If you are contemplating traveling in Southeast Asia, undoubtedly Angkor Wat will be part of your planning. Built by the Khmer Empire somewhere in the 9th century, it remains the largest and arguably most important architectural site in the region.
The iconic three towered entrance to Angkor Wat welcomes you to the temples, and immediately you are drawn into a place that is different, exotic, and mesmerizing.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site – Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Everywhere you look there are intricate carvings- some with the paint still clinging to them, Buddhist shrines and offerings, and of course throngs of tourists. The carvings tell stories of the empire, and you can see how rich it was with the King riding elephants, and contorted dancers to entertain. It makes me want to sit down and watch “Anna and the King” again.
The site which was inscribed on the UNESCO Heritage List in 1992 is well set up for tourists. As you enter, your first choice is whether to buy a one day or three day pass. We bought the three day, and my question was after the first day, was it enough? Before going I didn’t realize not only how many buildings and complexes were part of the site, but also how spread out they were.
We were amazed at the architecture, and rightfully so. Look at the photo on the left. Jim has climbed the steps and is not even at the top, but he is really far away. The sheer size is mind-boggling. The same was true when we climbed to the sunrise lookout point (with 1,000) other like-minded tourists early on the second day. Many folks rode elephants, and it was somewhat disconcerting knowing these huge beasts were sharing the path with you in the dark, but what was more surprising is how far and how high the temple was away from the entrance. We climbed and climbed and climbed, and all before 7:00 AM.
The other surprising thing was how different each temple, each building, each carving was. We were overwhelmed at the artistry, the intricacy of the carvings.
The first two days, we hired tuk tuks from our hostel to take us around. The drivers spoke pretty good English, and they were very informative. Not guides, they instead regaled us with (horror) stories of life in Cambodia. One of the drivers was a teacher, which of course I’m always interested in, and he told us that he made more money, by far, as a tuk tuk driver. As a teacher he made about the equivalent of 10 dollars per month.
We were very happy to have our tuk tuks for the first couple of days as they knew where to take us. One of the most important temples Angkor Thom, we didn’t get to until later in the afternoon. We were thrilled to see the trees and roots, even though they are doing considerable damage to the site.
Visiting all the major sites, stopping and talking to the people who live in the park, buying lunch at the shopping tents, and just getting a general feel of the place was how we approached the first couple of days.
The last day, we rented electric bikes and explored on our own, revisiting sites we needed to spend more time in, as well as discovering hidden corners that we didn’t really think much about the first few days. It was a convenient and fun way to spend the last day on site.
We were more than happy to buy the three day pass to Angkor Wat, but I’m not sure it was even enough. I think I could have spent more time there. What do you think?
Have you been to Angkor Wat?