Angkor Wat is a huge archeological site just outside of Siem Reap in Cambodia which was added to the UNESCO heritage list in 1992. Since the early 1990’s visitors have grown in number from just 7,650 in 1993 to over 2 million in 2013. We visited only three of around 1000 temples within the Angkor Wat complex which is the largest religious monument in the World.
We arranged our visit to Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm temples with a tuk tuk driver who picked us up from our hotel at 8:00 am. He drove us to the new and modern Angkor Wat ticket office where we purchased one day tickets for *$20 each. This covered the entrance cost to each of the three parks we visited. The ticket office is located a few km’s away from the main entrance of Angkor Wat, which we visited first.
The tuk tuk driver (Lee) spoke good English and was knowledgeable about the Angkor complex. As he drove us around (and waited at each stop) he acted as an excellent guide and gave us a lot of information about each of the temples. He also stopped several times along the way and explained points of interest. He charged only $15 for the entire 5 hour trip (although we gave him more for such good service) and even supplied us with bottles of water from his ice box.
*It is worth noting that while Cambodian currency (Cambodian Riel) is in full use, almost every transaction we have made so far both in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap has been in US dollars so it would be handy to bring some when you arrive. ATM’s also dispense US dollars.
Angkor Wat was constructed in the 12th century using between 6 – 10 million sandstone blocks each weighing around 1.5 tons. The entire city of Angkor used more sandstone than the combined amounts of stone used to build the Egyptian Pyramids and the former city was greater than the size of Paris today. It is hard to believe that a monument of this size and structure was built over 900 years ago without modern day construction equipment or technology. There are also many intricate and fascinating carvings in the stone walls of Angkor Wat.
According to Sacred Destinations the city of Angkor Thom was founded by King Jayavarman VII who reigned from 1181-1219. In some ways we found the Bayon temple in the centre of Angkor Thom to be even more impressive than Angkor Wat. There were less people for one thing and the giant stone buddha faces staring at you were breathtaking. We climbed up and down steps, under stone lintels and between pillars, each time coming face to face with a large stone buddha!
Ta Prohm dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries and is informally known as the ‘Tree temple’. Giant roots and tree trunks have curled their way amongst the stone pillars of the ancient temple. Much of the temple has been left in ruins with scaffolding propping it up in various places. It has a strange eery feel as you step over fallen stones and peer into the dark corridors. Scenes for the Tomb Raider movie were filmed here.
April is the hottest time of the year to visit Angkor. We visited in early May before the start of the monsoons and the temperature for us was 38 degrees. There are many stalls selling water at $1 for 1 x large bottle or two x small bottles.
We travelled to Siem Reap by bus from Phnom Penh which took 6 hours, including 2 stops. We chose Giant Ibis as recommended by Wikitravel and made a fast and efficient online booking with Camboticket. The comfortable 30 something seater bus left on time, we were given a receipt for our luggage and even the wifi worked for most of the journey! They also supplied a bottle of water and a chocolate croissant for each passenger.