Welcome to the Temples of Angkor Cambodia
The Temples of Angkor are a very impressive edifice of Cambodian history as you first approach the Temple site you roll down an avenue of tall trees and beautiful forested areas with small temples scattered among the trees then you arrive at the moat that surrounds Angkor Wat the highest (though not largest) and most famous of all the temples around Angkor as you make your way around the watery moat you will catch your first glimpse of Angkor Wat from there on you are spoilt for choice as to where to visit first there are many temple sites encapsulated in the vast forest area all with their own unique features and charachter, including the temples from the Tomb raider movie so take your time and absorb them at your own pace.
How do we know this information is correct? well we went there did the trips and the research so you can get the best most up to date information
Entrance ticket information
Only buy the pass at the ticket office on the road to Angkor nowehere else is authorised to sell them
Obtaining an entrance ticket to visit the temples of Angkor is very straight forward, if you are going by Tuk Tuk, Moto with driver, mini bus or tour they will drive you to the ticket office which is situated on the main road just before you arrive at the temples, if you are cycling or walking take the main road towards Angkor and half way along the lovely tree lined boulavard you will see on your right the ticket offices, if you do miss them about 100 meters further on is the check point where they will stop you to check your Angor temple pass, if you do not have one they will point you toward to ticket booths.
Visiting hours are 05h30 until 17h30
At the ticket booth it may look a little like a disorganised scrum but even when busy it moves very quickly, there are seperate queues for the different tickets which are:
1/ Single day pass US$20
2/ Three day pass US$40
3/ Seven day pass US$60
When you get to the front they will ask which ticket you want, you pay the cashier then stand in the designated spot and look at the camera, they take your picture, print out your pass and off you go. Keep the pass somewhere safe and clean.
All these passes cannot be changed, refunded or passed onto another person
and are valid for all temples in the area except Kulen mountain and Bengmealea.
Children under 12yrs are not required to buy a ticket as long as you have their passport to show them.
You have several choices on how to visit the Temples, bear in mind that the entrance is about 2miles/3km from the town of Siem Reap which is the nearest accommodation to Angkor, when you get to the complex it is several kilometres is every direction and even in the 'cooler' dry season it gets hot during the day. most hotels and guesthouse will help you whichever method you choose.
1/ Walk It is possible to walk from town then around the temples and back again, a tiring long day so make sure you are fit and take/drink plenty water, an easier way is to get a moto / Tuk Tuk from town to the entrance then walk from there.
2/ Bicycle A very popular method it is a very relaxing to meander among the temples the roads are flat and reasonably smooth and bikes can be hired at many guesthouses and shops in town for US$1 to US$3 per day - check you get a decent bike with breaks that work!
3/ Moto self drive In Siem reap you can hire basic motos by the day for US$10 to US$15 (condition depending)
4/ Moto with driver any of the motos zipping around town can be hired for a day / halfday trip out to the temples, negotiate a price before setting off and dont pay anything until they get you back to Siem reap cost should be US$ 8 to US$ 12
5/ Tuk Tuk every driver in town, at the hotel an airport will want to take you out to the temples probably the most relaxing way to do it as you get to sit in the back of a shaded tuk tuk and transported from temple to temple, price should be US$15 to US$20, negotiate the price before departure and dont pay until you get back to Siem reap.
6/ Minibus tour there are several companie in town that will organise minibus trips to and around the temples of Angkor they tend to be much more organised and usually have a driver/guide that can explain a little about the temples prices US$30 to US$45 per person
Moto / Tuk Tuk Scams and how to avoid them
Unfortunately as with anywhere in the world where tourists visit there are some unscupulous people who try and take advantage, fortunatley Cambodians in general are a kind people and do not like visitors being ripped off but there are still some people who will try!
