Most people have seen the iconic photo of sunrise over the 12th century temple complex of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat has always fired the imagination, images of Indiana Jones like hero’s hacking their way through impenetrable jungle to find a hidden treasure from lost civilisations is the stuff of dreams.
With these images in mind we set off to discover Angkor Wat for ourselves. Here are just some of the things to do in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Travelling to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
- Travelling to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
- What to see and do in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
- Visiting Angkor Wat
- Dawn at Angkor Wat
- Angkor Wat Highlights
- Where to stay in Siem Reap
- Do you need a Visa for Travel to Cambodia?
- Summary of Things to do in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
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What to see and do in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
Arriving in Siem Reap
We arrived in Siem Reap after a 25-hour bus trip from Chiang Mai in Thailand, to say we were tired was an understatement but we wanted an adventure and that is exactly what we got.
After washing away the dust from our journey, we headed out into the night. A short walk from our hotel we stumbled upon the clothing stalls, massage spas and street food of Siem Reap Night Market. After having a good look around, we set off to explore more of Siem Reap.
Dodging Tuk Tuks, motorbikes and cars and we came to the dazzling multi coloured lights of Pub Street, Siem Reap’s most lively attraction.
In Pub Street we joined the throng of tourists getting a taste of Siem Reaps nightlife, restaurants and bars. Here we had the chance to finally relax with a beer and cocktail while tucking into the traditional Khmer curry dish of Fish Amok, simply delicious!
Exploring Siem Reap Market
I love early morning walks, they are the best way to discover the soul of a city and Siem Reap is no exception.
One of the best things to do in Siem Reap is take a visit the Psah Chas or Old Market, which is located near Pub Street. This thriving hive of activity is full of morning shoppers stopping off to buy fresh fish and local produce before heading for a quick bite to eat from the food stalls in the food market.
Exploring this rabbit warren of alley ways, you will find some of the best shopping in Siem Reap and the perfect place to pick up that souvenir or local handicraft as well as clothing, shoes and silver.
For more shopping, head toward the Siem Reap River and cross the Old Market Bridge, here you will find local crafts, silver and jewellery as well as café style eateries perfect for that breather after a hard morning of shopping.
Siem Reap Buddhist Temples
For a break from Siem Reap traffic stop off at Wat Prom Rath. This tranquil Buddhist temple is surrounded by peaceful gardens, sculptures and paintings and a quiet change from the busy tourist town outside its walls.
What else to see in Siem Reap?
There is so much more to do in Siem Reap, as well as enjoying various cuisines at the modern restaurants of Pub Street, you will also find Cambodian cooking classes, cultural village tours, lake and floating village cruises and museums that explain the history of this fascinating region.
Visiting Angkor Wat
Where is Angkor Wat?
Angkor Wat is 5.5 kilometres north of Siem Reap Cambodia.
Flights leave daily from Siem Reap -Angkor International Airport, direct flight connections leave from the major Asian hubs of Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok to name a few.
Siem Reap – Angkor International Airport offers a Visa on arrival service to appointed countries, contact the Royal Cambodian Embassy in your country for more information.
Other transport options are the direct bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap. Click here to learn more about the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap.
How to get to Angkor Wat
There are so many unique ways to visit Angkor Wat, helicopter, hot air balloon, jeep, bike rides, Tuk Tuks or you can take the traditional Angkor Wat tours in a minivan, the choice is yours.
Whatever option you take you will need some form of transport, Angkor Wat is HUGE and transverses a vast expanse that can’t be covered by walking.
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Buying tickets to Angkor Wat
Tickets are on sale at the official ticket office at the Angkor Archaeological Park. You can choose from either a 1 day or 3-day passes, a one-day pass will cost you around $US37.
If you are planning to visit at sunrise or sunset make sure you get to the ticket office early, this is the most popular time of day to visit Angkor Wat and it gets VERY crowded.
When visiting Angkor Wat temple complex always remember to be respectful of monks and dress appropriately, with shoulders and knees covered.
Dawn at Angkor Wat
Dawn is a spectacular time of the day to visit Angkor Wat and you won’t be alone, each day hundreds of people come to enjoy the event. In saying that, it doesn’t matter there is more than enough of Angkor Wat to go around.
Everyone waits breathlessly for the sun to rise; the sky is filled with shades of pink and blue followed by the golden glow of the sun silhouetting the jagged towers of Angkor Wat. The dark towers and trees stand out against the sky and reflect like a mirror across the water. A truly memorable Angkor Wat sunrise.
