A May 2005 trip
to Angkor Wat by Kez
Quote: Angkor Wat is usually the collective term used to cover the numerous temples found in the Siem Reap area. Although Angkor Wat is one of the major sites, it is one of many equally amazing temples to visit.
These include the walled complex of Angkor Thom that holds the Bayon with its huge enigmatic faces, along with the Baphuon, Phimeanakas, and the Terrace of the Elephants. Then there is also Phnom Bakhengm that offers one of the best spots to view the sunset over Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei with its beautiful carvings, and the jungle choked Ta Prohm that was featured in Tomb Raider. That is just to name a few of the major sites. Then there are many, many more.
How much you see all depends on how much time you have, and how many take your interest, but mainly how long it is until you suffer temple burnout.
We found that we could cover two per day, one on the morning and one in the afternoon, but it was seriously tiring. Lots of walking over rough terrain and climbing up steep and crumbling steps. Comfortable walking shoes are a must.
When we visited in May, it was really hot with the temperatures hovering around 40ºC. Invest in a local scarf called a krama, it could be used to mop your brow or shade you from the blistering sun.
For a full run down on the township of Siem Reap, see my other story "Gateway to the temples of Angkor".
When we were there it was so hot and dusty it was a relief to step back into an air-conditioned car.
I just couldn’t imagine cycling as many people do, by the time you finish exploring the ruins the last thing you feel like doing would be to cycle home.
Also, we found with a driver he knew that it was best to take in Angkor Thom in the morning and Angkor Wat in the afternoon. He also gave us a summary of the history about the next temple that we were to visit, and then gave us pointers on which direction was the best to take, along with what to look out for. Our driver Mith Sokhun was organized through our hotel, and he was great. He also speaks great English. His details are firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cost was per day, plus if you want a guide it is an extra per day.
On entry, turn to your left and follow the gallery along a mesmerizing sequence of stories. They may not be in technicolour, but the carving and the events depicted are so detailed, and graphic, that you feel you are watching a movie unfold before you. Armies of soldiers row war canoes into battle with giant crocodiles snatching an easy meal, fierce warriors face off while holding on to their fighting dogs, and many more.
At the end, double back and enter the section with the towers. Each of these is around three stories high, they are hollow and inside many are small offerings and statues with incense burning. No matter where you are, there will be a face looking down on you, turn and enter a doorway and there is a face looking back.
The sheer scale of carving, also extends to the various pillars or columns upon which each has two or three dancing Apsara (heavenly nymphs), over a bed of lilies, delicately carved and full of movement. Every lintel is ornately carved, with more intricate carvings of deities. A surface that has not been decorated hardly remains .
When you have finished with the main temple area, the towers continue towards the west gate, and the Baphuon which is currently being restored and so it could not be accessed. Here, you will come across local people, mainly kids, that start to chat and offer to explain the history of the temples that they know by rote. They will normally then give you a story about how they need money for school, books, and so on and ask for money. However, they are not looking for the worthless Cambodian currency, but Thai baht because it is worth so much more. It’s up to you what you do, they normally scamper off when you turn to enter the complex of Phimeanakas.
This complex holds the royal bathing ponds and pools, but you won’t spend much time here.
Then past the terrace of the Leper King and lastly the terrace of the Elephants in the Royal Square. Again, it is easy to imagine the King standing on his platform in full command of his armies, assembled in their full battle gear waiting to march into battle, or on a hunt. The front face of the podium is carved with giant elephants, and the front section is carved so the trunks of the beasts jut out from the actual podium. Impressive and very difficult to photograph well.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 26, 2006
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Attraction | "Angkor Wat"
Keep your eyes peeled for the families of monkeys on the side of the road just before you reach Angkor Wat. They make a great photo opportunity.
When you first arrive you enter through a long causeway over the moat, into the temple complex itself. We opted to walk on into the centre of the main temple complex first.
If you do this remember that the gallery in the outside wall holds some of the most amazing bas-relief carvings, including the famous Churning of the Ocean Milk. These extend around the interior of the wall, about 1km in total. If you arrive amidst a flurry of tour buses, come back after they leave as you won’t get a look in otherwise. They are so beautifully carved, it is like watching an epic story unfold before your eyes. They need to be followed counterclockwise to follow the story. Within the main temple complex ,there are many more carvings of the Asparas and other relief’s. I really loved the way nearly every window opening had these beautifully-carved small stone pillars, I don’t know their technical name but some were in false windows for ornamentation and others formed a semi-curtain over actual openings. You then need to climb up the towers, be warned that the steps are very steep and not for the fainthearted. There are many more chambers with offerings, and you receive a fabulous view of Angkor and the surrounding countryside.
One of the nicest things about Angkor Wat is the large number of monks that you meet whilst wandering around, all keen to practice their English and meet travelers from various parts of the world. They're happy to be photographed, and are very photogenic at that. We also had a young girl start scampering behind us. After some time she became less shy, and once we coaxed her out with some gummy bears that was it, she was with us for our whole visit. When she was tired, she gave a yawn and disappeared.
Temple Complex of Angkor Wat
5.5 Km North of Siem Reap
Attraction | "Phnom Bakheng - the place for a sunset view"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 26, 2006
Siem Reap Area
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Attraction | "Lesser known temples - Banteay Srey & Pre Rup"
21 km North East of the Bayon
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Attraction | "Ta Prohm aka Tomb Raider Temple"
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Unfortunately, the main drawback with the passes is that they need to be used on consecutive days, so even if you have time up your sleeve, you can't break the the days up and have a a couple of rest days in between. If you buy the pass after 4pm, this allows you to use it that first afternoon for the sunset, with day 1 being the following day.
You buy the pass at the checkpoint on the way to the temples. Bring your own passport photo as it will speed up the process, there was quite a lengthy queue of people that needed to have their mug shot taken when we arrived at the entry. Also, if you have a guide or driver make sure you clarify if this afternoon trip is an extra charge, as it probably is but it won't come up until you pay your account. We had a slight hiccup over this, but it was all sorted satisfactorily. We went to the sunset and then did 2 days at the temples from 8am to 6pm, with a lunch break. On the first day, we visited Angkor Thom in the morning and Angkor Wat in the afternoon. You just need to dodge the tour groups at Angkor Wat in the afternoon, but they mainly head into the long interior gallery where the famous murals of the "Churning of the ocean milk" is.
On the second day, we drove out to Banteay Srey in the morning and visited Ta Prohm in the afternoon. On the third day of our passes, we rose very early and took a moto out to Angkor Wat for the sunrise. Surprisingly, this was not at all crowded and it was a great opportunity to see all the locals cycling on their way to work. After the sunrise we then opted out of more ruins and spent some time looking around the town, and spent some down time by the pool recovering from the heat and all the walking. You are unable to buy water from inside the temples themselves, so make you sure you buy it either in town or at the entrance. It is so hot that water is a must-have. In town, it is 50¢ or 60¢; at the ruins they will ask $2, but normally bargain down to $1. If you are there in the hot season, as were in in May, try to book a hotel that has a pool. You will definitely appreciate it at the end of a long, hot day. If you do have limited time, the two main temples to see would definitely be Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom with the Bayon.
Broadbeach Waters, Australia