We arrived in Siem Reap after an easy 3 and a half hour bus ride from Battembang, however after getting up so early that morning to take a ride on the ‘bamboo train’ we were both shattered! We spent the night looking around the town and deciding to settle on an early night and get up early next morning to go visit Angkor Wat.
You can rent a tuk tuk driver for a day for around $15 however we decided to hire bicycles and ride into the temple and around it. We figured that way we could do it at our own pace and stop whenever we felt like it, at only $2 each for a whole day it also saved us quite a bit of money. It turned out to be a great decision however it’s not for the faint hearted. If the ride does not tire you out the heat most definitely will! We tried to beat the heat of the day by setting out at 8am, however 8am in Cambodia during March/April is still extremely hot with temperatures already nearing 30 degrees!
We cycled 6km out of town to the entrance point and payment area. The entry fee is probably one of the most expensive things you will do here in Cambodia. A day pass is $20 each, whilst a 3 day pass costs $40 and if you are really keen you can get a 7 day pass which will set you back $60. At the entrance you get a photo ID ticket which you must show at every temple you visit and also means you cannot pass the ticket on once you have finished with it.
Leaving the entrance we cycled another 3/4km to the starting point and the first temple… Angkor Wat. It was built in the 9th century by Khmer Kings as a monument of self-glorification and took around 300 years to complete and covered an area of around 25miles, all of which is filled with temples. Angkor Wat is one of the most famous temples in Asia and many people would recognise it even if they could not tell you what it is due to its distinctive towers which rise above the rest of the temple. It has always been a place on my ‘Bucket List’ of places I want to visit so I was quite excited!
We parked the bikes and were instantly surrounded by touts selling all sorts of merchandise, books and cold drinks and was just a glimpse of what was to come. We walked past them and onto the bridge which leads to the temple. It is a massive temple and quite unlike any temples I have been to on my travels. The three towers loom over the rest of the temple and is surrounded by a massive lake and looks exactly like a picture on a postcard, very beautiful!
Walking though the temple you could see stones where there were obviously
statues missing, listening in on a tour group we found out that this was another effect of the Khmer Rouge Regime. They believed that all religion, worship and Gods were corrupt and would take devotion away from ‘The Angkar’ as the government was known, in a way to stop and control this they destroyed all the religious statues such as the Buddha image within in temples. The temple itself was magnificent and it is hard to imagine just how impressive the temple would be if the statues still remained.
Walking around the temple we found a group of monkeys playing on a parked car, noticing the bottle of water in Andy’s hand they jumped all over him until they surrendered his water! Taking that as a sign we had finished Angkor Wat we decided to move onto the next temple.
Back on the bikes we cycled another 2km to “Bayon” or the temple known for having
faces carved into the stone walls. It was very beautiful and really made you think how they firstly managed to lift such heavy stones into place but also carve these massive faces onto the stones located so high up! By this point it was around 11am and the sweat was actually running off of us as though we had just run a marathon!! Not a nice feeling! We decided to take a pit stop and get out of the sun for a while. Throughout the whole park there are toilets and drink stalls however be warned the touts are very pushy! As we were slowing the bikes down to look for a place one tout literally ran after us trying to get us into their stall! It can become incredibly annoying especially as they do not take ‘no’ for an answer!
After a 15minute rest and a nice cold drink we got back on the bike and cycled another 3km to the other very famous temple within the park… Ta Phrom, or the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’. The temple is quite different to the other ones we had visited in the fact that it was all in ruins caused by trees! The temple is so old that trees have grown in and around the temple, however as the trees continued to grow they knocked down walls and even became part of the walls, the trees and huge and reach dizzy heights with their massive roots curving round the stone and growing into beautiful designs which cover the temple. The temple became popular after the film ‘Tomb Raider’ in which Angelina Jolie is searching for a lost key which is buried somewhere in Ta Phrom.
There is a scene in the movie where she slides down a massive tree with massive
roots which is one of the tourist hot spots in the temple with everyone wanting to get their picture underneath the tree. If you look hard enough you will also be able to find the face in the trees. A small stone face which is hidden amongst the roots of a tree; it is very small however the roots of the tree have grown perfectly around it to make it appear that the face is poking out of the tree.
As temperatures soared we had to call it a day, we got back on the bikes and started the 12km ride back into Siem Reap. By the time we arrived back to our hotel we were both completely shattered and needed a nap!
The temples were incredible and if you think you can hack it, hiring a bike is definitely worth it as you can go at your own pace and stop to take in more of the park as you go. However bike or no bike make sure you take plenty of water with you! We went with 4 bottles of water and had that finished by the time we had finished Angkor Wat!
One day was enough for me. The heat (especially at the hottest time of the year which we are in right now) makes staying out in the sun, walking about for too long very very difficult. The park is huge and has loads of temples you can visit however if you are not a massive temple person, mark out the ones you want to see before you go as they are all quite far apart and if you visit every one you will run out of time or bore yourself and not appreciate the ones you do visit. It has been my favourite place in Cambodia so far and it’s well worth the entrance fee to get in!
The rest of the day we spent looking around the massive markets located in the heart of the city and settled on an early night! At the markets I managed to pick up a book on the Khmer Rouge Regime which has really sparked an interest with me called “First They Killed My Father” all about a small girl who grew up during Pol Pot’s rule. It’s a very sad but interesting story and I have already finished it and would defiantly recommend it!
With our very quick stop in Siem Reap over its onto the capital city of Phnom Penh!