Visiting Angkor Wat

outside Ta Prohm
Many people have a visit to the famed Angkor Wat as part of their bucket list. I have a Things to Do Before I Die List and it's definitely been on there for some years. When my friend told me he was heading there last month, I was a bit jealous. Then I got an awesome airfare and ended up joining him.

There are several, general misconceptions that people often have about visiting Angkor Wat that I shared myself. One is that it is a single temple. (Wat, by the way, means "temple".) This is partially true. There is a temple called Angkor Wat, but it is only one in a group of temples that make up the Angkor Wat park. That's why it can take you several days if you are a person who wants to see it all. The park sells tickets to suit those desires. One day is $20, three days are $40, and seven days are $60. Keep in mind that there is a rumor that the prices will be doubling in 2017. 

A visit at the park requires an early start as the afternoon heat can be brutal. Bring a large liter of bottle per person minimum! You need to drink a lot of water to avoid heat stroke! Many people like to go super early for the sunrise or go late for the sunset, but keep in mind that the park does close at 5 p.m.

Dress appropriately, especially women. If you want to enter temples, you must have cap sleeves, no strappy tops! You also have to have down to your kneecaps covered, by skirt or pants. If you want to climb to the top of the temples, you are better off buying some of those loose Cambodian pants. The stairs are very steep and we saw women being turned away for having skirts. Perhaps because people could look up your skirts as you climb the stairs. 

Let's talk about how to get there, which will generally be tuk tuk if you are going yourself or just a few people. You can always pay more for the big, guided tour buses, but they aren't necessary. There are two recommended routes for the park. The short route takes in the three most popular temples. This is the route we did and it took us from 6:30 a.m. to noon and then I was absolutely exhausted from the heat. The large route hits many other smaller temples. The short route will be about $12-15 from the tuk tuk driver depending on your negotiating skills. If you go with a tuk tuk that is tied to a particular small hotel (like part of their extended family), then it could go down as low as $10. We paid $12.  The long route will generally go for about $15-20. The tuk tuk will drop you off at one side of a temple and then tell you that they will meet you at the exit end of the temple grounds. 

The first thing you'll do is stop at the park's ticket office to purchase your park pass. Keep it on you at all times as it will be checked at each temple you visit. If you wish to buy a guidebook, wait until you get to the park and buy it from a local. It costs them $5 to buy it, so the lowest you will get it is $6-7, but if you can, be nice and give them $10 for it. After all, they need the money more than you.

Speaking of shopping, if you want to buy clothes and souvenirs, you can actually bargain lower prices within the park than in town.

Our first stop Ta Prohm, one of the temples that the government has left a lot of the jungle around and over it. You'll see all sorts of giant trees growing over walls.

Bayon was our next stop. It looks largest on the map, because it included all the surrounding land, but the temple itself was not as large as Angkor Wat. Bayon was built by the favorite, benevolent king, King Jayavarman VII. He is known for building over 100 hospitals and just as many rest houses along the major routes throughout the country. 

Angkor Wat behind me

Finally, Angkor Wat. It is definitely the largest temple restored. Sadly many of the carvings have been defaced by artifact thieves. A sculpture of an aspara, heavenly dancer, might have it's head missing because thieves have come in during the night and hacked it off. Ankor Wat park is too large to be patrolled and secured at night. 

Overall a good visit. By noon I was feeling the onset of heat exhaustion - achy muscles and minor headache. I was spent. So remember, take a lot of water!