One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and also among Filipinos, thanks to its proximity to the Philippines, is Siem Reap, Cambodia. The country is home to Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. This place has always ranked high on our must-visit list, considering its rich history and global fame. So, after a quick visit to Bangkok, Thailand, we hopped aboard a short Thai AirAsia flight to the land of the temples.
The Angkor Wat (literally ‘City of Temples’) is a temple complex located in the northern province of Siem Reap. It was established by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. Initially intended as a Hindu site and later converted to a Buddhist monument, Angkor Wat served as the religious center of the ancient Khmer civilization until it was eventually abandoned in the 15th century. Today, extensive restoration efforts are still in place to preserve the site. The Angkor Wat complex has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992.
WHAT TO SEE
Visiting Angkor Wat is one thing, but watching the sunrise is an absolute must. We got up at 4am and left our accommodation, the Angkor Orchid Hotel, via tuktuk which we booked wit the hotel for only USD 23/whole day. After a 15-minute drive, we reached the ticketing center to get our passes. You can customize your tour depending on the package. The temples are scattered throughout several districts. If you’re an average traveler who looks forward to see the more famous temples, a one-day pass (USD 37) is good enough. However, there are three-day or seven-day passes (USD 62 and USD 72) available for those who would want to really explore the lesser-known temples. (Updated Rates as of January 2017)
Our tuktuk driver dropped us at near the moat of the Angkor Wat while it was still pretty dark. As the sun rose, the silhouette of Angkor Wat’s recognizable stupas became visible on the horizon.
Finally, daylight came and the full glory of the temple welcomed us. It was a truly spectacular sight. After crossing the moat through a magnificent stone bridge, we finally entered the temple complex.
We climbed narrow stairs and walked along long hallways whose walls were covered by intricate Hindu carvings. It’s mind-boggling how the ancient Khmers managed to meticulously sculpt huge slabs of rock to form religious structures that can withstand centuries. Exploring Angkor Wat alone already took us a couple of hours.
TIP: Since the Angkor Wat gets so crowded in the morning, right after sunrise, it is best to visit the main temple around noon after you have visited adjacent temples. You can also get a great sun and sky for your photos.
BAYON is another famous temple in Angkor Wat within the Angkor Thom complex, the last capital of the Khmer empire. This is easily recognizable because of the numerous smiling stone faces that surround the temple and their impressive bas-reliefs. While the initial impression is that the stone faces resemble that of Buddha’s, historians believe that these faces were created after the image of King Jayavarman II. This is usually the next stop from Angkor wat.
One image that forms in the mind when you mention Angkor Wat is the massive tree that has wrapped itself around a partly collapsed temple called TA PROHM. Probably the most photogenic temple and one of largest monuments in the complex, Ta Prohm is famous since it was featured in the film Tomb Raider featuring Angelina Jolie.
There are hundreds of other temples in the complex, but aside from the three most popular ones, we have some favorites. BAPHUON is a restored “temple-mountain” with a large courtyard in front which resembles a moat. It was built in middle of the 11th century (1060) by King Udayadityavarman II and is dedicated to Siva (Hindu). You can climb on top of the temple, giving you a spectacular view of the complex. However, please observe caution as some portion of the temple are already unstable and or undergoing restoration.
