On our first night in Siem Reap we’d met a tuk-tuk driver outside the Bopha Angkor hotel called Boren who offered his services to take us to Angkor Wat and beyond. The deal was $12 for the day so we arranged to meet him at 8am the following morning. Don’t worry about finding yourself a driver, they’ll find you!
At 8am Boren introduced us to his friend as he was ‘busy’. He’d obviously been touting business for all his mates the night before. So we got in the tuk-tuk and headed the 20 minutes drive to Angkor Wat. On the way you come to the ticket office which all vehicles must pass through. Here you must buy a ticket which gives you access to not only Angkor Wat but all the Temples of Angkor in the area. You must take a photograph with you as they’ll give you a pass which is checked at most temples and is not transferable.
Angkor Wat Tickets
Ticket options and prices are as follows:
One Day Pass: $20
Three Day Pass: $40
One Week Pass: $60
As we’d booked six nights in our hotel and planned on getting around quite a few temples we went for the one week pass. These passes work for consecutive days so you must decide in advance how much time you plan on spending around the temples. You cannot buy a three day pass and go to the temples on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday (this would require a One Week Pass). There’s a photo booth next to the ticket office but do try to take your single passport sized photo with you so that you don’t have to queue.
Our first sight of Angkor was quite spectacular as it appeared in the distance beyond the enormous moat that runs the whole way around it. Our driver dropped us on the western side next to a parking area where many young children wait for the visitors to arrive. They are selling postcards, water, t-shirts, hats, etc. and strangely everything seems to cost $1. The Riel is the official currency of Cambodia but in reality the US Dollar is the main currency. Transactions tend to take place in Dollars with small change given in Riel at a rate of $1=4000 Riel.
History of Angkor Wat
The History of Angkor Wat has been well documented elsewhere so I don’t want to attempt to rewrite it here as I’d prefer to concentrate on keeping this as a practical travel guide rather than a history lesson.
Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious building. It is certainly the most stunning structure which remains amongst the hundreds of other temples in this area yet it is a far cry from its heyday when (according to the Lonely Planet travel guide) it was: “the vast political, religious and social centre of an empire that stretched from Burma to Vietnam, a city that, at its zenith, boasted a population of one million when London was a scrawny town of 50,000.”
It’s well worth visiting Angkor Wat several times as there’s so much to see. We went on three occasions. On the first visit we crossed the enormous moat from the parking then walked around the lower level of the temple before climbing the steep steps to the very top which offers great views of the landscape for miles around. We spent a little over two hours on this visit.
Our second visit was to see the sunrise. The driver picked us up at 5am so that we could get there in time for first light. It was amazing how many other people had the same idea, there were literally hundreds of people standing on the main pathway inside the entrance waiting for sunrise. Slowly the sky started to turn red then from behind the temple the sun slowly appeared as hundreds of camera flashes sought to catch the moment.
It wasn’t the serene moment I’d anticipated being in the company of so many other tourists but interestingly most of the tour groups immediately returned to their hotels for breakfast once the sun was up so it was a great time to visit. Also it’s a much better time for photographs at this hour as the later light proved too intense to get the true colours of the walls. We spent most of this visit walking around the outside of the central temple looking at the incredible bas-reliefs which are mainly 12th century stone carvings which depict the history of Angkor in chronological order. By 8am we needed breakfast so we met our driver and went to one of the busy cafés at the back of the parking area.
Our third visit was a few days later to see the sunset over Angkor. Looking at the main temple from the lilly ponds in front is a great spot for photos as the colour of Angkor Wat gently fades away with the sun. Phnom Bakheng is another popular spot to watch the sunset as it’s a hill a couple of kilometres away with great views looking down on Angkor Wat as shadows slowly appear across the main structure.
Other Temples of Angkor
As mentioned above there are hundreds of temples scattered around this area. With our tuk-tuk driver we visited many of them over a five day period. I’ve described these other temples and possible itineraries on this other page … see Temples of Angkor.