There are so many ways to see Angkor Wat. By bicycle. In a tour bus. On foot (more on that later). By tuk tuk. And there’s so many timeframes for a visit. The small tour. The grand tour. One day. Two days. Three days. The options are endless. Fortunately, Keith and Paul from the Golden Gecko have all the right contacts so for $US13 we have a tuk tuk driver for the small tour starting at 8am (we’re not getting up for the sunrise on our holiday).
The ticket office is a grand building midway between town and the temple complex. Each person needs to purchase their own ticket because it has a photo on it. This means tour groups line up at the ticket office along with independent travelers. Don’t follow the crowds here; we found three empty counters by walking past the crowds. $US20 buys a one day pass.
The temples are amazing!!!! I don’t know the name of the specific ones we went to. I could look up a map but it doesn’t matter. This is a place to experience. Our tuk tuk driver tells us the names and some indie but I don’t hold it in my head. I just walk, look, experience and feel the place.
You could pay a guide and learn all the official stories of the temples. I’m sure you’ll learn something that way. Tour guides abound in uniform. I have heard they have to study for two years and speak at least two languages before being allowed to work at the temples. And if you’re into the history of this place they’re probably a good option. For us though, we just wander and enjoy.
It’s relatively quiet at the first temples we visit. But by the time we’re at Angkor Wat proper the sunrise tour buses have arrived and it’s hectic. So we call it a day without going too far into the Angkor Wat temple. We’ve enjoyed the rest and the people in large tour groups are a bit obnoxious – they crowd whole passages and scowl if you dare excuse yourself to walk through. They’ve obviously paid small fortunes for their race through the key sites of South East Asia so don’t have time for riff raff.
(1) Cover your shoulders. This is a religious site. One American woman was arguing with security at Bayon temple and trying to use the small map as a shoulder cover. She looked like an ignorant fool and was in a total flap. Unlike some other similar sites, there are no shawls or robes available here so dress appropriately to avoid embarrassment.
(2) Come early before the tour buses turn up. The temple complex is incredibly peaceful during the first couple of hours after opening. We didn’t do sunrise and didn’t feel like we missed anything – except the crowds.
(3) It’s a big complex and Cambodia is a hot country. The people we saw walking looked exhausted. Many will walk 10-20km with most being along roadways through the forest connecting the temples. I’m sure it’s pleasant for some but if it’s about saving some dollars remember, you probably paid a few hundred for your airfares to get here and you’ll spend just as much on water staying hydrated as we spent on our tuk tuk (which included cold water).
After a glorious afternoon nap we took my cousin and her partner to Bugs Cafe. The French owner explained the concept and helped us select some food. We opted for the large tasting platter and some deserts. Bugs Cafe is a place where insects are used as protein in “regular” foods. Far from being outrageous, th dishes are delicious and we quickly forgot the taboos around eating this high protein, low fat and environmentally friendly food group. I am sold on the idea of bugs becoming a staple partnod our diets to reduce our reliance on larger meat producing animals (no, I have interest in becoming g vegetarian).
A foot massage and walk rounded out our day and we were tucked up asleep in bed by midnight.