There’s no denying that Angkor Wat is the headline on the itinerary for this trip. It’s the largest religious site in the world and our last major visit before the end of the itinerary.
The most popular way to visit Angkor Wat is at sunrise, so we scheduled to this – which meant meeting at 4:45am for our trip out to the temple. We had to meet so early because at 5am we had to buy our tickets, to get to the site before the run began rising at 5:30. Since the hotel didn’t open breakfast until 6, I grabbed a quick protein bar in my room, a rather refreshing shower and met with the group at 4:45, just in time to be introduced to our local guide in Siem Reap.
We took the bus out to the ticket centre, where we queued up and had our photo taken. The tickets are quite expensive ($40 for a 3 day ticket) and have photos printed onto them, so each of us had to present ourself even though the ticket price was included in the itinerary.
After we got our tickets, the bus driver raced with the rest of the tourists to head to the border of Angkor Wat, where we had to present our tickets to be allowed through the checkpoint.
Once we got off the bus, the photo opportunities didn’t stop. Rather than give you a blow by blow account, i’m going to let the photos and comments on those do the talking.
It was so hot inside Angkor Wat, and we spent around 2 hours exploring the site before it was time to head back to the hotel for breakfast. It was hard to believe how much we’d achieved in just a few hours of the day – and there was plenty more to come! Since the weather forecast is bad for tomorrow, we tried to cram as much as possible into today.
I had a quick shower back at the hotel and then joined the rest of the group for breakfast before chilling out and regrouping at 10am to head to Bayon, the second most famous temple in the Siem Reap area. Bayon is located inside an area known as Angkor Thom. On the way into Angkor Thom, we passed over one of the entry bridges which has 57 statues lining the side of the road, and came across a patch of monkeys including a particularly cheeky one who jumped onto someones motorcycle! Just as we finished photographing the monkeys, a group of Elephants paraded past. I’m not even making this up!
So yes, it was 10am and i’d been to the biggest temple in the world, seen sun rise, seen monkeys, elephants and we hadn’t even got to Bayon yet. Again, click the photos for details:
I have to say, Bayon blew me away. I’ve been to Machu Picchu, but it had nothing on this in terms of impression it left in my brain. Bayon is insane. It’s from another world. The faces, the structure and the presence of the whole place was something else.
Shortly after our tour of Bayon, we stopped for a toilet break. I dared to go look at one of the nearby stalls, and bought some postcards and a t-shirt from one of the vendors there. The vendors are borderline aggressive in their sales technique and once i’d bought, they followed me to the coach and tried to convince everyone else to buy from them as well. The amounts they’re asking are tiny ($5 for a t-shirt, $1 for 10 postcards!) but they persist until you agree!
After the toilet break we had time for one more stop – at a site known as the Elephant Lodge. Again, it’s super famous and it was really cool to see all the intricate carvings and imagine how everything was constructed many thousands of years ago. The entire Angkor area must have been such a site back when everything was being constructed – almost all of the temples were constructed in a 100 year period.
After the Elephant Lodge, we headed to our lunch stop. Lunch today was included thanks to G-adventures support of the New Hope foundation, a site which runs yet another training restaurant, but also a school, medical care facility and social agency for under privileged families in Cambodia. We ate an amazing meal including Crickets (which I opted out of!) before getting a talk from the New Hope staff about the facility and the good work they’re doing. They take volunteers so if you’re looking for something good to do with your life, you could do worse than look them up!
So, just to point this out – it’s now just after lunch time and i’ve visited 3 amazing historic sites, seen sun rise, eaten food prepared by underprivileged students being educated by a NGO foundation, and now we’re heading back to the hotel to avoid the heat. Today was definitely a sense of achievement day!
At 6pm we headed back into Pub Street for a few more cocktails and dinner – which ended up with me heading out to join a younger Gadventures group (on a YOLO tour) for a few more drinks after the rest of the group headed out. I had visions of staying out super late, but my energy level was pretty low by 11 and decided to head back to the hotel and be sensible – we had another pre-7am start tomorrow!