Setting off from Bangkok at 7.30am, we finally arrived in Siem Reap around 8pm, after a lot of travelling, waiting around and getting our visas sorted. One thing which was starting to become apparent; the bus drivers always seem to have an agreement with the tuk tuk drivers, which is that they drop you off in the middle of nowhere, so you have no option to get a tuk tuk or walk about 15km, which is even too far for me and Caz!
So, reluctantly, we got a tuk tuk to our hostel, which actually turned out to be positive in the end, as the guy agreed to be our driver at 4.30am the next morning for us to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. As we had an early morning the next day we only managed to see a bit of the centre of Siem Reap, of course found some street food and then got an early night.
Our 4.30am alarm was definitely a struggle, but we were up and ready to go and see some temples. Unfortunately, the prices for Angkor Wat were increased in February 2017, so for a day ticket it was now $37, but however much this broke our daily budget we weren’t going to miss out. It was pitch black and actually pretty cold in the back of the tuk tuk on the way, so it was quite a relief when we arrived at Angkor Wat at about 5.30am ready for the sunrise. We got there just in time to get a good spot, where we were treated to some amazing shades of blues and pinks in the early morning sky.
Fortunately, it’s not until the sun starts to rise that people can actually enter the temple itself, with everyone congregating around the two ponds directly outside. Before heading into the inside of the temple, everyone stands behind one little cone as if a race is about to start, and shoots off as soon as one man says ‘okay’. Of course there’s always that one person slightly in front of the cone, ruining everyone’s pictures with the top of their head.
Stretching over 400km2, Angkor Archaeological Park is the home to the remains of Khmer temples, surrounded forests, ponds and moats. Being the largest religious temple in the world, Angkor Wat was so impressive to walk around, taking in all the archaeological structures that still remains some 900 years later. You cannot really get a grasp of the size of the place until you are actually there. Even then it is a struggle, and you can understand why many of the temples remained lost for hundreds of years. This was due to the incredible flat land, coupled with the dense jungle that surrounds the site. Unless you know the temples are there, you could easily wander straight past them! One way to get a sense of the scale is to climb up as high as allowed to see some amazing views.
A good option of a temple to do this at would be Baphuon. Although it may not get the most mentions, it was my favourite!! I found being at the top of this temple so atmospheric, looking out over the surrounding area, thinking about how they were built blew my mind and it is really mind boggling how it was all accomplished.
Each temple has a distinct style and features. One of the most famous temples is Ta Prohm, which is the one featured in the Tomb Raider movie from a few years ago. I would say that for pictures, this temple is up there with the best. Although you will almost certainly not see Angelina Jolie swinging abart. You will get some cool pics of trees trying to reclaim the temple ruins…
Our tuk tuk driver drove us between each of the temples and waited for us as long as we wanted to be at each one for $15, which seemed to be about the going rate. True to form, Caz even managed to fit a 5 minute nap in when driving to and from each place! By 1.30pm we’d visited what we were promised were the ‘main’ the temples. You could easily spend a week travelling around the whole site due to its size though. However, with the early morning and the 10-15km we had walked we were ready to go back to our hostel for an afternoon nap. For us personally, I think 7 hours of temple hopping in one morning, in 35 degree heat, was enough. But, I can completely understand how people stay here for a week just taking their time, exploring the whole complex. This was by far one of the best days yet for me and a bucket list moment to come and see this place, still Angelina could have showed up…..