The dishonest moto and tuk tuk drivers who try these scams usually are the more agressive sellers and target females or younger/inexperienced looking people, they generally will agree a reasonable price and everything starts well, then they will stop half way through the journey and demand either more money for the trip or full payment at that point, if this happens refuse and get out of the tuk tuk, even if they now back down they will try something else later so abandon them, another tuk /moto will be along soon, flag them down (even if they have passengers) they will stop and if they cannot help you (if they alrady have a fare) they will call a friend to come and fetch you.
One way of avoiding this is not using random tuk tuks from the street but asking your hotel/guesthouse to recommend a good driver, it is in thier best interest to only use honest drivers, if you are staying at a place where they cannot help you walk to another nice looking hotel in town and go to the reception desk, smile nicely and ask if they have a tuk tuk driver they use for temple trips and how much would it be, all the decent hotels and guesthouses in town will set you up with a good driver.
My visit to the Temples of Angkor
It is officially my first Cambodian Temple day, after a late night arrival at my guesthouse last night I was not yet ready for an early morning sunrise trip so I have arranged with 'Bun' (the remork driver who works in conjunction with the guesthouse I am staying at) to collect me at 08h30 and take me on a tuk tuk temple trip of Angkor.
So with camera ready, water packed and a good breakfast under my belt we set off, it takes about 30 minutes to weave our way through the morning traffic of Siem Reap and out of town to arrive at the ticket office. There is quite a queue with buses unloading groups, motos easing into the parking area and tuk tuks offloading their passengers, Bun asks which ticket I want then points me in the direction of the correct queue they are all signed clearly at the front with options for one day, three day and seven day, I am getting three day.
Despite the number of people and the very disorganised queue (which obviously had the same rules as Cambodian driving) if only took me a couple of minutes to get to the front where a helpful young lady took my money US$40 and directed me to stand in a square marked on the ground and took my photo, a minute later my Angkor temple pass complete with my photo was handed to me.
Back to the tuk tuk and up to the check point where my pass was checked and photo compared to me very carefully, the pass is then validated for the days visit by a hole punch each day you visit a hole is punched in the pass so with a trhree day pass when you have three holes punched in it is used up (there is also an expirey date my 3 day was valid for three visits within the next seven days). Past the checkpoint we rolled down the leafy tree lined road towards Angkor.
As we make our way down the road through the forest there are small shrines and temples dotted in the forest to the left and right the morning light dappled as it shone through the leaves, my first glimpse of Angkor!
Then you arrive at the Moat that surrounds Angkor Wat the most famous of the temples the ornate stone towers of the temple peaking through the green leafy forest that surrounds it. Even today it is and impressive sight with a broad wide pathway crossing the moat into the temple grounds then down a raised stone path into the main Angkor Wat itself, it must have been an awe inspiring humbling feeling to have walked these paths in their glory days.
The temples (or wats) were built for 'gods' - the ruler of the then mighty empire - each subsequent king trying to outbuild the previous kings monuments, Angkor is meant to represent Mount Meru the home of the gods from the Hindu faith. each king trying to 'live forever' as a god by creating this amazing monument, it was also meant to intimidate visitors into submission by impressing upon them the enormous scale of the buildings, I reckon it must have worked too, even now as I stroll along the stone paths with visitors from all over the world I can imagine the royal guards and advisors to the king looking down on me as I dared to enter the home of the gods!
Angkor Wat is the tallest temple in Cambodia and has very distinctive towers that are replicated on monuments and in architecture across Cambodia but it is just one of many temples spread out amongst the forests of Angkor, I am starting my trip a little further out and working my way back to Angkor Wat for sunset.
The temples are in various states of (dis)repair with worn stone steps
and in places new wooden stairs (to allow access) paved courtyards lead
to doorways which go through the temples leading to small courtyrds and
narrow corridors entwine the temples some seem to lead nowhere while others
pop you out at another area, ornate decorations are carved into the walls
and rooves and bas reliefs depicting victories over enemies adorn many
temple walls, it is a place to wander around and absorb the feel of the
place and try to imagine both the building of such a place and what life
might have been like living in such a place!
