Angkor Wat and the surrounding ruins should definitely be on the official list for one of the Wonders of the world. We spent a full day exploring the Angkor ruins via tuk-tuk from sunrise to sunset and it was a mystical day. I won’t spend my time listing the details of the ruins and all it’s history. That’s for you to find out on your trip. This is a succinct run down of how to go about planning your day tour of the Angkor ruins.
We decided that 1 full day of exploring the ruins would be enough for us. The Angkor ruins was definitely on our list of things to see in Cambodia but we didn’t feel the need to spend more time and money on extra days. Your options at the gate are 1 day- $20USD, 3 day- $40USD or 7 day- $60USD. You get your picture taken for your ID like entrance ticket which can be laminated especially if you’re using it for the week. It is a cool little memento I am keeping for sure.
As we opted for the day tour only we got up for the famous sunrise over Angkor Wat! We were up and ready to go by 5am *yawn* I knew it would be worth it. Our tuk-tuk driver picked us from our hotel and then onto our friends; Kavi and Ann’s hotel before driving us to the entrance gate. We lined up for our above mentioned ID ticket and once we had them we were driven through to Angkor Wat. In the dark we walked along the first pathway and through the main entrance. We walked with the crowds (yes it’s early but it’s the famous sunrise after all, don’t expect there to be less people!) through the great temple to our decided spot overlooking a swampish lake towards the main building of the ruins. It was absolutely breathtaking watching as the sky became brighter, lighting up what is one of the most phenomenal relics of human history until the bright orange sun shone over the entire landscape. I recommend sunrise to absolutely everyone who is visiting. It is a must do. I love sleep and I did it. You can too!
During our entire tuk-tuk trek of the ruins complex (stretching over 400 square kms!) we visited a total of 10 temple ruins. It is up to you how many and which particular temples you wish to explore. From memory we visited:
- Angkor Wat
- Angkor Thom- The Bayon
- Ta Prohm -aka Tomb Raider Temple
- Elephant Terrace
- Banteay Srei- “Citadel of the Women” (an hour North via tuk-tuk but most worth it as I found it one of the most beautiful and detailed temples)
- East Mebon- The Water temple
- Preah Khan
- Baksei Chamkhrong
- Ta Som
- Pre Rup- Our sunset spot (get to it a good 45 minutes to an hour before sunset for the perfect spot at the top of this temples many steep steps!)
We explored the ruins by walking, climbing and riding in our tuk-tuk from 5am until 7pm when we arrived back at our hotel. It’s a long day for sure but so worth it. The price we and our driver agreed upon after bartering was $26 USD which was split between 4 of us. Not bad for an 11 hour day. He was a lovely fellow but on our way to the furthest temple, Banteay Srei, he was pulled over by the police and fined for not having 2 side mirrors to which he cried about the sad corruption of Cambodia. We paid his fine of $4 USD and he knocked that money off the final price for us. He also gave us bottles of water for the day!
You should know this before you go…
This was a very long and tiring day! Not only was it a very hot day (the climate is generally very hot in Cambodia) but we were walking around the vast temples and climbing extremely steep steps the entire time! Make sure you have plenty of water and some snacks. We took baguettes and those mini bananas (great to feed one of the monkeys you will definitely see here! Warning. Monkeys can get aggressive if you wave the banana around for too long. They don’t muck about) from the market place near our accommodation and some Laughing cow cheese blocks. They’re so good. As for lunch we asked our tuk-tuk driver to take us to a stall that was good and had cheap prices. We had a good chicken and garlic dish but my oh my there were massive overloads of full cloves of garlic in there!
Wear appropriate clothing and footwear!
I saw too many tourists dressed like they were going to the beach. I understand it is very hot and shorts and a singlet seems like a good idea BUT these are sacred temples you are visiting. There are rules about modest attire. Cover your knees and shoulders at all times. I was more than comfortable in my Thai happy pants and a t-shirt. Easy breezy.
When I say appropriate footwear runners would be a good idea. They will get very dirty and dusty though. I wore my thongs (flip flops). They are well and truly dead now. RIP pluggas.
Check out those temple ruined feet!
There are many children beggars around the ruins. Angkor Wat at sunrise had the most we found. They’re trying to sell you postcards, guide books, scarves you name it. I don’t agree with getting young children to beg and vendor items to gain the sympathy of travelers. Instead maybe offer them a banana? I don’t know I actually didn’t think of doing that until now. At the end of the day when one of me pluggas *excuse me* when one of my thongs kept breaking (you know how the bit that goes in between your toes pops out the bottom? Yeah) a child picked up my thong and fixed it for me and then demanded I pay her for my shoe back! It is very sad to see the poverty here and the children who know nothing but working and money hustling.
Overall the day we spent here was incredible. Each temple is fantastic in its own right and well worth the 11 hours we spent exploring. This was one of my favourite travel experiences so far. From sunrise to sunset, the wind blowing the sweat on your body and instantly cooling you while you ride in the tuk-tuk, the blaring sun and seeking refuge to relax in the shade of a tree this was, again, a fantastic experience. The Angkor ruins should be on your travel to do list.
Check out our video, including some of our ruins footage here Backpacking Southeast Asia Part II.
Sam and Kirsten x