Travel Tip 101: King Suryavarman II Sacred Site – Angkor Wat

Visa is attained upon arrival at the airport. It takes no more than 10 minutes. With the airport being no more than an open hall, you’ll see the immigration booth the moment you step off the runway into the building. Do bring along passport photos and possibly some other documents – please check this online. Frankly I paid little attention to it as I didn’t need a VISA.
like in ALL Asian countries {I have been to}, swamps you at the entrance … but a slight divergent, the only time I truly felt like a Hollywood star with throngs of people {taxi drivers included} lining up along the side of the roads that snakes as long your vision takes you was during the Hadj month in Indonesia. A repeated ‘performance’ {this time around I really thought I was some hot shot though I whispered to mom to not have eye contact or they will eat her!} was in Calcutta, also during the Hadj month.

Anyways, prices from the airport to town are pretty standard and is a widely known thing that the rates are published in the Lonely Planet*. Smiles and muscles aren’t going to change the rates, so don’t bother. Just make sure you get a decent vehicle because {mark my words here} chances are you’d end up with this driver for your Angkor Wat tour – they are persistent and have refined the art of holding the weakest travel mate of yours hostage voluntarily at the back of the taxi.

Given that you’re in a fix, it’s probably a good time to haggle for a fair rate to cover Angkor Wat for 3 days. Be prescriptive and precise on your intended sites – hence, you made the right thing to have read thus far and decided to stay with me. Angkor Wat is widely sprawled, so make sure you include the far-off temples in your negotiations. Most, if you do not insist, will stop their tour at Banteay Srei and confuse you with a kaleidoscope of tongue twisting, mind boggling names that although through some stroke of miracle your ears are able to pick up as different, your tongue would not be able to cooperate and reproduce the name despite how desperate you are to strike and argument and fight for your rights.
Take my word for it: It’s huge …
Ak Yum Krol Ko Preah Palilay
Angkor Thom Krol Romeas Preah Pithu Group
Angkor Wat Kutisvara Roluos Group
Bakong Lolei Spean Thma
Baksei Chamkrong Neak Pean Srah Srang
Banteay Kdei Phimeanakas Ta Keo
Banteay Prei Phnom Bakheng Ta Nei
Banteay Samre Phnom Krom Ta Prohm
Banteay Srey Phnom Kulen Ta Prohm Kel
Baphuon Prasat Bei Ta Som
Bat Chum Prasat Kravan Tep Pranam
Bayon Prasat Prei Terrace of the Elephants
Beng Melea Prasat Suor Prat Terrace of the Leper King
Chapel of the Hospital Prasat Top (East) Thma Bay Kaek
Chau Say Tevoda Prasat Top (West) Thommanon
East Mebon Pre Rup Wat Athvea
Kbal Spean Preah Khan West Baray
Kleangs (North and South) Preah Ko West Mebon
Anyways, I would recommend you to go on till Beng Mealea {if the incremental cost is not too steep, since it is 40 km east of the main group of temples} but forget Kbal Spean unless you are making a documentary on phallus worshiping in ancient civilization. However, if you do miss Beng Mealea – errr… well, it’s a shame really but as a consolation, it’s pretty similar to Ta Phrom {Tomb Raider was made here}; just more remote, surreal, serene and untouched, with the exceptions of some wooden platforms built by Jean Jacques Annaud’s crew for his french movie ‘Two Brothers’ filming.
Photo © Penelope Gan – All Rights Reserved – Bayon Temple, Siem Reap, CAMBODIA
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Day 1
{arriving @ Siem Reap shortly after lunch (in scorching heat)}
 A good place to start to understand and better appreciate the temples of Angkor – USD 9
get your Angkor Wat Tickets and off to catch the sunset View
Passes are sold at the main gate/office at 4pm. Get the 3-day pass – USD 40
A fairly straight forward process. Line up. Sit down {in a row with probably 12-14 other people}. Smile for the mug shot {up to you really. Frown if that makes you happy} … hand over the greenback and presto! your pass is made on the spot. Once this is done, you’d be taken on a uphill trek through the jungle and on top of ruins {rocks that were once a temple} that lies opposite Angkor Wat to witness the sunset on Angkor Wat – Mountain Bakend. It’s spectacular, but word of caution, don’t get too carried away. The moment the sun sets, scramble down the ruins before it gets too dark and dangerous.