The PRASAT KRAVAN stands out among other temples since it is made out of red bricks although smaller and symmetrical in size. It is located in the east of Angkor Wat and south of Banteay Kdei. A prominent feature of this temple is the sculpture on the interior of two of the five towers depicting Visnu and his consort, Laksmi; the scene in the central tower is the most impressive one. These carvings in brick on the interior of a monument are unique in Khmer architecture. (Tourism Cambodia)
Cambodian authorities recently imposed an increase in the rates of entrance fees or passes for foreigners. According to the management of the Angkor Archaeological Park, effective January 2017, the new rates are as follows:
|Ticket||Old Price||New Price|
|1 Day||USD 20||USD 37|
|3 Days||USD 40||USD 62|
|7 Days||USD 60||USD 72|
Student discounts are not also allowed but children below 12 years old are free. It is also best to buy your tickets the night before to avoid the long lines early in the morning. You can arrange this with your hotel. For reference, these are the schedule of operations of the park:
- Angkor Wat & Srah Srang: 5:00am to 5:30pm DAILY
- Phnom Bakheng & Pre Rup: 5:00am to 7:00pm DAILY
- Other Temples: 7:30am to 5:30pm. DAILY
- Angkor Ticket Center: Daily from 05:00am to 05:00pm
Finally, do not ever lost your passes or attempt to explore temples without passes to avoid hefty fines. Bike the Temples – Klook Travel
SIEM REAP NIGHTLIFE
Walking around and exploring temples could be quite exhausting. At night, we headed to Siem Reap’s Pub Street to grab some dinner and souvenirs. There are lots of restaurants, clubs and pubs with many varieties to choose from. This place teems with life at night and is jam-packed with people of different nationalities. [TBC]
HOW TO GET THERE
Manila-Siem Reap. Cebu Pacific is the only carrier that mounts direct flights to and from Siem Reap. If you are just eyeing to visit Cambodia, then this is the most convenient way to take. Other routes need transfers either via Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, which unfortunately would cost so much of your budget. The sulit and popular option, however, is by doing a two or three-country trip across the Indochina region (Viet Nam, Cambodia and Thailand).
Bangkok-Siem Reap. This is the route we took from Bangkok since we are flying out in Viet Nam. After availing of a seat sale via Thai Air Asia, we bypassed the long and taxing land travel across the Thai and Cambodian border to get to Siem reap. Air Asia is servicing this route daily for only an hour flight, which could save you so much time if your schedule is tight.
Ho Chi Minh-Siem Reap via Phnom Penh. Getting into Siem Reap is possible commercial flights from Ho Chi Minh and or buses via the capital, Phnom Penh. There are now direct buses from HCM to Siem Reap. You can check the Mekong Express Bus for online bookings. Another best option is spend a day or two in Phnom Penh before proceeding to Siem Reap to make the most of your Cambodian visit. We recommend the Giant Ibis for the 6 hours trip (Phnom Penh-Siem Reap and vice versa). For tourists requiring Visa to enter Vietnam, you can apply for Online Visa the most convenient way via Vietnam-Visa Online. Simply hit the banner below to apply.
WHERE TO STAY
We were able to score a very low rate from Angkor Orchid Central Hotel through Agoda.com which include free airport transfer and breakfast for two. It is conveniently located right beside the entrance of Siem Reap Art Center Night Market and few minutes away from Pub Street and bus terminals. We stayed in their Deluxe Twin Room which is very spaceous and has superior amenities given the rate. Most of all, the front desk staff and the crew (shoutout to our tuktuk driver/guide) were all very nice and helpful. They also offer packages including an affordable Angkor Complex and Siem Reap tours. During our stay, we paid USD 23 for 2pax inclusive of tuk-tuk ride/guide from sunrise until sunset.
Angkor Orchid Central Hotel Wat Damnak Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Telephone: +855 63 633 4112 | Fax: +855 63 963 858
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Rates: $12.74 (PHP 574.00) during our stay via Agoda.com
- The Angkor complex is HUGE. Prepare yourself for lots of walking and climbing. There are other ways of getting around the complex such as via tuktuk or bike but their route is quite limited. We do not recommend riding the elephants to get around! Bike the Temples – Klook Travel
- There are many food stalls just outside the Angkor Wat temple for your quick snack or cold beverage fix. The owners use iconic Western names such as Harry Potter and Mary Poppins for their food stalls to allow recall. It’s really funny.
- If you’re eyeing for that magical, Instagram-worthy sunrise picture, be there early since hundreds other tourists would also search for the perfect spot to catch the sunrise over the temple’s stupas. Note however that if you want to catch a close take of the three stupas of Angkor Wat, you should proceed inside the complex and look for spot just beside the small lagoon.
- It is best to weigh in on the mode of transportation when coming from Bangkok to Siem Reap. In our case, we were able to grab a seat sale via Air Asia so it is better to check out Air Asia’s website and app for updates.
- When looking for accommodation, we recommend booking through online booking sites (Agoda, Booking, Hostelworld) for best price deals. The concentration of low-cost hotels and inns are high in these areas so this is friendly for budget travelers like us.
- Make sure to bring with you enough amount of US Dollars, particularly when in Cambodia. USD is widely accepted in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh although the local Cambodian Riel is convenient for small transactions.