We bet you’ve seen Indiana Jones or maybe Tomb Raider if you are from a younger generation. What is it about exploring ancient ruins that captivates the mind and conjures up a deep sense of adventure? Some of the world’s most well know ruins can be seen at Angkor Wat. It is the single most popular tourist attraction in Cambodia, but for many travelers the question remains, what’s up with Angkor Wat? Last week we visited this mystical city, and through our pictures and story hope to share its wonder. (NOTE: there are many photos in this post, therefore it may take some time to load!)
While this temple complex bears the name of its most famous structure, Angkor Wat, it actually contains over 1,000 temple ruins which were the center of the Khmer Empire. It is an awesome place (truly “awe” inspiring, as the word was intended) that all travel lovers should add to their bucket list.
Tickets are required for entry into the Angkor Archaeological Park: 1-day, 3-day or 1-week passes are available. We opted for three days and made it to over 20 of the ruin sites. This amount of time was perfect for us, but if you fancy yourself an amateur archeologist, you may want to go with the 1-week pass.
We started our first day early and full of energy and excitement to see Angkor Wat. We had been looking forward to visiting for many years. We found a tuk-tuk to drive us 6km north from Siem Reap to the entry point of the Angkor complex. Despite fellow travelers advising us to hire the tuk-tuk for the entire day, we decided to do things our own way (sound familiar?) and walk between the temples. Our first stop was the granddaddy of them all: Angkor Wat. From there, we set off on a trek through jungle roads and crumbling monuments. When the day was done, we had visited Angkor Wat, Prasat Kravan, Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, Ta Keo and Bayon.
After a very hot, sweaty and exercise-filled day, we came to our senses and opted to hire a tuk-tuk driver for our second day. It ended up being a great decision. We were able to cover more ground and see some of the further out temples that simply would not be walkable (unless you’re a crazed exercise fanatic that gets off on speed walking marathons). Our first stop was Phnom Bakheng, a pyramidal temple atop a hill from which you can take in an aerial view of Angkor Wat (as pictured in the very first photo of this post). After viewing Angkor Wat from above, we visited Baphuon, the Royal Palace, Preah Khan, Neak Poan, Ta Som, East Mebon and Pre Rup.
After two days at the Angkor complex, we took a day off to relax and rest our sore mussels. At only $5 USD per hour, a massage seemed like a pretty good way to spend the afternoon. We had no idea what we were in for…we endured one of the roughest and painful, yet most effective massages we have ever experienced. Definitely one of those “hurts so good” moments. We had planned on returning to the ruins the next day, but Amy awoke to a bout of food poisoning (and all that entails) so we took another day off.
The next day her situation had improved. We hired a tuk-tuk once again and this time set our sights on the temples located even further away from Siem Reap. As would be expected, the more remote the temple the fewer the tourists. It was nice to escape the crowds as we enjoyed more of these magnificent ruins, including Banteay Srei, Banteay Samre, Preah Ko, Bakong and Lolei.
Too often during our travels we visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites that have been spoiled rather than preserved by being added to this list; many of the sites feel more like Disneyland than places of great historic and cultural relevance. This was not the case with Angkor Wat. Despite the millions of visitors annually, the temple complex retains a great deal of authenticity and truly deserves its reputation as a world wonder. To put it plainly, no matter who you are, Angkor Wat will not disappoint.