Oh, worth mentioning, you’d be harassed by tour guides/drivers/tourist touts at the gates {if you haven’t yet at the airport/town} to take their services at the ticket office.
Dinner-Apsaras Dance Performance
The dinner and Apsara Dance performance is generally sold in the package. The incentive to drop the performance is hardly worth the effort. Just go with the flow and select the more popular and bigger production. Be sure to book early to get good seats for good photography. And if you can’t do it on your own, assign your driver. He can’t rip you off – the prices are again pretty standard, published in Lonely Planet and guest what? its stamped on your entrance ticket.
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Day 2
Angkor Temples (part 1)

Angkor Wat
This will take you about 0.5 day.
Start early. Leave the compound about 11am.
Avoid all kids. Bare footed. Booger dripping. Crying. Orphaned / ‘Orphaned’ and head for …
Stop for lunch – there’s quite a number of stalls along the way and in front of Banteay Srei. Try the Amok Fish. If you can get hold of a refreshing glass of Roselle, get it.

Then, proceed to the “Great City” of Angkor Thom, covering the famous Bayon Temple, Phimeanakas Temple within the Royal Palace enclosure, Baphuon Temple, the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. It will be nice to end the tour at Bayon Temple and stay till the sun sets – the slants of lights peeping through the forest and shadows cast by the faces are just so Manoj Nelliyattu {M Night} Shyamalan movie-eerie.
Old City
Hang around the Old City in the evening and night {if you are not staying there}. Lots of decent pubs and bars; probably the most popular one being Red Piano {thanks to Angelina Jolie who hung-out there} and Foreign Correspondent Club. For other restaurants, cafe and pubs click HERE.

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Day 3
Angkor Temples (part 2)
Visit of a selection of temples, including the Royal City of Preah Khan {impressive sculptures}, Neak Pean (built on a small circular island), Ta Som, East Mebon and Preah Rup in the morning.

Continue with Thommanon temple, Ta keo {one of Angkor’s great temple mountains}, Ta Prohm {part of the jungle – Tomb Raider}, Banteay Kdei, Srah Srang {Royal bathing place}, Prasat Kravan. 
If time and energy permits, visit Les Chantiers Ecole. A handicraft center located in the center of Siem Reap to revive that ancient Khmer art and gives young people the opportunity to learn the art of stone, wood carving, and silk weaving. Unless you a flush with cash, do not buy anything. Expensive! Get them in the markets.
Old City
Explore the less trodden back lanes and witness lives of the people. Eat at the night market if you stumble upon one. 
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Day 4 
{assuming you are off to Phomn Penh}
Take either the bus or speed boat. Whilst the boat allows you to see the live on Tonle Sap, the speed boat leaves at 7am, which means you’d have to leave your hotel by 6am. It takes about 5 hours and do enjoy the locust-dipped-in-honey snack food sold on the boats. 

If that’s enough to put you off and hop on the bus, there are many bus companies running services frequently to Phomn Penh. The journey takes about 6 hours. But, like the locust, you’d get deep fried tarantulas sold as aphrodisiac on the road – a favourite amongst drivers!

Alternatively you may include it as part of your negotiation package with your driver. I would put a premium on this door-to-door service! as Phomn Penh is slightly less friendly than Siem Reap, being a bigger and much busier city.

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errr… I won’t go into hotels here. I stayed in a rather pricey boutique hotel.
Gimme a break. I am into boutique hotels.
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* Lonely Planet {illegal reprints in low quality} are sold all over Siem Reap at a laughable low price. If I were you, and if you were me {8kg camera equipment}, I’d get my copy of Cambodia upon arrival.
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For the briefest ever restoration ‘history’ on Angkor Wat, hop on to my photoblog: 
Penelope Gan | Photo Blog




14 thoughts on “Travel Tip 101: King Suryavarman II Sacred Site – Angkor Wat

  1. Of course I wouldn't mind! (ahem. some free meals I could ride on! lol)The thing is Angkor Wat and the other temples are not in this year's travel plans. I've always wanted to go back and take some more photos and immerse myself longer in the temples I like since the first trip was about 'I must visit every single temple' which is a crazy ambition … succeeded though! Including the river full of phallic on its bed.I've got too many things happening this year and will be away for parts of Q2 and Q3 as well – work related.Maybe later – in a couple of years perhaps. This post is for a friend who's going with his entourage of friends. :)

  2. keat – oic.i was thinking u were waiting for 'em to discover tomes next! lolBen – thanks for dropping by.Unfortunately I am not a photographer. Just a girl with some 'glasses' and 2 bodies. So, no I don't organise workshops but there are a number available and I feature those that attend on the left hand bar of my blog.I am sure you'd be able to find some nice workshops to angkor.

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