The last day of our 9-day temple run was spent on exploring the Angkor Archaeological Park before going home. The itinerary for the day was to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, have a heavy breakfast, then go on the standard Mini Tour which covers the major temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park. Unfortunately, the tuktuk driver we booked didn’t show up at the agreed time. (Good thing we haven’t paid that driver yet.) With the help of the excellent receptionist at our hostel, we were able to flag down a tuktuk driver who agreed to bring us around for USD 20. (The hotel quoted us USD 30 for the same tour.) Sadly, the sun was pretty much up by the time we got to Angkor Wat.
After having breakfast, we finally started with the mini tour. Some tips from our tuktuk driver:
- Please don’t lose your Angkor Archaeological Park pass. This is checked by guards in all of the temples.
- If somebody in the temple offers you a tour, don’t expect it to be free.
- Actually, nothing in Siem Reap is free. Even those offering you to light an incense in the numerous small rooms are expecting a tip.
There’s a reason why the Angkor Wat is on a lot of people’s bucket list and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Angkor Wat is huge and wonderfully restored. There are thousands of sculptures and statues everywhere. It would’ve been nice to have a guide to talk about the history and explain the story of each of the beautiful murals. We spent 2 hours exploring the place on our own before heading back to the hotel for breakfast before continuing the mini tour.
When we got to Angkor Wat, a guy who introduced himself as “007 James Bond” approached us and said that the lake at the left side of the entrance is a good vantage point for taking a nice photo of the Angkor Wat. He then told us to visit his food stall (Stall No. 7) in the complex when we have time then left us to speak to another group. He seems to be nice, so we looked for his stall after touring Angkor Wat.
He’s a pretty cool guy. He volunteered to take photos of us with the Angkor Wat at the background. He obviously does this all the time since he’s familiar with the camera settings and which area the subject should stand. We got a really nice group photo for a $1.00 cup of coffee so all is good. Do drop by stall no. 7 to look for James Bond: Licensed to Coffee.
Bayon is the poster temple of the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park. Whenever people think about Angkor Wat, first thing that will come into mind is the “stone faces”. The temple is definitely impressive and beautifully restored.
However, the sheer number of tourists makes it hard to take a good photo. Staring too long at a face will get you a tap on the shoulder from a tourist who wants to take a photo with the massive stone faces.
Ta Keo is a 5-tier pyramid structure with five towers built at the uppermost tier. Climbing up the stairs is a challenge because of the narrow, high stone steps, some of which are a bit slippery because of erosion. Climbing down is also hard for those with fear of heights. So is the climb worth it? Not really. All you see is a sea of trees. But I do agree that it’s different from the other temples we visited in the archaeological park. Viewing it from the ground is good enough.
P.S. When we visited, the site was being restored so there are sections that are closed to the public. There’s also a crane and some pieces of canvas covering some of the stones.
Ta Phrom was made famous by Tomb Raider. Like Angkor Wat and Bayon, the place is filled to the brim with tourists and is a mandatory stop in all of the Siem Reap tours. The trees are gorgeous and the sculptures are very nicely restored. Personally, if I want to visit a “jungle temple”, I’d rather visit Beng Mealea because it’s quieter and you’re allowed to explore the corridors under the roots of the trees. I just think that it feels more natural.
Compared to the previous larger temples, Banteay Kdei was pretty much deserted when we got there. There were no tourists and just a handful of souvenir / drinks vendors. The tuktuk driver said it’s because the temple was small and is in an advanced state of disrepair. Nonetheless, it is a nice place to visit and to take pictures without other tourists in the background. The courtyard in the front of the temple is a quiet place to rest and relax. Exploring the maze-like corridors alone gives off this mystical feeling you don’t get when exploring the larger, noisier temples.
After visiting the last site, we ate lunch at the tuktuk driver’s friend’s place then went back to our hostel for a nap since our flight was delayed. The receptionist allowed us to pay half the price for a room for 3 people since we’re only staying for 6 hours. When I go back to Siem Reap, I’ll definitely stay in Bliss Villa again.
Here ends our temple run across Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. It’s been a really great trip. Thank you to my travel buddies Z and L for the company and the pictures! Until the next trip, ciao!
Siem Reap expense
|Bread for breakfast from The Blue Pumpkin||2.5|
|Tuktuk: Sunrise + Mini Tour ($20 + $5 tip for 3 pax)||8.5|
|Angkor Archaelogical Park 1-day pass||20|
|Coffee at James Bond 007 in Angkor Wat grounds||2|
|Lunch (at a nameless restaurant)||3.5|
|Additional half-day stay in Bliss Villa because of delayed flight ($10.5 for 3 pax)||3.5|
|Dinner at Taste for Life||2|
|Tuktuk from hotel to airport ($7.5 for 3 pax)/td>||2.5|