Visiting the Temples of Angkor
- Give yourself enough time to enjoy the Temples and Siem Reap.
Sure, Siem Reap may be a tourist town, but it is a fun place to spend a few days and there is more to do than visit the temples. If you have the time, stay in the area for at least 4 days, preferably a little longer. We had planned on having 4 days, we ended having 6 but it was great. We had time to see the temples but not get ‘cultured out’ and it allowed us to have a quiet few days relaxing around town, sleeping in and doing those things you rarely get to do on a backpacking holiday.
- If you can, buy a three day pass.
These passes give you three days within a week to visit the temples. One day is not enough, but visiting the temples on consecutive days can be exhausting. The three day pass is cost effective and you don’t have to nominate your days in advance, just turn up and flash your card.
- Visit the temples at dawn.
It won’t be a private magical experience. You’ll be standing in the dark for an hour with thousands of other tourists and some twerp is guaranteed to try and stand in front of you just as the light peeks over the horizon. Nevertheless, it is pretty special to see the Temples in the early morning light before the busloads arrive.
- Think hard before you hire a bicycle to see the temples.
Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? We thought so. Before going to Cambodia, we swore we would hire a bike one morning and cycle around the temples. If you are a dedicated rider, it would be easy. However, the distances to the Temples and around the complex are longer than you might think. Also, you will be sharing roads with hundreds of tuk tuks and buses and the quality of the roads ain’t that great either. I’m sure it’s a wonderful way to see them but if you aren’t very confident, I think it will just be very tiring and stressful on an already big day.
- Take the time to see more than Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.
These are the two most well-known temples in the Angkor complexes around Siem Reap. They are magnificent. However, if you have time and a three-day pass, be sure to get a guide to take you to the more outlying temples. They will still be crawling with tour buses, but slightly fewer. For $10 you can get a driver to take you 45 minutes out of Siem Reap, through the countryside to see rainforest and incredible places.
- Wear sensible clothing
Seems pretty obvious doesn’t it? Angkor Wat is a sacred site and every guide you pick up asks you to wear clothing that covers your elbows and knees. Despite this, I was a little horrified but not surprised at the number of men and women in short shorts and singlets. Aside from the disrespect, wearing covering clothing is sensible in a country where you may well get sunstroke and caught in a rain storm on the same day. Also, wear sensible walking shoes. Even when you have driver, you will do a lot of walking. You can also climb most of the temples but the stairs are very sheer and a little dizzying. This is not a thong-friendly place.
- Take your stress ball with you.
Angkor Wat is one of the most visited sights in the world. Millions of people come to see it every year. It will be impossible to see any of it without crowds of people. You will get stuck behind groups and idiots will pause in front of you to take photos, you will be harassed by locals selling artwork and cloths and bananas, there will be rubbish and irritating accents littering your path. Take a deep breathe, accept all of this, slow down and enjoy.
- Just go.
Go and see the Temples of Angkor. They are magnificent.
If you’re travelling to Cambodia, check out the other places we visited: Phnom Penh, Kratie, the Elephant Valley Project, Kompong Cham, Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor. We also bookended our trip with visits to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.