Most of you have probably heard about Angkor Wat (in fact, it’s probably the only temple – aside from the one from the movie Tomb Raider – that most people know of) in Siem Reap, Cambodia, but there are actually hundreds of temples scattered throughout the area. It’s not surprising that one of the main reasons people flock to Siem Reap is to witness and walk through these temples first hand. I would recommend spending two days touring the temples – the first of which you’ll get to visit Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom (specifically, Bayon), and Ta Prohm (the temple from Tomb Raider). Below is a guide of what you can expect on this tour; everything from hiring a driver, paying for your entrance fee, what to wear, and what the three temples are like.
Given that Angkor Wat is one of the largest and most popular temples in Siem Reap, it’s no surprise that this temple is absolutely teeming with tourists (as you can clearly see from the first photo above) at every minute of the day. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but I really had to try to block out all of the other tourists (going over Chinese New Year was a big mistake), both mentally and literally. It’ll likely take an hour or so to meander through Angkor Wat and longer if you plan on queuing to walk up to the tallest tower in the temple (the queue was at least an hour long when I was there). Many people want to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat to get that beautiful photo in the reflection pond, but I wasn’t up for it after hearing that you literally had to crawl your way through the crowds to the front of the pond so that the thousands of people behind you weren’t in your photos (click here to see what I’m talking about). I found the sheer size of Angkor Wat to be quite impressive, but I was actually more awe-struck by the next two temples.
Angkor Thom (Bayon)
Upon entering Angkor Thom, you’ll find a few ruins scattered about, but it’s Bayon that everyone goes to see. The outside of Bayon seems rather plain and surprisingly didn’t have many tourists around. That’ll all changed after you walk into the inner section of the temple where there are literally hundreds of people walking about and pushing their way through the small paths around the various structures. Needless to say, even though I really did love the temple, I didn’t last more than 20 minutes inside.
Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider Temple)
The last temple we went to visit on our tour was Ta Prohm, otherwise known as the temple from the Tomb Raider movie. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem like there were as many tourists wandering about, but that might have been because there were quite a few nooks and cranny’s you could get lost in while wandering around. What sets this temple apart from the other two were all of the spung trees coming up from the ruins throughout the grounds. While they certainly give the temple an added wow-factor, we were told that they’re actually damaging the temples. You’ll likely leave Ta Prohm with a strong urge to (re-)watch Tomb Raider.
Hiring a driver, entrance fees, and appropriate dress
Hiring a driver:
There are quite a few options you have in terms of getting to and around the temples. First, you need to decide whether you want to go on an actual tour (usually organized by the hotel you’re staying at) or if you want a private driver. Given the reasonable price, I would recommend hiring a private driver, as it gives you the freedom to go at your own pace and to stop anywhere you may be interested in along the way. Next, you need to decide whether you want a taxi or a tuk tuk to take you around (the taxi being more expensive). I really enjoyed taking a tuk tuk around, and felt it added to the whole experience, though in some parts it was a bit bumpy and dusty. Prices were USD$15 for this tour on a private tuk tuk and USD$30 for a private taxi.
When I went, the prices were USD$20 for one day or USD$40 for three days (there are no two-day passes). However, as of February 1st 2017, a one day entrance pass is USD$37 and a three-day pass is now USD$62. Your driver will take you to the building to buy your entrance fee before you head to the temples. Be warned; it’s crammed with tourists and you get your photo taken, which goes on your temple pass card.
Be aware that there is a dress code when entering all of the temples in Siem Reap. Women must cover their shoulders and wear pants or a skirt that covers their knees. Men are okay to wear shorts, and both females and males are allowed open-toe shoes. They are quite strict about peoples’ dress – I saw a woman wearing a skirt that was a bit above her knees and a security guard told her to pull it down. I also heard stories that wearing a tank top and draping a scarf around your shoulders or wearing shorts and tying a sarong around your waist was not okay.
Did you have a similar experience at these temples? Let me know what you liked or didn’t like when you went on this temple tour!