Sunrises, Sunsets, Sandstone and Sprung. Angkor, What!

Tips

  • Go early and end early.  Start with a sunrise as the temples will be a lot less crowded.  Start with the busy ones first. (Angkor Wat and Bayon)
  • If you are going for sunrise or sunset get there early to get a spot and make sure you beat traffic.  Also, some sunset places restrict the number of visitors.
  • Bring a ton of water and snacks.  It’s a long day and incredibly hot.
  • Hire a guide and do your research.  A guide will get you places easier, show you some of the hidden gems and give you all of the useful knowledge you wouldn’t know by just looking at it. They also might help you down sketchy steps.
  • Dress modestly. Don’t be that person.  Respect the culture but make sure you have something light and breezy. Cover past your knees and shoulders. Swim coverups that aren’t see through work well.  They are breezy and comfortable.
  • Get a place with a pool and free breakfast.  After a long hot day it is a must. It’s also an early day so you will want the breakfast. You also don’t have to stay really close.  It’s a small city and easy to Tuk Tuk around. We stayed at a villa which was very inexpensive and one night at the Park Hyatt which had an amazing pool and food.
  • Fly, don’t take the bus.  The overnight buses are fine if you are trying to save money but you can run into traffic and it can be longer than they say.  After a full night on the bus, being hot and walking all day can be tough.  Take the 40 minute flight from Phnom Penh.
  • Get the 3 day pass and enjoy it.  Cramming it all into one day is too much. If you’re hot and tired go home and start again the next day.
  • Plan to spend one day at temples that are not near Angkor Wat.  There are plenty of hidden gems a little further away.
  • Check out Tonle Sap for sunset.  You can take a boat for $20 and they will take to you a crocodile island and let you hang out on the boat and watch the sunset.  BYOB and snacks.

Favorite Temples

King Jayavarman VII commissioned most of the temples you will see. There are over 1000 temples in Siem Reap.  I went over Khmer New Years in 2017 and while everything was crowded, it really wasn’t bad.  There were also concerts every night which made it a fun time to be in the city.  Beware, people squirt you with water and throw baby powder on you on the pub street. Just embrace it, it’s fun! These are my favorite temples in order of what I liked the most.

Beng Melea Jungle Temple

Beng Melea has not been restored at all.  It is like a huge jungle gym on which one can explore.  It is about an hour away from the other temples so I would plan a day to do this and Banteay Srei (30 min away) There is also a waterfall and park called Phnom Kulen near Beng Melea.  The road only goes up before 12pm and down after 12pm so plan accordingly.

Bayon

Bayon, which is located in Angkor Thom is a true masterpiece with 54 gothic towers with 216 faces of Avalokiteshvara. Because of it’s Eastward orientation, many people go in the morning but it is still quite beautiful in the afternoon.  It gets extremely crowded so you may want to go early.

Ta Prohm

Popular since being featured in Tomb Raider, this temple is still a must see because of the sprung trees.  This is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Preah Khan

This temple was designed by King Jayavarman in honor of his dad. A mythical place with many different sized doors and is very insta worthy.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world built by the King Suryavarman II.  It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple. Go for sunrise or sunset.

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Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom was established as the capital of King Jayavarmans VII empire.

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East Mebon

Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and is a beautiful temple with elephant statues at the corners of the 1st and 2nd floors.

Banteay Srei

Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, this temple is a site to see made out of mostly red sandstone.  It is known as Khmers precious gem.

Pre Rup

Similar to East Mebon and is right by it.  Go for the sunset.

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Neak Pean

An artificial island with a Buddhist temple on a circular island. It was originally designed for medical purposes.  Four pools represent Water, Earth, Fire and Wind.

Ta Keo

The first temple-mountain in Angkor. Possibly the first to be built entirely of sandstone. This one is a hike so if your exhausted, save this for another day.

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