First-time in Angkor Archaeological Park
With so many tourists who arrived in Siem Reap and the number of large hotels we saw, many travelers seem to be taking the same road we’re on—towards Angkor and its majestic temples and palaces.
It was our second day in Cambodia and we started our day early. After resting the day before, when we arrived in Siem Reap, and exploring the city in the afternoon, we were fully charged to see one of the important monuments in the world.
The day has finally arrived for me and my friends to see, to touch and to experience Angkor Wat. I can be Lara Croft for a day, pretending to embark on an adventure to the formidable fortress of the old Khmer king.
We decided not to take a guide (and save $20) and explore by ourselves the whole of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon and its surrounding ruins. We hired Buri to be our tuktuk driver to take us around. We thought we can do everything on foot, but we were advised to hire the tuktuk for the whole day at US$15.
It was about 15 to 20 minutes to the Angkor Archaeological Park tourist entrance from the hotel. Entrance fees vary at $20 for one day, $40 for two days, and $60 for three consecutive days. As we were on a budget, we decided to see all of Angkor in just a day and experience the sunset that same day so we can get a picturesque shot of the famous UNESCO heritage site.
Excited about this part of the journey, we immediately got on the tuktuk and enjoyed the tree-lined avenue with our tickets that bore our photos on hand. We reached the end of the road and the marvelous lake took our breath away. We stopped at the bridge way leading to Angkor Wat, showed our ticket to the officer-in-charge and snapped our cameras away.
We took photos of everything that caught our sight—from the wide shot of the entire temple compound, to the statues and images on the wall, to the faces of people we see, and the little details that never escape our attention.
Tour groups from China and Japan (or was it also Korea?) and flocks of visitors filled every doorway of the temple. There were devotees who went there to offer a prayer and incense candles to the altars and small shrines within the temple. Construction work was also ongoing as many parts of Angkor Wat needed restoration.
We circled the whole compound and as we exited, we passed by a modern temple at the side of Angkor including some facilities and houses of the people I believe are working in the temple.
After a few minutes’ rest, we located Buri at the parking lot and hopped on to our tuktuk. Next stop was the gate of Angkor Thom that led to Bayon Temple and the main palace.
The sun has finally come out and it was nearing high noon. We were sweating as we explored Bayon Temple for a short while. Buri brought us to the main palace where we found more and more peddlers selling paintings, food, postcards, water, and almost everything. They were everywhere in this heritage site compound.
Almost exhausted and ready for lunch, we got down the Terrace of the Elephants and asked Buri to take us to a cheap eatery. Well, he might not have any idea of what’s cheap to us because he brought us to this restaurant in front of a lake. Most tourist guides and tuktuk drivers brought their guests to the Khmer Village Restaurant where food was delicious but a bit pricey. There I found Danno and his friends also enjoying their lunch.
We spent over an hour at the restaurant to escape from the burning sun as well as to cool ourselves off and to rest our aching foot from walking. After lunch, we set out to continue our journey with a stop at Banteay Kdei.
A few walk from Banteay Kdei was Ta Prohm, which has the same layout and architecture as the former. But what Ta Prohm interesting are the trees, wherein its roots seem to be eating on the crumbling structures in the compound.
Tree roots have already overtaken the ruins and it seems like a jungle has grown there.
We roamed the compound and stopped in several smaller temple ruins. Children were playing in some of the ruins which we visited. We climbed some temples to have a better view of the scenery.
We capped the day at Phnom Bakheng, a temple on a hill which has a beautiful view overlooking Angkor Wat.