Third country for this trip! I wanted to save money by taking a bus from Laos to Cambodia, but that would also mean longer travel time! I found out it would take a grueling 30.5 hours. No thanks! So the night before we went to Luang Prabang, I booked a flight. It cost me around $200.
Jane and I parted ways. She went back to Bangkok via the railway train again, while I headed to the airport in Vientiane. I flew with Cambodia Angkor Air going to Siem Reap, with a connecting flight in Phnom Penh which was delayed for about an hour. The plane we used next was pretty small, my first time to fly with such.
I arrived pretty late so there wasn’t much to do. The next day, I did the Angkor Wat tour. I booked a tuktuk driver with help from my guesthouse for $15 the whole day. Around 11 AM (Pretty late! My fault.), he picked me up from my place.
The entrance fee to Angkor Wat complex varies depending on how many days you want to do the tour: $20 for 1 day, $40 for 3 days, and $60 for 7 days (if you’re really addicted to temples 😆 ). You can also rent a bicycle, not there but maybe from your guesthouse too, if you didn’t hire a tuktuk driver. Thankfully I did because the whole place was HUGE! Given I had only that day to explore it, I wanted to maximize my time, and getting a driver and the $20 pass were the best decisions.
They will take a photo of you after you pay, and it will be printed on your Angkor pass. Check out my mean muggin’ pic below! Haha
I would also like to point out that Angkor Wat complex has two circuits: Small Tour Circuit and Grand Tour Circuit.
Small Tour Circuit runs 17 KM long, and is composed of several major and minor temples. This is the one that I did. It’s perfect if you only have one day to explore like me, but you have to be pretty fast walking around as there’s much to see!
Small Tour Circuit
- Angkor Wat
- Ta Prohm Kei
- Phnom Bakheng
- Angkor Thom
- Terrace of the Elephants
- Prasat Suor Prat
- Phimeanakas (inside Royal Palace)
- Terrace of the Leper King
- Tep Pranam
- Preah Palilay
- Victory Gate
- Chau Say Tevoda
- Ta Prohm
- Ta Keo
- Banteay Kdei
- Sras Srang
- Prasat Kravan
Grand Tour Circuit on the other hand is 26 KM long, and is more recommended for those who can spend two or more days. It’s basically an extension of the small circuit where you can see more monuments and more variety with architecture. Additional spots you can visit are listed below.
Grand Tour Circuit
- Prea Khan
- Neak Poan
- Ta Som
- East Mebon
- Pre Rup
Before I ventured to this whole day activity, I grabbed breakfast first so I would have energy! My driver brought me to Neary Khmer Angkor restaurant, located within the complex, near Angkor Wat temple. I ordered beef for $3.50. Yummy!
When I was doing my research, I read online that to avoid the huge crowd, you should explore the place in reverse. And so I did. Instead of going clockwise from Angkor Wat, I asked my driver to go the other way around. I thought it worked well. I was lucky that it was also very cold when I went to Cambodia, just like in Laos, so I didn’t suffer while exploring the complex during noon time.
Now onto the temples! Check out the photos and tidbits below!
Angkor Wat is massive and truly a magnificent masterpiece. It took me an hour to explore just this place alone. This is the best preserved among all the temples.
Ta Prohm is one of the more famous temples. If you’re a movie buff, you would know this was used as a location for Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie! This place is being restored and preserved in cooperation with India.
Ta Keo is one of the tallest in Angkor making it very hard to explore! I went all the way up using very steep and narrow steps. Be sure to take extra care when climbing up!
Chau Say Tevoda / Thommanon
Angkor Thom covers a vast area of 9 square KM! I definitely spent most of my time here. It’s just amazing how they were able to preserve the whole place! Located within are various sites of interest:
Bayon’s most distinctive feature would be the huge smiling stone faces.
The giant Buddha above is not inside Bayon. It’s located across the street.
Baphoun is probably one of my favorites. It reminds me so much of Temple Run because of its entryway! Haha The view up above was very nice. At the back of this temple, you can see the stones were modeled into the shape of a reclining Buddha.
Terrace of the Leper King
Another favorite of mine! You’re probably curious with the origin of the name. There are many theories, but up to this day, it is uncertain who really was the Leper King.
This temple is located far back. When I went here, a young Cambodian boy approached me and toured me around. There’s a Buddhist monastery before you reach this temple, and apparently that’s where he is studying English language so he could be a guide to foreigners. In the end, he asked for a donation which I gladly gave.
The day is about to end and that means it’s time to witness the sunset! We headed to Phnom Bakheng at around 5PM. I thought that would be enough time to prepare. The trek going up was already challenging, and when I reached the place… man, the line to go up the temple was very long!!! It was around quarter to 7 PM when I was finally able to climb. The sun was still there, but much to my disappointment, the beautiful effect was gone already! Or maybe it wasn’t really the best spot? I also heard that sunrise is way better to watch, but that means you have to wake up at 5 AM which I obviously wasn’t able to do.
Oh well, that only means I should go back to this place! 🙂 And definitely next time I will do the bigger circuit! I fell in love with how rich the culture is in Cambodia. I’ve always loved historic stuff so this place is perfect for me. Truly one for the books!
To sum up this whole trip, best word would be MEMORABLE! A lot of firsts for me, and it reignited my passion for traveling! Until the next multi-country trip! 😉