preah Khan – large rectangular shaped classic Angkor temple. There is lot to see inside and outside the main complex – right from entering the moat…

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  • After a long day, we enjoyed sunset from our hotel balcony. Relaxed in the outdoor Jacuzzi and then headed again to Night Market!

Hotel – Borei Angkor

  • Hotel prices are very cheap and it is affordable to book a 5 star resort. Based on location (close to night market and temples) and facilities (pool, wifi, breakfast, airport shuttle) we booked Privilege Rooms at Borei Angkor.
  • The service was excellent with an amazing staff taking care of all your needs. Breakfast was nice with live counters and it is open till 3 pm! Separately, they also offer boxed breakfast in case you need to head-out for sunrise
  • Weather is very hot and humid – so a pool and Jacuzzi is a real bonus to cool down! If you are interested in Apsara show (traditional Cambodian dance) they have one onsite

Miscellaneous

  • Tour: When you are spending so much money to go to Siem Reap, it makes sense to spend a lil more and get a proper car and guide for the trip. Fortunately, it doesn’t cost much – USD 143 in our case! We booked through Happy Angkor Tours who provided a private car (new Lexus) and an English speaking guide for the 2 days. The price break –up is quite transparent and detailed on their website (www.happyangkortour.com). They were really good and ensured we had cold water and cold towels throughout. They arranged the itinerary such that we avoided crowds. They showed us good spots to click some pics and even took our photos (big plus)!
  • Travel: The hotel arranged for cars to pick-up and drop to the airport. Alternatively you can book with your tour operator for around USD 10 per way. For travel to market, we used a Tuk Tuk (USD 2 per way for the 1.5 km ride). Your hotel concierge will be able to guide with estimate for travel and even call for a Tuk Tuk
  • Currency: They accept USD everywhere right from hotels to street vendors. So don’t bother converting any money to local currency
  • Visa: We availed Visa on arrival and processing was quick – pay USD 30 pp, fill short form and attach a passport size picture. Pay USD 2 more in case you don’t have a pic! Btw, they did not seem to care about picture size so we gave the extras from Schengen visa application
  • Clothes: They follow a strict dress code so you need to cover your shoulders and knees when you visit the temples (applies to both men and women). Its pretty hot so cotton clothes were comfortable…
  • Mobile: Tourist SIM available at airport starting at USD 5, so you can stay connected through your trip…

After Cambodia, we took a morning flight to our next destination Vietnam…


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