If there is one thing Cambodia is known for, it is the beautiful temples that are located in and around Siem Reap. The most famous as we all know, is Angkor Wat, a temple built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. However, there are many other temples in the area that are just as if not even more beautiful. Make sure to read up on the temples before you get there. Each temple has its own story and characteristic.
As Cambodia transitioned from a Hinduism to Buddhism, the distinct difference between the two religions and this unique blend of the two religions is something to admire. Some things will come off distinctly hindi or distinctly buddhist but there is always that weird mixture of the two that almost play off of each other making it a one complete culture and religion itself. As you follow the trails of time through the different temples, it is as if you are witnessing the transition itself. I won’t go too much into the history and the stories since it’s long, I can never fit it in a post and all it takes is for you to do a quick Google search and read through a few links. But if you do want a quick summary of it all, check out this awesome blogpost, An Intro to Angkor, by a fellow travel blogger. She put all the important information together very well and it’s an easy, quick read!
The best way to travel, I would say, is to rent out a tuk-tuk for the day. Since there were four of us, we decided to pay a tuk tuk driver around $15 altogether. People usually pay around $15 to $20 but really, $15 is more than enough – if you think about how much these tuk tuk drivers make per day without a deal like this, it is nothing close to $15. Since Siem Reap is full of tourists, they tend to try to rip you off. Just ask around a few people, ask the hotel and once you have an idea of how much you would like to pay, set your foot down. Remember, there are plenty of tuk tuk drivers around. Of course, if you call ridiculous prices, you might want to recheck instead of getting rejected by all the drivers. Having your own tuk tuk is easy and convenient. You don’t have to constantly bargain and try to tell new tuk tuk.
Before you visit the temples, you buy a day pass or a 3-day pass. A day pass is $20 per person for foreigners and free for Khmers. Sidetrack: When we went to buy tickets, the staff thought that I was Khmer and tried to let me in for free. I told them that I didn’t have a Khmer ID and they genuinely looked sad that I had to pay $20. That really made my day – I feel bad for playing along and pretending that I was Khmer but I couldn’t stop smiling at their kindness and I was also happy at how tanned I must have looked. :P
Anyway, back to my point. 3-day pass is $40. Since we were only there for two more days, it really wasn’t worth it to buy a 3-day pass. So we each got a one-day pass and headed to the temples.
Since Angkor Wat is one of the main temples, we made that our first stop. We then moved on to Angkor Thom, Bayon Temples, Banteay Srey and Ta Prohm – which I will discuss more in detail in my next post!
Few things to remember:
- It can get very hot – VERY HOT. It’s not easy to find shade in Cambodia so make sure to cover yourself and drink a lot of water.
- Yes, it is hot but make sure you are dressed appropriately. Cover yourself a little bit more than you would on a hot summer day at a beach. This is important not just because it’s a little rude to not cover yourself when visiting religious sites but especially because if you are going to visit the top at Angkor Wat (The guards will not let you go up).
- You don’t have to rush – take your time in each of the places and really appreciate and enjoy each temples. They are very different from each other even though from the outside it might look the same. Just remember to take your time, don’t rush and take breaks in between.
- Drinking is important but eating is important too. I realized that the heat and the amount of water I drink prevents me from feeling hungry. Every time I go to visit the temples, I forget to eat. Not good. So take time to eat even if you are not hungry.
- Time is valuable when you are traveling but not when you are not feeling well. You need to take care of yourself first so after your visits to the temples, don’t torture yourself and push through exploring more places… stay indoors, take a nap, go for a swim, eat.. just relax and take a break. Your trip will be so much better when you are well rested.