Guide: Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is the largest religious complex in the world with dozens of ruins to explore. It was once the center of the Khmer empire that ruled all of Southeast Asia. Now, this ancient city is the flagship attraction in Cambodia, and you can easily understand why the locals are so proud of this beautiful heritage site.
- 5 million tons of sandstone were used to build Angkor Wat
- It took 300,000 laborers and 6,000 elephants over 35 years to build the complex
- Paramount Pictures paid over $10K a day to film "Tomb Raider" at Angkor
Things to Know:
- Passes are sold as 1-day [$20], 3-day [$40] or 7-day [$60] options. The 3-day pass is valid for one week, i.e. 3 days to be used within the week, not necessarily consecutively. The 7-day pass is valid for one month, i.e. 7 days to be used within the month, not necessarily consecutively.
- Visiting hours are 5:00AM - 6:00PM
- Even though it is jam packed crowded, it doesn’t change how incredible it is
Fly in to the Siem Reap airport or catch a bus to the Capitol Bus Station just outside of city center
- Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Sometimes, the obvious things are the best things. This one is truly spectacular. No matter how much you wanna hit snooze, get your ass out of bed and head over to the main temple for sunrise at least once. If you’re a photography buff, or even an instagram aficionado, then you’re definitely in for a treat. Be prepared though, it’s kind of a zoo and there will be so many people lined up…just staring and watching a temple in silence. We lol.
- Sunset at Angkor Wat
Sunset is runner up to sunrise. The entrance faces West so the sun is behind you in the evening, creating a stunning glow on the temple. The crowds will start to fizzle and the sky lights up a pinky-orange in the Cambodian heat.
- Bicycles are for…tourists!
Most people opt for hiring a tuk tuk to get around, with good reason. It’s hot, there’s a lot to see and the complex is massive. However, if you’re feeling adventurous and not worried about time, then definitely consider renting bikes in town for $1/day. The bikes are questionable, but they do the trick and usually come with a lock and basket. By riding bikes through the grounds, you can stop when you want, explore wandering paths and get some exercise while you’re at it. We used our bicycles to get to the Tomb Raider gate and it was totally worth the terrible [read: awesome] photo shoot that took place.
- Get face to face with history
We used to think being two faced was bad, until we saw Angkor Thom. Ok bad joke, this place is freakin’ awesome. This city is home to The Bayon temple, which is most well known for its 54 towers and 216 faces of Avalokiteshvara. We were told to come just after sunrise, but kept fudging up the timing and wound up visiting in the afternoon. Lucky for us, it was way less crowded this way and incredibly beautiful with the light shining directly on the faces. The structure feels like a maze [or an ideal place for hide and seek], and built over 3 levels that are equally as interesting with hints of Hinduism and early Buddhism scattered in the hallways and rooms.
- Wander aimlessly
Everywhere you turn to in this world heritage site is another pile of innocent looking bricks. But the reality is that everything in this complex has history and is incredibly unique. We say put down your guidebook and roam free. Walk the grounds until you can't feel your legs, have a sit at the Elephant terrace to let the insanity of the structures start to sink in. Let yourself process the sights you are seeing and truly appreciate the history of these old ci
- Visit Ta Prohm
If this place wasn’t so majestic, we’d say forget it based on the crowds alone. But alas, the crowd knows best. This temple is covered in jungle, with roots crawling over doorways, old bricks and wrapping through the walkways. Unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, this is an excellent place to stop and wonder how the hell anything in the world like this actually exists. Plan to be in awe, and stay ahead of any incoming tourist groups [hint: they will be in packs and most likely have a leader with a flag]. If you are into trees or plant life, prepare to feel a happiness like you’ve never experienced before.
- Check out the villages around Ankor Wat
We thought it would be a really good idea to go look at the West Baray outside the main temple area. Thankfully we had a tuk tuk driver who offered to save us from making this big mistake and offered to bring us to his village instead. Best decision ever. He showed us around, and introduced us to his family who cooked us lunch. Cambodian’s are some of the friendliest people on the planet [that’s actually a fact], and we have a sneaky suspicion this particular tuk tuk driver wasn’t an exception. Ask around and you just might find someone willing to give you a taste of the local life around Angkor Wat. It was eye opening, and worth the bumpy trek out along a dirt road into nowhere.
- Play mini golf at Ankgor Putt
Yep, you read that right. Angkor Putt is a mini golf course conveniently located far enough outside of town that you’ll need to hire a tuk tuk to get you there. Lucky for you and every other tourist, this place is worth the trip when you are in need of another activity besides stuffing your face with banana pancakes from street vendors at night [disclaimer: we fully support this type of behavior on the regular]. This is a full on mini golf course with 18 holes all designed as the temples of Ankgor Wat. What’s more is that the dude who runs the place has installed buzzers at each hole that you can ring for a beer delivery. Think it can’t get any better? Well, every hole-in-one gets a free Ankgor Beer. Count us in.
Jess and Julie are partners in adventure. After a few years of doing the whole working at a desk thing, they decided it was time to drop the mic. They left their day jobs and took off, one-way ticket in hand. Since then, Jess and Julie have traveled to 26 countries (+ counting) and created Wanderlove to give you a reliable source of travel tips, advice and inspiration. Be sure to check out their website www.wanderloveworld.com and keep up with their travels on Instagram @wanderloveworld