Tourists come to Siem Reap for basically only one reason: to visit the Angkor temples.We were no different! After ‘templing ourselves out’ earlier in our trip, we had spent some time relaxing and prepared ourselves for these temples. We’re pretty pleased we did, too. They’re well worth the visit!
Angkor Wat, and more….
It’s important to note that there isn’t just one temple to visit. The most famous one, Angkor Wat, is just one of many temples scattered around in a huge area. To visit all of them, of even just some of them, you need to buy an Angkor pass and sort out a good way of getting around.
Talk to anyone who is anyone in Siem Reap and they will know about the Wat Small loop and the Wat Big loop. The small loop starts at Angkor and lets you visit 5 other impressive temples along the way. This can take a whole day or a half a day, depending on how much climbing, clambering and stepping you want to do, and how many photos you wish to take.
The big loop can cover the first 5 temples and includes another 5 temples too. If you were to do the big loop in one day you’d have visited 10 temples and probably have a sore bum from all the steps!
We decided to do the small loop for the first half of day one before a long relax in our hotel pool. Then we were up before dawn to see the sunrise at Angkor, before another half day on the big loop. Of course, we had to reward ourselves with another swim – it would be criminal not to!
How to get around?
There are options, if you want to hire a car, scooter or bike, you can do so pretty freely. Make sure you grab a map, then self direct your way around the Wats.
If you’re less brave, like us, hire a Tuk Tuk for the day. Our driver, Mr. Phon was very helpful, not just in getting us around, but telling us interesting and useful information and even teaching us some Cambodian. He was very affordable, patient and even gave us free water – a plus in our books!
Our favourite temples
Of the 10 temples we conqured we had three standouts: Bayon, Ta Phrom and Neak Pean.
The face temple. The temple itself is part of a larger complex, but we chose to just explore the building. There are close to 2000 faces, as many pillars have 4 faces, pointing North, South, East and West. The temple is made up of three floors, and you can climb, clamber and explore each space without problems.
The Tomb Raider temple. This is the famous temple with the falling down walls, the big trees that grow inside, outside and above the stones. While it was really busy and exploring was a little slow, the whole temple is incredbily beautiful and fun to poke around in.
The snake temple. To reach this temple you need to cross a long boadwalk over a pond, full of mangroves and waterlillies, which is pretty stunning. Once you reach the temple you’ll find an artificial island with a Buddhist temple in the middle. On this temple are two intertwined snakes, and to the North, South, East and West are four smaller pools, representing Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. This temple was originally built to let the public bathe and cure disease. Now it is mostly closed.
What else can you do in Siem Reap?
A bunch of things! There are yoga and cooking classes a plenty, some interesting sounding museums and lots of good food to try. While we didnt do too many of those things, we did enjoy the cheap beers on Pub Street and a trip to the local circus. It was an unexpected highlight of the trip! The acorbats were incredbile, the big top is small an intimate, the music is spectacular and the atmosphere was like nothing else we had experienced. Defiantly worth the ticket price!