May 13, 2012

AW KOON CAMBODIA: Angkor Temples 1 Day Itinerary

Angkor in the local dialect means “Capital City” or “Holy City”.  It was once the capital city of the Khmer Empire that existed in the 9th and 12th century AD when military and economic dominance was at its height and Khmer kings constructed massive waterworks and grand temples as a testament to it. Won't bore you with history so fast forward to the "NOW" -  even as it stands in ruins, its architecture and artistry remain remarkable. The place too became hugely famous partly because of Angelina Jolie's Tomb Raider.

The UNESCO World Heritage site of the Angkor Archaeological Park stretches to over 400 square kilometers and has more than a couple of dozens of temples and ruins. The Angkor Wat is just one of them actually and a one day itinerary isn’t gonna cut it if you wish to explore all of these temples.

  • Before visiting any of the temples, purchase admission passes at the main entrance on the road to Angkor. A 1 day pass costs 20USD, 3 days pass at 40 USD, and If you wish to explore all temples even those in more remote places, then a 7 day pass  for 60 USD is best for you. The 3 day pass is valid for3 days in a week, not necessarily consecutively. The 7 day pass is valid for 7 days in a month, not necessarily consecutively.
  • If you purchase admission passes after 430pm to be used the next day, you can already visit Phnom Bakheng right after purchase.
  • Best place for sunset: Phnom Bakheng, but be reminded that temple gates close at 530pm.  Best place for sunrise: Angkor Wat, gates open at 530am. 
  •  Do not lose, tear and crumple your pass.  It will be checked at every temple entrance.
  • The temples are far from each other (like kilometers apart), hire a tuktuk or a cab to take you around; rates start at 15USD for the whole day.
  • A tour guide is a really good investment; rates start at 20USD, additional 5USD if you wish to catch the sun rise.
  • Wear really comfortable practical shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, most of them on uneven and sometimes steep surfaces. 
  • Always have a bottle of water with you.
Most of the significant and popular ones are within the main park area (Angkor Archaeological Park) including the iconic Angkor Wat. Because of the heat and humidity though, we only got to visit a few of them, starting at sunrise and quitting before lunch. By few I mean 4, all of them within the main park. Phnom Bakheng, Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Phrom, all these can be fitted in a 1 day itinerary and is called the Small Circle or Little Circuit.

PHNOM BAKHENG was done the day before though when we purchased our pass in the afternoon right before sunset.

Located on a hilltop, it is the 1st major temple to be constructed in Angkor and is always crowded in the late afternoon as tourists start to race up the hill to catch the setting sun. Prepare for an unpaved and rather tiring hike. Again, bring a bottle of water with you. Gates close exactly at 530, be there a minute late and they won’t allow you to enter. You can opt to visit the next day if you want and squeeze all 4 temples in one day, make it your last stop if you can, after all there’s no better way ending a day than spending it on top of a hill watching the sun set all over Angkor.

And what better ways to start the day than watching the sun come up on ANGKOR WAT? We got up at 4 in the morning, had a little something to eat at the hotel and at 415 we were on the road to Angkor. We opted to book a tuktuk to take us in and around the temples, it’s much cheaper plus there’s just something about tuktuks that says “you’re on vacation.” By the time we got to Angkor Wat, hundred other tourists were already waiting and positioning themselves for that perfect UNESCO World Heritage sun rise photograph. Too bad the sun was a tease that day and didn't really showed his fiery ball of glory.


Angkor Wat is huge that an hour isn’t nearly enough to cover all grounds.  It is the biggest and the most important temple in the entire archaeological park so you might wanna dedicate at least 2 hours to it and one important thing, get ready to sweat buckets!

Now most tourists would prefer to go back to their hotels for breakfast right after sunrise but we choose to continue with the tour while it isn’t too sunny and humid yet and have breakfast outside Angkor Wat at some local eatery.

Re-energized from breakfast, we headed out for Angkor Thom  (Great City) stopping at the great city’s SOUTH GATE.  The gate was imposing with its towers carved with faces and the causeway lined with gods on one side and demons at the other.

There are quite a number of temples within the Great City, and at the middle of it is BAYON.  Famous for its 54 towers with 4 faces facing the east, west, north and south totaling 216 faces and its outer walls  carved with bas-reliefs depicting its history and ancient daily life.

One kilometre outside Angkor Thom lies the ruins of TA PROHM and its gigantic centuries old trees.  Unlike most temples in Angkor which has been restored, Ta Prohm for quite some time remained intentionally in almost the same state that it was found - in ruins.  The combination of fallen stones, cracked walls and doors entwined with giant roots and massive trees growing out of the temple somehow made Ta Prohm even more amazing and fascinating. Restoration is now actively being done in partnership with India and its team of experts.

1 comment:

  1. the huge face carved from stone is absolutely awesome, must be the work of extra terrestrials, or humans with extra terrestrials' tools, either way, i'm going there soon :D


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