I wander fairly aimlessly amongst the temple buildings discovering small quiet corners and open busy courtyards as I make my way through ancient history, wall reliefs, ornate 'doors', pillars and statues are everywhere, light filters through from above creating a lovely stark light/dark contrast to the architecture making it tricky for photographs but maybe it reflects the religious background of the temples the ever present battle of good and evil, dark and light?
I tuk tuk between temples always stopping before I get to the entrance so I can walk up to the temple and enjoy its presence on approach, some have forest closing in on them and the sounds of the forest create a beautiful atmosphere, the voices of the birds, insects and monkies floats among the trees while butterflies and falling leaves drift amongst the shady light.
It is just the kind of place that I enjoy, wandering alone finding the quieter areas, the forest paths and stumbling across temples among the trees lost in my own thoughts with no intrusions from modern life I can relax (and I love to sit in a nice shady peaceful spot and right my notes)
The main temples are busy and you will struggle to get photos with no people in but wander just a little away from the main temples and you will easily find a quiet piece of history to absorb and enjoy.
By now the sun has swept up high into the sky making photo conditions a little harsh and I need the toilet and a drink, I find my tuk tuk and we head a little away from the main temples, there are food stalls of all sorts near all the main temples selling local and western style meals but as usual they are more expensive than in town, Bun takes me a little away from these stalls to a small clearing in the forest where a few other tuk tuk drivers, guides and locals are eating, not the normal spot for tourists but perfect for me, I am welcomed into the group and soon I have an ice cold coke and a plate of food, a stir fry with chicken, beans, carrot, cucumber, cashew nuts and other stuff (I am useless at identifying asian food) with rice on the side, it was fresh tasty and filling and with the drink cost me... US$2 you cant beat that.
I then even had time for an afternoon siesta to wait out the heat and harsh light before we made our way bak to Angkor Wat for sunset.
It is when you have rested and start again that you realise how much
walking/climbing you have done, and I was a little stiff as I set off
again for my sunset location. There are several good places for sunset
at Angkor each temple itself has a few good loctions, and there is the
lake by Angkor Wat that can either offer reflections of the temple or
the colours of the sun, so much choice... I eventually chose an area inside
of Angkor Wat looking into the sun in one direction with the outer towers
for silhouette, and back to the sun looking onto Angkor Wat to get the
colour of the sun on the stone as it sets.
Sunset minus 10 minutes Its official there must be a sign by the main path (over 500 metres away from my quiet spot) saying 'Simon has set up his sunset photo this way' because now two other families have joined the group and its almost a party with people making plans of where to meet and when and what are the best places to eat in town, I have given up trying to write and do some test shots of the sky for sunset. I decide I can get a better angle a little further away and quietly pack up my gear and retreat to a quieter area.
The sunset was not so spectacular as there is a heat haze hovering over the area and the light was weak, but I enjoyed the beauty of the last rays of the setting sun on a truly remarkable location.
Back at the tuk tuk it is a mad scramble/dodgem as everyone heads back to town after a day amongst the temples of the gods at Angkor, motos, bikes, tuk tuks, mini buses, cars and coaches all jostle along the road then dissapear into Siem Reap, dropping off their passengers who wash freshen up before heading out to dinner at one of the many eating places in town.
Tommorrow morning it will all start again, and I will be there for the sunrise.
Take a hat, the sun even when it is hazy burns down on you
Good shoes for walking in even if you are not intending to walk far clambering amongst the buildings and across courtyards is quite testing also uneven paths and some steep steps will be encountered
Go early rest midday and drink plenty
Try not to cover too much in one day rather concentrate on a couple of smaller areas over a couple of days, It is easy to get 'templed out' partly due to all the walking and heat and seeing so much temple !
A reliable driver makes the day easier
Back in town get a massage some hotels have massage services available and seeing hands in town teaches blind people to massage, at the end of a day out and about your feet, legs and back will love you for it !
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