Angkor Wat has always been on my archaeology bucket list since a couple of years back. Now I have seen it with my own eyes and witness the sheer size of the temple complex, I could say I got an eye feast. Built from 879-1191 AD at the zenith of the Khmer civilization, it used to be a part of the great Khmer empire. The ruins and restored sites in the Angkor Archaeological Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It actually reminds me of my visit to Machu Pichu last summer. It is surprising how people from the past manage to build these amazing marvel structures with resources back then.
When to visit Angkor Wat
The sunrise was really awesome, even though the sun does not rise from the back of the temples. It is slightly to the left at this period of the year if you are viewing the sunrise from the popular spot. If you want it to be rising up from the back of the temples, you got to be visiting from December to March which is also the dry period. The crowd is significantly lesser as compared to the dry season. But don’t be afraid of the monsoon period because it is often clear in the morning, so if you are in the sunrise, it is not a problem. I tried cycling the Angkor Wat in the evening but my plans got ruined by the rain. The sunset and sunrise timings are different at different periods of the year. Ask your hotel or tuk tuk driver for the right information, or you can simply ask Google.
Getting to Angkor Wat
Most people use Siem Reap is a base to visit Angkor Wat. From anywhere in the city of Siem Reap to Angkor Wat, hiring tuk tuk for half a day will cost around USD 12 and a long day; from sunrise to sunset will cost USD 15. One way is around 30 minutes. Another similar way is to go on motorbike as a pillion, I tried asking around but it seems that the price does not differ much from a tuk tuk. There are many tours venders having mini buses tour supported with a guide to bring you around, those are more expensive. A private car can be hired for about USD 30 a day, sharing it with people or friends will bring the cost of travel down, so don’t be afraid to make friends and do trips together. If you want a guide to bring you around and know more about the history of Angkor Wat, expect to pay around USD 20 for a day.
Things to do there
Explore the temples! Angkor Wat is huge, a day is not enough to cover it all, especially if you are a temple fan. I would recommend buying the three days pass for USD 40. A day pass costs USD 20 and 7 days pass for USD 60. The best preserved, and most visited, are Angkor Wat, the Bayon, and Ta Prohm ( Tomb Raider ). If you are just doing a few, a day pass will be sufficient.
Finding food and drinks
Don’t worry about finding food in the temple complex because there are food venders nearly everywhere, especially more at popular places. They will approach you to sell food and drinks; you definitely need some cold drinks to cool you down from the sweltering tropical heat. Very often, you can haggle for a good price. Probably three small bottles of cold water for USD 1, two cans of soda for USD 1. I had a plate of chicken fried rice for USD 2. You can bring your own water but it will not be enough and you do not want to be carry extra water around on your back under the merciless heat.
Angkor Wat is a religious venue, so decent wear is needed. No tank tops, upper arms need to be covered, so a normal t-shirt is fine. For bottoms, shorts need to be around knees or lower, strictly no skirts. Bring along some sunscreen because you do not want to end up looking like a cooked lobster at the end of the trip. I advise against flip-flops because you will do some walking around, so sneakers or running shoes will be good.
If you are around Cambodia, you got to pay Angkor Wat a visit. I guarantee that it will not be a disappointment. Angkor Wat is a great place to learn about Khmer history and witness one of the greatest man-made structures of all time.