“I guess we paid 25,000 kyats for Bagan.” I reasoned.
“That’s just £20. This is a lot more.”
“But everyone says it’s better. We can’t come all the way to Siem Reap and not go.”
“For me, I won’t die if we don’t.”
“There is also the cost of transport.”
At this point, with Angkor Wat consuming almost $100 of our mutual Cambodia budget, we went to sleep deciding not to go. We set no sunrise alarms, and woke at 9AM ready to explore Siem Reap. We took breakfast slowly, but knowing the thirteen hours between now and our onwards bus would pass very slowly, we approached a resting tuk tuk driver.
The three key ways to see the Angkor Wat are by tour bus, tuk tuk and bike. Taking a tour was not an option for us, and the heat and distance ruled cycling out. Like many, we decided on a tuk tuk. Booking through the guesthouse is advised as there are a few known tuk tuk scammers but we chanced it. We hoped that since he wasn’t aggressively chasing our custom, he would be fine. We were right, he was great. We agreed on $17 for the small circuit.
He took us to buy our tickets at the official ticket office. Luckily, we carried our passports for the official photograph ticket. Not only are the tickets extortionate but water here is $1 a small bottle. In the park, big bottles are $1 and 50 cents in the city so bring supplies.
Our first stop was the enormous site of Angkor Wat, the most well-known site. As soon as we arrived in the car park, hawkers approached trying to sell scarves and long trousers. We hadn’t come prepared – I had uncovered shoulders and Alessio had shorts above the knee but we didn’t want to buy yet. You will also be persistently approached by tour guides, some kindly accept a refusal but others become unfriendly and reply rudely if you say you don’t need one.
Once you cross the bridge, it calms a little and you can begin to enjoy the grandeur of this site. There are plenty of little corridors to explore, and an interior vantage point. You can only take advantage of this if you are covered, however. Alessio’s knee length shorts were fine but I later purchased a scarf.
The next stop is Bayon, which was one of my two favourites. Bayon is adorned with magnificent faces imprinted in the stone.
The towers and intricacy, the carvings and engraving all made Bayon really quite special.
The next temple, I forgot to take down the name! Write down the name and order of the temples you visit!
This was the temple, anyway. We enjoyed exploring the corridors and peeking through the windows!
Ta Keo really gets your legs working. The stairs are not only plentiful but extremely steep. Climbing up gives you a slight sense of terror for the impending descent. The views are quite wonderful, however.
Ta Phrom is the famous Tomb Raider sight, colloquially known as “the one with all the trees. It’s a large site and will take you a while to get around and explore.
For us, this was the busiest site, made busier by the fact there’s a ‘direction of visit’ to be followed so everyone is heading the same way. It’s business didn’t detract from how beautiful and amazing it is.
Banteay Kdei was the last temple. The day was exceptionally hot and sticky, and we were beginning to feel the heat. Understandably perhaps, at this temple we got a bit lazy! It’s very lovely and opposite there’s a viewpoint over the water, but with a bit more energy we could have enjoyed it more.
What worked in our favour was that we went in the late morning. We had heard about all the crowds, but it wasn’t so much of an issue for us as they were further ahead on their itineraries by this point.
For the time we spent and the service of our tuk tuk driver as well as the beauty and immense history of Angkor Wat, I definitely think it’s worth it. For me, a highlight of my time in Cambodia.