The still very much secret Kingdom of Angkor, with its base in Siem Reap, remains one of the most popular attractions in Cambodia, so much that this destination is defined as one of the biggest religious sites in the world. It has stood the test of time for nine centuries, with further restorations, and in that time many different areas surrounding Angkor Wat have been discovered.
Before the rise of urbanisation, this land was known as the capital of the Khmer Empire. Since then, it has become the most popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia with over two million visitors each year. The price for entry to the UNESCO World Heritage Site is 20 USD a day or 40 USD for three days, which is plenty of time to explore the many sites within Angkor Wat and get your money’s worth.
It’s recommended to take a tuk tuk driver to take you around for the day as each site is a fair distance to reach on foot, but it’s not impossible, as you can also cycle to each site or go by foot. A tuk tuk driver for the day should cost no more than 10 USD. The best time to visit is just after the rainy season (months of November - May) to avoid getting drenched!
Get in early to see the pristine views
The most famous sight you see of Angkor Wat is also one of the first you’ll lay eyes upon when you reach Angkor Wat - the centerpiece. The beautiful pyres make your hairs stand on end as it’s truly a unique sight to behold when you first enter the park. For an added bonus, to avoid the crowds, you can head around the back of Angkor Wat and see the various other temples, or you can head to the main site to watch the sunrise.
From here, you can walk down the causeway to enter the centerpiece and begin exploring! You can easily spend hours in just this temple alone eyeing up the stone carvings, receiving blessings from monks and learning about the history of Angkor with handy signs dotted across the place so you can get clued in on its history.
Reclining Buddhas and peaceful walks
Heading to Baphuon and Bayon is a must. Baphuon is accompanied by another causeway that leads to the main site where you can see a reclining Buddha to the left of the temple. Surrounded by greenery and silence, you’re able to take a deep breath in as you explore these sites, much further away from the beaten tourist tracks.
From here, you can walk around to the famous site of Bayon, mainly known for its unique faces embedded into its stone structures, hence its alternative name being the Temple of Faces. With many stairs to climb and twists to reach the Bayon site, you’re duly rewarded for reaching the top, before making your ascent to the next temple after taking numerous photos. The best time to visit these temples would be in the early morning or around lunch time (12 - 2pm) to avoid the biggest load of crowds and to get the best shots.
Reveal your inner Lara Croft at Ta Prohm
A journey to Angkor Wat is never complete without a trip to Ta Prohm, famously shown in Angelina Jolie’s film Tomb Raider. Although it’s fair to say a lot of the reason people visit is because of Angelina’s presence, Ta Prohm is equally one of the most unique sights in Angkor.
To reach this site, takes a few minute’s walk before seeing the many trees that are now intertwined in the Angkor architecture that gives it the jungle appeal. Despite most of the site under renovation, its history is the most interesting part, serving as a monastery for over 3000 villages within the area in the 12th century and being a centre for gold and jewels. You can still feel like a super hero going through this star-studded part of Angkor Wat.
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Explore Angkor Wat - the diamond in the rough of Southeast Asia
Angkor Wat is on most people’s to-see list if they’re in Southeast Asia or Cambodia, but the best times to visit are definitely out of the rainy season and in the early morning to lunch time to avoid the onslaught of crowds that visit the site every day. It’s best to take the 40 USD three day pass so that you’re able to see most or all of the sites in Angkor, since you can easily spend hours exploring just one of the many sites!
Angkor Wat is truly a sight to behold in itself, and it serves as one of the most popular places to visit in Asia with a unique history, wondrous architecture and unique emotions that even the camera can’t capture. One final tip is to be wary of being overcharged in and around Angkor Wat for tuk tuk journeys, souvenirs and food, so be careful and be sure to bargain for the best prices.
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