Things to do while visting the Temples of Angkor

The Temples of Angkor Wat sunrise

Taking the time to explore the Temples of Angkor by tuk-tuk from Siem Reap (including Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei, Angkor Thom, Bayon and Preah Khan) should be at the top of any list of things to do for those traveling in the Kingdom of Cambodia in search of culture, temples and Khmer traditional music.

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Our first suggestion is to wake-up early and experience a breathtaking sunrise at Angkor Wat. Although you won’t be sharing this alone (literally hundreds will be joining you) it’s still a unique experience that you can share collectively with others. Once you’ve taken the ‘classic shot’ of Angkor Wat, make sure to take the time to explore the temple and complex thoroughly. The sheer scale of Angkor Wat will blow your mind as this is the largest religious structure in the world.

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Dragging yourself out of bed and getting up before the crack of dawn is an absolute must if you want to avoid the dreaded package tourists who flock and clog the temples in ways that can’t be imagined. We were literally the first to arrive at Banteay Srei having left our guest house via tuk-tuk at 5 am. The benefits of being first on the scene included our own very private tour of what is normally a part of the temple that is off-limits to tourists.

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Preah Kahn was one of of our favorite temples in all of Angkor. It has a lot of similar features to Ta Prohm – the temple made famous by the movie Tomb Radier starring Angelina Jolie – without the mass crowds. Maze like corridors, Crumbling walls, piles of rubble and nature winning the battle over man made structures (in this trees overtaking walls) is what you’ll have to discover.

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There is no better way to get explore the Temples of Angkor than by tuk-tuk. We couldn’t help but notice those who decided to go by bicycle looking awfully fatigued and sun burnt trying to navigate on their own. The temples themselves are enormous (sometimes kilometers in length) and challenging enough on foot any given day. Thus, conserving your energy and letting an expert drive you around (in this case a autorickshaw driver) is an affordable and comfortable way to temple hop.

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When visiting some of the most popular temples, such as Ta Prohm, you’ll have the opportunity to listen to traditional Khmer folk music. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance and were happy to leave a small donation.

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The many faces of Bayon await those who visi the gigantic complex known as Angkor Thom. The stone cold faces with a hint of a smile are fascinating at both short and long proximity; however, Bayon can get overrun by tourists if you’re there shortly after sunrise, so we highly recommend going early in the morning.

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Ta Prohm is one of the most overrated temples of Angkor largely because of the movie Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie where it was featured prominently. Although it’s worth checking out, it’s the kind of place where you’ll feel swamped by tourists with very few places to seek refuge. Although it was one of the most impressive temples we visited it was hard for us to really appreciate it fully because of our inability to escape the human gridlock and noise pollution levels.

 

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  1. says: Jessica

    Good post and love the videos! But don’t totally agree with you on the bikes. The first two days we did with a tuk tuk, but the 3rd day we did it by bycicle because the temples were close to each other and I loved that you could hear the birds in the morning and at the end of the day when you were going back it cooled down and I think it’s a really nice experience to do it also by bike.

  2. says: Timmy X. Welch

    If you ever wondered what Angkor Wat might have looked like when it was first discovered overgrown by jungle a hundred and fifty years ago, then go to Prasat Beng Mealea. Some of the jungle vegetation has been cleared from inside the temple walls but it still remains serenely nestled in its jungle surroundings, which makes it picture perfect for some great photo shots. Whilst Angkor Wat and a number of other main temples near Siem Reap have had major restoration work done on them, Beng Mealea has been left mostly as it was found.

    1. says: Samuel

      Thanks for the tip, Timmy. If I ever make it back there a fifth time I’ll spend some more time exploring the ones that remain vastly unrestored. 😉

  3. says: Clarice Melendez

    Tuk tuks are one of the best forms of transportation in Siem Reap and they are used for most of our tours, because they are a great way to get around the Angkor temples, the town and surrounding areas. We would recommend using a tuk tuk for our Angkor tours, especially if you are travelling on your own or travelling with one or two other people. If there are 4 or more people in your group, then we would recommend a mini bus because with a tour guide there are too many people to fit into a tuk tuk. The Old Market and Pub Street is a short walk from our villa and guesthouse, but if you do need a tuk tuk for this short ride it should cost no more than US$1. One of our own tuk tuk drivers will usually be available when you need one.

  4. says: Leslie (Downtown Traveler)

    Cool idea of adding a video for each temple. Loved the ruins and you’ve really captured their charm 🙂

  5. says: Yenny

    In Thailand, fare on tuktuks can be quite expensive. I wonder how much is the flat rate in Cambodia, and how much it cost you to travel tuktuks from temple to temple?

    1. says: Samuel

      Yenny, tuk-tuk’s in Cambodia tend to be quite affordable. Typically you’ll have to bargain for a ride with your driver. Short rides within the city tend to be $1-2 and a half or full day trip is anywhere from $10-15 in my experience.

  6. says: Alex

    Great post, great videos!

    WOW Asia is really cool. I would like to visit Cambodia by bike. Do you think it would be too much of a risk?

    1. says: Samuel

      Hi Alex, thanks for commenting. I’ve known people who have done it by bike. It would certainly add to the adventure by doing it that way 🙂

  7. says: Karisa

    Ah, your sunrise footage is so beautiful!! Unfortunately, when I visited Angkor Wat, the sky was too cloudy to see the sunrise. I’m hoping to go back next year though and spend a whole week. I’m bound to see at least ONE sunrise in a week, right? PS I can’t believe Sam has been there 4 times!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂
    Happy Travels!!