Angkor Wat-temples and tips

If you’ve been dreaming of a trip to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, you should pack your bags and go for it!

Our family spent 5 nights in Siem Reap so we could tour temples, experience a culture totally different from ours and eat great food. We were not disappointed!

In this post, I’m going to show you the temples that we visited and give you a few tips too.

First up, you need to get an Angkor Pass to the Angkor Complex. Tickets can only be purchased at the Angkor Ticket Office, the official ticket center. We opted for the 3 day pass (which is valid for 10 days).

Don’t miss the Angkor National Museum ! Some people suggest that you head here before touring temples. That way you get an overview on the history before you go.

But, however it works for you timing wise, you should plan a trip. It’s really well done! We thoroughly enjoyed the great museum.

Angkor Wat was the first temple that we visited. After getting our passes, our driver dropped us off here and we walked across a floating walkway towards the huge temple complex.

Tip-If you go to the temples by car it will cost you more but you will come back (hot and sweaty) to a cool car with ice water and cold, wet washcloths! You can go by motorbike or tuk tuk, and that’s cheaper but it’s hot and dusty.

On your ride to the temples, you will see lots of bottles of yellow liquid at roadside stands. This is actually gasoline for the motorbikes because there aren’t gas stations near the temples.

Tip-There is no need to pre-arrange a guide at the major temples. There were licensed, legit guides readily available.

In my previous post, I gave you an overview of Angkor Wat. It’s a huge complex and a lot of it will be walking in the hot sun with no shade so plan accordingly. It’s pretty amazing and awe inspiring!

The next temple was probably my favorite. It had less crowds than Angkor Wat too! It was the late 12th century Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom, the capital city of the Khmer empire.

This awesome temple is known as the “face temple” and has huge heads with smiling and serene faces looking down at you!

The entrance to the temple is pretty amazing. As you drive across the moat you will see 54 “devas” or guardian gods on one side and 54 “asuras” or demon gods on the other side. They recreate a famous story from Hindu Mythology-The Churning of the Ocean of Milk.

While exploring the temple, a young monk approach us. He wanted to say hello to the girls and have his picture taken with us. With his permission (remember the rules from my previous post!) we took one with him.

The third temple that we visited was Ta Prohm. This temple is affectionately known as the “Tomb Raider Temple”.

Much as Lord of the Rings is a national treasure for New Zealand, Cambodians love to talk about Tomb Raider and Angelina Jolie.

Ta Prohm is a cool temple set in a jungle setting also built in the late 12th century.

On our way to the temple, we encountered lots and lots of monkeys.

Tip-visit this temple before 9am to avoid busses of tourists!

The next temple that we saw was Pre Rup. Pre Rup means “turning the body”. It’s said that this temple might have been used as a Royal crematorium.

The last temple that we toured was Ta Som. It’s a small temple, late 12th century and not crowded.

We really enjoyed it here!

There are many temples to visit and you can easily spend a week. I’m sure we missed many great sights but you just can’t see it all in one short trip. That’s too exhausting!

My general advice is to go very early, take a break during the day, then go back in the late afternoon/early evening. Drink water!

And most importantly, be a good tourist! Be respectful, don’t litter, dress appropriately and smile!

Holiday in Cambodia-“Wat” to expect

On our way to Cambodia, we flew from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City. From there we had to wait in the Visa Upon Arrival area.

Although we already had all the paperwork completed and an approval letter in our possession, we still had to wait about 45 minutes to get our passports back with the Vietnam visas. I guess it could have been a lot worse.

After that, we boarded a hopper on Cambodia Angkor Air to take us to Siem Reap.

The Siem Reap airport is nice, clean and small, so aside from the bumpy descent in our little plane, it was easy.

We already had our Cambodian visas done through E-visa so it was a breeze. (get it done online in advance!)

Of course, the main reason people stay in Siem Reap is for “temple touring”. (We stayed 5 nights because we didn’t want to cram it all into 2 days and we knew we’d be too hot if we tried!)

The granddaddy of all the temples is the magnificent Angkor Wat. It’s a 12th century temple complex, built in the Khmer style, and the largest religious monument in the world. And it’s surrounded by a moat!

It’s not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s a symbol of national pride. It’s pictured on their flag and on their currency, the Riel.

Riel is only used in rural Cambodia and the US Dollar is used everywhere.

Don’t be shocked if you get any Riel back as change when you paid with US dollars. There aren’t US coins here.

Tip-Make sure your US currency is crisp, clean and free of rips or writing on it. Old money isn’t wanted or always accepted!

For our stay in Siem Reap, we chose Borei Angkor Resort and Spa. It says it’s a 5 Star Hotel but it’s not on the same level as say the Four Seasons for example. So, as long as you manage your expectations, you will love it!

The service is great and attentive. Everyone is warm, welcoming and friendly. It’s about a 15 minute ride to Angkor Wat and a short 5 minute tuk tuk ride into downtown Siem Reap.

Rooms are a bit older and simple but nice as well as clean with good Air con.

The pool area is large and we hung out there every afternoon to cool off!

On our first night at the hotel, we went to the Culture Night Dinner and Show. It was very good and entertaining!

If you’ve ever been to a Hawaiian Luau, it’s similar to that.

Tip-By the way, in Cambodia, you will be greeted with a Sampeah, it’s used to say hello and goodbye. It’s polite to do it back! Everyone will greet you like this- hotel staff, tuk tuk drivers etc. (I think I’m going to miss that actually).

Tip– As a good tourist, you should educate yourself at least a little about the places you are visiting. Dress respectfully, know how to say please and thank you, be polite and smile. It’s amazing how just that much goes a long way.

There is a whole list of rules as soon as you land in Siem Reap and they are posted various places like the temples and at hotels. Be respectful!

Be prepared for the searing heat and humidity! During our early May visit it averaged in the low 90’s F but felt like 100-110 degrees due to the high humidity.

Tip-Drink lots of BOTTLED water and carry it with you. Consider bringing electrolyte tablets on your trip.

Tip-Carry a fan with you for some air and a compact umbrella to keep off the sun. We found this most helpful at Angkor Wat.

Immunizations and pills-Everyone has an opinion here and you can use your own discretion but we spoke to our doctor and consulted the CDC website before traveling. We chose to get Hep A and typhoid shots. We also took malaria pills and experienced no ill side effects. (Just some crazy vivid dreams!)

Tip-we brought some bug spray with Deet because it’s effective against mosquitoes and we applied it daily. Sunscreen is a must too!

Tip-Leave room in your suitcase to purchase some cheap pants and skirts to wear during your stay. They sell them everywhere. They are very cool and they will do the trick to cover your knees at temples.

By the way, 2018 is year of the dog. You will see cute dog pictures lots of places.

We really enjoyed our time in Cambodia!

The people were very friendly. The food was delicious (more in my upcoming food post). The temples were amazing. (More in my temple wrap up).

We loved how Cambodians were just as curious with us as we were with them. It was a lovely and memorable experience for our family!

We flew out on May 13, King’s Day. This public holiday celebrates the current King of Cambodia. It’s an annual celebration on his birthday. There were lots of people praying and celebrating and it looked like a lot of fun!

Next up…Temples of Angkor Wat