Angkor Wat Highlights
There is so much to see in the Angkor Archaeological Park, here are just a few of the Angkor Wat highlights.
After watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat, make sure you save plenty of time to explore the Angkor Wat temple. The temple was built by King Suryavarman II and has its origins in the Hindu/Buddhist religions.
Long open-air corridors play host to wall carvings depicting Suryavarman ll great procession, battle and religious scenes. Graffiti from times gone by adorn the walls and as you climb the stairs you come to a group of monks offering blessings to the faithful.
If you need a break you will find small souvenir and refreshment stalls within walking distance of the Temple.
Bayon Temple is my favourite temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park. Bayon was the state temple of King Jayavarman VI and the symbolic centre of the universe and empire.
Walking toward Bayon you are mesmerised by the towers of giant faces that look down upon you. Looking out in every direction, you feel compelled to get nearer and after climbing many levels you are close enough to touch these tranquil faces.
Each face radiates a serene beauty, a stark contrast to the bloody battle scenes that line the walls below.
Ta Prohm is famous and better known as the Tomb Raider Temple from the movie of the same name.
Ta Prohm was everything I thought Angkor Wat would be, it has been left almost as it was found giving a small glimpse into what Angkor Wat looked like before discovery.
Surrounded by thick forest, you will find a temple ruin of decorative rooms, toppled bricks and intricately carved stones that lay abandoned on the ground.
Thick tree trucks twist and wind their way through temple walls, trees stretch tall and straight reaching high into the sky, oblivious to the damage they have caused, a testament to the power of nature.
Other Temples and Palaces at Angkor Wat
There are so many more temples and palaces of equal beauty in the Angkor Archaeological Park make sure you give yourself lots of time to see them all.
If you are touring Angkor Wat independently by Tuk Tuk make sure to pick up a guide book, they are invaluable for explaining the discovery, history, religion and restoration projects of this extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Where to stay in Siem Reap
We stayed at two Siem Reap hotels during our visit. One was close to the action of Pub Street and the other was resort style accommodation that offered peace and quiet from the hustle and bustle of the centre of town.
Sok San Street Boutique Hotel
Sok San Street Boutique is a 3-star boutique hotel in Siem Reap.
The Sok San Street Boutique is located in the heart of Siem Reap, a short walk to the busy nightlife and entertainment area of Pub Street and attractions of the Night markets, Psah Chas (Old Market) and Wat Prom Rath Buddhist temple.
Sok San Street Boutique is a homey hotel with lovely staff who make you feel welcome. Near the pool you will find a small dining and bar area that serves a range of delicious food, a great place to relax with a quiet drink.
The rooms are clean, nicely decorated, with modern bathroom and comfortable beds. We enjoyed our stay at the Sok San Street Boutique hotel, the best features were the locality and friendly helpful staff.
PM Angkor Resort
Driving down a bumpy dirt road you come to the PM Angkor Resort. From the moment we walked into airy reception area, we were made to feel like home. You can see our review here.
The private bungalow style accommodation had a verandah with pool views. Rooms were large and modern. The bathroom had a separate shower and the bath overlooked a private garden. The bed and pillows were SO comfortable, and we had one of the best nights sleep.
The breakfast and restaurant meals were delicious and the staff friendly and helpful. PM Angkor Resort was 10 minutes from the centre of Siem Reap and was an oasis of quiet from the busy tourist area of Pub Street.
Best features of PM Angkor Resort are peaceful resort style accommodation, friendly Staff and free shuttle bus service to the centre of Siem Reap that runs until 9pm.
Do you need a Visa for Travel to Cambodia?
To check visa requirements for entry into Cambodia click here.
Summary of Things to do in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
Cambodia has had a tragic history, in less than 50 years it has endured the US bombings during the Vietnam War and genocide under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge where it is estimated that 1.5 – 3 million people lost their lives.
Angkor Wat stands out as a symbol of endurance and hope to the Cambodian people, it’s fitting that Angkor Wat’s glorious past is in some way helping to shape the Cambodia of the future.
We enjoyed our time in Siem Reap and hope to return someday to explore more of this region. Our journey back to Chiang Mai consisted of a Bus trip to Bangkok and a Train trip from Bankgok to Chiang Mai. Click here to see how to plan a trip from Siem Reap to Chiang Mai.
Have you been to Angkor Wat and Siem Reap? What did you love (or hate) about this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site?
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