Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat has long been on my list of places to see. I discovered it through Steve McCurry’s breathtaking photos of the site. Of course, I’m no Steve McCurry, but I’ve long dreamed of seeing Angkor Wat with my own eyes. Warning: this post is long on photos.
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We arrived in Siem Reap from Bangkok on Cambodia Angkor Air. We nearly had a major mishap at the airport in Bangkok before leaving for Cambodia. I had booked the tickets with an American credit card that I did not think to bring on the trip with me. The ticket agent insisted on physically seeing the credit card that was used to make the purchase. Unfortunately, it was sitting at my cousin’s apartment in Bangkok. The agent said our tickets would not be valid unless he could see the card, and when we asked how much it would cost to book new flights and repurchase the tickets, he quoted a price that was nearly three times what we initially paid. We were all very frustrated and upset. I thought we were going to just cancel the trip since it would have been silly to pay so much money. The agent finally remembered that the only other option was to be able to show him proof of purchase, meaning, my credit card statement. I remembered that I had my credit card app on my phone and quickly logged in and pulled up the purchase. The agent was satisfied with that and gave us our tickets. He mentioned that I should print the statement so that I could show it on the way back. I took a screen shot of the page on my phone and we had no problems for the return trip. Lesson learned: always carry useful/important cards when traveling!

The hotel pool

The hotel pool

After that near-debacle, it was smooth sailing. The flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap is only an hour and the hotel taxi was waiting for us at the airport upon our arrival. Siem Reap is incredibly low-key compared to Bangkok, or many other places for that matter. The traffic to the hotel sped along fluidly and we arrived within twenty minutes. A friend of ours did a very similar trip to us over the holidays and when I asked her for recommendations, she highly recommended the Golden Banana hotel. The rooms are incredibly inexpensive (between $40-$60/night) considering the quality of the place and include breakfast. Our room was very clean and quiet and looked over the pool. Louis loved seeing the little geckos that would sometimes sneak into the room in the evening.

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We spent five days in Siem Reap, which I think was plenty to be able to leisurely enjoy the town and see a portion of the Angkor Wat complex. To access the Angkor Wat site you have to purchase a pass, and there are several options. We bought a 3-day pass that gave access beginning the first evening after 17:00. The first evening we just took a tuk tuk to purchase passes and then visit the main Angkor Wat temple. As it was later in the day, there were far fewer tourists than I expected. The grounds are enormous and it is easy to find quiet, tourist-free spots if you just move a bit away from the masses.

On our first day of visiting the temples, we hired a guide and a taxi for half a day and only managed to visit two temples. I think maps of Angkor Wat are deceiving, I did not imagine that the whole complex would be so incredibly spread out. It’s definitely doable by bike if you can stand the heat, but it’s fairly cheap and easy to hire a taxi or a tuk tuk by the day or half day.

Dad, Louis and I

Dad, Louis and I in a tuk tuk

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Angkor Wat

The main Angkor Wat temple is the largest and best preserved of the temples on the site.
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Ta Prohm
We visited Ta Prohm in the morning when the heat still manageable. I think this one is one of the most popular temples after Angkor Wat, and no wonder. Even though it is still under restoration, it is eerily beautiful and the Banyan trees that have rooted themselves in and on the temples are just breathtaking.
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Angkor Thom

By the time we finished at Ta Prohm and then stopped off for breakfast, the sun was high in the sky and the air was thick and hot. To reach Angkor Thom, you pass over a bridge lined with demons and gods before going through the entry tower. The temple itself is in pretty good condition. There are many god faces sculpted into the towers.

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Preah Khan

On our last day of visiting the temples, we hired a tuk tuk that just dropped us off while we explored and then zoomed us around the grounds before it closed. Preah Khan was the last temple and, since we went so late in the day, we were nearly all alone. This is another gorgeous temple similar to Ta Prohm with several enormous Banyan trees growing out of the temple. It was almost a creepy feeling to be virtually alone in such an eerily beautiful place.
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A note on traveling with young children to Siem Reap. We took our stroller to Siem Reap but only used it when we went to the town. As you can see in some of the photos, we used our Ergo Baby carrier for visiting the temples. With all the ruins and stairs, a stroller is inadvisable for visiting the temples. Other than that, we found that Siem Reap was pretty child friendly. We didn’t see any other travelers with children as young as ours, but it is definitely doable.
Related: Read about our time in Bangkok.

2 comments

  1. Great pix! I’m going for a week next month! D o you have any advice on what time will be best to see these temples? Also, with the 3 day pass, how many temples can you see?

    • Thanks! Either early morning or late afternoon. It was unbearably hot during the day when we were there. As for the pass, it is unlimited, so you can visit as many temples as you like during the 3 days. If you buy your pass after 5pm the first day, you can access the main Angkor Wat temple that evening and it doesn’t count towards the 3 days…so you could do a sunset visit and then still have 3 full days after. Happy travels!

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