The Angkor Temples are amazing. By far some of the most beautiful sights that I’ve ever seen. I remember learning a bit about Angkor Wat in university while getting my super useful minor in art history. I’ve wanted to see them ever since, and it was well worth it.
To start, the temples are located in Siem Reap province, near the city of Siem Reap. A tuk tuk ride away. We stayed at the Golden Temple Villa which had an amazing, helpful staff, but the rooms/amenities were fairly basic. The room was $28/night and includes free bananas, tea and coffee, a half hour massage, and free pick up. Our room also had a “balcony” which, no joke was about a foot and half wide, and maybe 6 feet long, and was attached to the communal balcony. Hilarious. The downside was the bathroom- needs serious updating. The hand-held shower barely could reach my head when slightly bending over. The water is extremely rusty/irony- leaving me with a tinge of ginge in my hair. Less than thrilled about that, soaked my hair in vinegar last night…didn’t do much.
I’ve put together some do’s and don’ts for the temples that will hopefully help, if you’re planning to go.
** An easy way to help in Siem Reap! There were over 28,000 kids admitted to Kantha Bopha Hospital for Hemorrhagic Dengue Fever in 2012. They are in great need of blood donations, so if you have a little bit of extra time, please stop by and donate! **
–Plan on staying at least 3 days. This gives you the luxury of taking it somewhat easy, and make sure to go to your favorite places first thing in the morning. This was the best thing that we did- found our favorite temples (Bayon and Ta Prohm) and went back at 6:30am on our 2 last days. We were pretty much the only people at Bayon that early in the morning, and it was amazing. The ticket prices for 1 day is $20, and for 3 days is $40, and $60 for one week. So the price for 2 days is the same as 3.
*You can buy your ticket for the next day, the night before after 5pm. We went right at 5 to get our ticket, which could be used right then, and went to see the sunset at Angkor Wat. Then used that same ticket the next day. Nice little bonus.
–Wear good shoes. There’s a lot of clamoring up rocks and uneven ground. I wore rickety sandals the first day, and was lucky that I didn’t seriously stub a toe or something.
–Wear appropriate clothes. Skirts aren’t the best choice when climbing up narrow, windy staircases. Some temples won’t allow you in if you don’t have shorts/skirts that go past your knees, so make sure that you’re wearing something longer.
–Bring a hat, scarf and sunscreen. Scarves in SE Asia are a necessity, not an accessory. In Cambodia, especially in the dry season, there is so much dust that you will definitely want one handy to cover your face/hair. Don’t underestimate the SE Asia sun.
–Bring snacks and water. There are stands along the way, but depending on where you are and the timing, you might not be close to food/drinks.
–Get a tuk tuk driver for the few days that you’re there. There are different ways to get to and between the temples- tuk tuk, car, or bike. Walking isn’t really feasible. I would also argue that biking from town to the temples and around them isn’t exactly feasible either. It’s about 5-8 km just to get there and then it can be a few kms between temples. It just makes for a really long/tiring day. We got a tuk tuk driver from the hotel named Sarat, and used him every day that we were there. It’s about $5 round-trip if you just want to go to one temple and head back, $12 for the whole day around the main temples, and $17 for some temples and heading out to Bantey Srey which is about 30km East of the main temples.
–Bring an extra camera battery.
–Don’t litter, or take any “mementos”. This is obvious, but always a good reminder. Never, ever litter anywhere, but especially when traveling. It’s just not a good impression and it’s disrespectful. Don’t try chiseling off a piece of rock from Ta Prohm, there won’t be anything left.
–Mind the “Danger Area” signs. If it’s deemed dangerous by SE Asia standards, then it’s actually dangerous.
–Don’t overextend yourself. You won’t enjoy the experience as much if you’re running from temple to temple, hot, exhausted, trying to get it all in. It’s a massive complex, and allowing the 3+ days should give you plenty of time to see everything.
–Under no circumstances do you want to get stuck anywhere near a Chinese tour group. Trust me.
–Don’t give in to the beggars. Going in and out of the temples are aggressive young kids that manage to speak a bit of French, English, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Khmer (at least) to try and sell you things. They’re just not as unfortunate as they make themselves out to look. You’re not saving a life by buying their postcards.