For touring the temples of Angkor, I wanted to experience it first hand, and at my own pace, so I decided to rent a bike from the hotel and visit them that way. The roads are flat, there isn’t too much traffic, so I thought this would be fun. It was hot, and I was sweaty, but it was well worth it. The following photos don’t do justice to how beautiful everything was, or how hot it was.
There are certainly good tour guides available, but I kind of wanted to do my own touring at my own pace. I did some research ahead of time, mostly thanks to excellent book I brought with me. Angkor: Cambodia’s Wondrous Khmer Temples by Dawn Rooney. It has excellent maps and provides a historical view of the entire temple complex.
Note: This link points to Amazon, and if you purchase the book or other products from here, I will get a small percentage of the sale. This is the first Amazon affiliate link I have used on this site in many months, and is still the only way I have monetized my blog. Thanks for your clicks.
Angkor map via Wikimedia commons
Experiencing the temples is truly an experience. It is really a complex spread across many miles. While many have been refurbished, the various temples are in all states of repair. My first day began with an early start. In theory this was to beat the crowds, but lots of other people are out early for this same reason Thankfully, it was somewhat cooler at this time. The first day was a little cloudy, so I opted to wait for sunrise at Angkor Wat until the next day. I began to explore the areas of Angkor Thom.
A few pictures can’t accurately describe the scale and diverse detail that is present. I didn’t know much about this place, and even after using the book I mentioned before, it only scratches the surface. Here are some photos:
Gate into Angkor Thom
for better or worse visitors can climb all over the place, likely speeding the aging process…
Bayon, within Angkor Thom
Bayon was one of my favorite sites
From top of Bayon looking back, opposite view from above photo
Th Phrom, made famous by the movie Tomb Raider
Ta Phrom has been preseved in a similar state as it was rediscovered in the early 20th century. Most of the other temples have been cleaned up, with paths made to access them somewhat more easily.
After several hours of touring, the heat of the day was starting to catch up with me. My water was running slow, so I decided to take a short break and eat near one of the temples, and refresh my water stash. I had an early lunch, toured a bit more, then returned to the Le Meridien to cool off and shower during the peak temperatures of mid afternoon. I went into Siem Reap for dinner, and a massage (or 2).
the trusty chariot for my adventures
For the next day, I decided to hire a driver for half a day before I had to return to the airport. I wanted to try to get to Angkor Wat at sunrise, and then visit some other temples that were further off. I could hire a motorbike, a tuk-tuk, or a car. I opted just for the car since my time was limited, and this was a bit faster, and likely more comfortable.
Angkor Wat at dawn
Unfortunately, I never really got to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat, since it was cloudy that morning. Still, it was quite impressive. Just a reminder for those visiting this temple pre-dawn, to bring a flashlight! Paths aren’t exactly flat and smooth. Plus no one wants to fall into the moat! Once there was some daylight, I explored the main temple of Angkor Wat.
Some of countless bas-reliefs within Angkor
More bas-reliefs and the constant ongoing renovation work
After walking around this temple, I returned to the parking area, and found my driver. It was a bit of a challenge now that I could actually see, but once we reconnected, we headed 25km north from the main temple complex to Banteay Srei temple. This temple is unique, in that it is made of red sandstone, and sometimes called the ‘ladies temple’. It is much smaller in scale than many others, but the ornate detail is impressive.
From here, for a diversion from ancient temples, I wanted to visit the Cambodia Landmine Museum, and learn more about more recent history of this area. There are still many landmines from the various wars that have occurred in Cambodia since the 1960s. This museum was started by a man who was conscripted to fight for the Khmer Rouge as a child, and eventually fought against Khmer Rouge. This is where he learned about land mines, since he had to place them. After the war was over, he has dedicated his life to demining. His methods are very unconventional, but he was recognized by among others, as a CNN Hero a few years back. More info on Aki Ra.
Cambodia Landmine Museum
There are many displays about the various types of landmines found all over Cambodia. American, Chinese, Soviet made are all there. Definitely a moving experience. In addition, many children orphaned or wounded by landmines have been hired to work at the museum.
After the landmine museum, I hit a few more temples on the way back to Siem Reap.
Views of Pre Rup, including a self-portrait from the top.
After a nice morning touring, I was back at the Le Meridien. I did have a little time before I had to return to the airport, so I went for one more massage in town. From there, I returned to the airport, where I headed back to Bangkok via Kuala Lumpur.
I really enjoyed my first visit to Cambodia. I would return some day, although maybe trying Phnom Penh for something new. Still, the temples have seemingly endless things to explore. I know Matthew has visited Siem Reap. What about you? What was your favorite part of your trip?
Other posts in this series:
Around the world in a week
Air Canada to Toronto and The Maple Leaf Lounge
First Class all to myself: Lufthansa Inaugural Toronto to Munich
Munich Lufthansa First Class lounge then transiting Frankfurt
Thai Airways Royal First Class on the Airbus A380 Frankfurt to Bangkok
Thai Airways Royal Silk Business Class Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur
My time in Kuala Lumpur and at the Le Meridien
Malaysia Airlines economy from Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap
The Le Meridien Angkor, my home base in Siem Reap
Temples and bikes in Siem Reap (this post)
Best Western Amaranth for a short layover in Bangkok
Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge and Spa
Thai Airways Royal First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounges in Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Hyatt Regency Incheon Airport
Asiana Airlines First Class lounge in Seoul
The only passenger in Asiana Airlines First Class Seoul to Frankfurt
The Le Meridien Parkhotel Frankfurt
The best lounge in the world? Back at the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class with a seat and a bed Frankfurt to Toronto