Visit Angkor Wat
I guess most of you have heard of Angkor Wat, but do you really know what it is? Actually, Angkor Wat is the most famous temple of the old ruin city of Angkor. Angkor was the capital city of the old Khmer empire, in other words the old Cambodia.
Tickets and getting around
Angkor is a really big area with tons of temples. There are two popular routes to see the biggest attractions of Angkor; the small circle and the big circle. The small covers the most popular Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm (Tomb raider temple). The big takes you along a bigger part of the area and you get to visit more and smaller temples. You can either buy a one day ticket or one that lasts for three days. If you’re really in to temples I recommend to visit it over several days.
You can only buy tickets at the ticket office at the visitor centre. This because they take your photo for the ticket that you have to show when entering every new temple. You can get more information on ticket prices and opening hours on this website.
Guide or no guide?
Since it’s a long way between all the temples you can choose between renting a tuk tuk, car or even bikes to get around. Many people choose to only get a driver, but you can also get a guide that goes along with you.
I met up with a girl I had travelled with from Thailand and booked a tuk tuk and tour guide for the visit. I think you owe it to the history to get a guide and really get to know the story behind it, but at the same time, with a guide you miss the opportunity to stroll around and take everything in at your own pace. And that I kinda missed actually, but of course it was really interesting with the guide. We did the small circle in one day and we got templed out quite fast actually, so I say take your time and visit it at your own pace over several days, instead of cramming in as much as possible in one day. Get a guide the first day and then spend one or two days going to the smaller temples by yourself.
Outside every temple all the tuk tuks are waiting for their customers. They hang in their hammock watching YouTube while waiting, pretty chill.
I got picked up very early in the morning, I think it was at 4:30, by the tuk tuk driver. We drove to pick up my friend and the tour guide and then headed to the visitor centre to get tickets.
When we got to the temple it was pitch dark, but still there were so many people walking over the bridge and in to Angkor Wat. The guide showed us to the small lake in front of Angkor Wat where we stood among many other tourists waiting for the sun to rise and get that perfect shot.
Well, I don’t think I got that many good shots here, but it was a nice sunrise. And as it got light we saw how many people that were already there.
After the sunrise we continued with our guide in to Angor Wat. He told us about the meaning of some of the constructions of the temple, the material and so on. He also spoke about the history and the war that made many people abandon the temple. I tried to take photos and at the same time listen to all he had to said, a bit hard though…
Angkor Wat was built between 1113 and 1150 in dedication to Hindu God Vishnu. Historically the Khmer people were hindu, but transformed to Buddhism gradually in the late 12th century. Still 90-95% of the people are buddhist, but they still have many hindu celebrations.
We saw quite many monks during out visit to Angkor, but I actually think many of them were tourists. Except for their clothes they were just like anyone else, walked around with their cameras, posed for photos and checked out the amazing architecture.
In the middle of Angkor Wat there’s a tower you can visit. We stood in line for about 30 minutes to go up the tower and get a view over the area. They don’t let that many people up in the same time so it’s not that crowded up there.
Did you know that the buildings in Siem Reap can’t be higher than the highest tower of Angkor Wat?
Angkor Wat is a big temple and you can spend a lot of time here. We walked around for a while and listened to the interesting stories our guide told us.
After Angkor Wat it was time for breakfast. We took a break at a restaurant and then continued to Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom is the biggest area inside Angkor and was contructed after Angkor Wat in the late 12th century.
To reach Angkor Thom there are 5 different gateways and bridges. The most popular one is the south, closest to Siem Reap. The bridge has statues of Gods and demons, many in their original form but some have been reconstructed too.
In the middle of Angkor Thom is the Bayon temple. It is also called the temple of Smiling faces, and as you can see there are carvings of just that everywhere. There are about 50 towers with the same smiling face. A smile with closed eyes that may represent the state of inner peace.
I liked this temple a lot, but it was a shame it was so crowded. If I had had a two day pass I would have gone here the first thing in the morning to have it almost to myself.
There are so many details everywhere. It must have taken forever to carve all that.
A short walk from Bayon, still in Angkor Thom, is another temple called Baphuon. This one we got to explore to ourselves since it wasn’t that big. It was built dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.
After Angkor Thom we went to our last stop – Ta Prohm. We were already tired and templed out after the last one so it was hard to enjoy Ta Phrom. Also here there were so many people. For me it’s a bit hard to take it all in and imagine how the place was before when there are so many other people there. I really can’t ignore them when they are everywhere.
But, it was still pretty cool. Especially that the trees are so big and powerful and grow all over the buildings. You really get the feeling of how old it is when the roots are so long and linger around the walls.
The tree below is famous from the movie Tomb raider, that’s why there was a long line with people waiting to get a photo with it. It’s quite funny they have made small stages in front of some trees so you can get a photo with the trees.
And a little about the monks…
Monks can’t ever touch a woman. Since a woman is seen as a kind of a “sex object” they can’t touch each other. It would mean very very bad luck for the woman. A monk can choose between being a monk forever or quit after some years. When they have decided to leave that life they have a high status in the society and can go on and study, marry and do whatever they want.
When we were having breakfast a monk was passing by and as soon as some small kids saw him they ran to him to get blessed. He started chanting blessings and sprinkle some holy water over them for good luck. I didn’t see if these kids got a bracelet, but normally you get a small bracelet after your blessing to protect you from accidents and evil spirits.