With just a few days left in South East Asia, we still had an important stop to make – the Temples of Angkor.
Back when Angkor was the heart of the Khmer Empire it was home to over 1 million people, and the vast number of temples remaining in the area are only a fraction of what would have been there when the city was in its prime. The most iconic of the temples still standing is Angkor Wat, the largest religious building in the world, and strongly remains as the Khmer’s national symbol.
We made sure to leave more than one day to explore what Angkor has to offer, and it is quite overwhelming trying to decide what to see, and the best way to see it. Whilst bicycles may be ridden around the site, only locals may ride scooters or motorbikes, so we decided it would be best to see everything by tuk tuk as the area is far too large to make an attempt to walk.
Our first two nights in Siem Reap were spent at the HI Hostel. They were very helpful right from the start and emailed almost straight after I booked offering to collect us on arrival from Phnomh Penh, and the staff couldn’t have been quicker to jump up and help with our bags when we arrived! After being given a very refreshing iced tea (I’ve certainly never been given an arrival beverage in a hostel before!) they helped us to our room, which was very spacious and clean, with twin beds and a private bathroom. We even thought they’d left us chocolates on the pillows – but a word of warning, these were actually soap… A basic breakfast was included, and we were only a very short walk from the centre of Siem Reap, and the very busy “pub street”.
We were recommended a two day itinerary to see as many of the temples as possible, starting with a large loop of the outer temples on day 1, and kicking off day 2 with sunrise at Angkor Wat and taking a smaller loop of the inner area. Sounding like a plan, they quickly arranged one of their resident tuk tuk drivers for us. After inviting along Nathan, who we met moments before, we set off on our way. The hostel does have a board up where people can leave messages if they’re trying to find people to visit the temples with, as it does work out more cost effective to go with more people where possible – the tuk tuks can take up to 4 people.
Tickets are required for any visit, and may be purchased at the entrance for either 1, 3 or 7 day passes. Keep this handy for the day, as there are wardens frequently checking passes, and as they have your photo printed onto them, there’s definitely no way to escape having a ticket (as they take the photos there and then, I must say mine was not the most delightful photo I’ve ever seen…)
I could talk for days about everything we saw, but I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. Day one was very impressive, and took us to places a lot of people don’t visit when only spending one day in the area. Ta Som turned out to be a smaller version of the temple I was most excited for; Ta Prohm (as featured in Tomb Raider) only with half as many crowds, which possibly gives it the title of my favourite temple – quite a bold claim with so many to choose from. As much as the giant structures and incredibly intact carvings we saw are amazing, there is something so fascinating seeing the more run-down temples where its almost as though nature is attempting to take back the land which as been built upon by man.
All of this took us several hours to peruse, and I was more than ready for a steaming bowl of noodle soup as we watched a torrential downpour roll in. With a 4am start ahead of us the next morning, it was a quiet night in Siem Reap, where we discovered has numerous restaurants all aimed at westerners, so we had some real trouble looking for some Cambodian cuisine!
Day two had even more adventures to come…
With kindest regards,