Today we explored the world renown Angkor Wat and a few of its' fellow temples - Angkor Thom, Bayon and Taprohm.
We were picked up by our Tuk Tuk driver at 4:45am, he was originally supposed to pick us up at 4:30am, therefore there were a couple of concerning looks being shot between us in those 15 long minutes. Fortunately, he arrived and we set off in the pitch black, bumping up and down the pothole filled roads all the way to Angkor Wat. It was a short journey to the ticket office first. We caught our first glimpse on just how busy the Sunrise event may be as we saw the lengthy queues of people waiting for tickets at around 10-12 booths. It's important to note that as a female visiting Temples - it is seen as a sign of respect to cover your shoulders and knees. You will see lots and lots of hippie, elephant print trousers in these queues for just this reason. If you forget, there is a stall in this ticket office selling trousers and scarfs, but these will be at an inflated price to those you will find on a market stall beforehand. I bought a pair of trousers for around $4 (£2.89) in the market which is cheaper than any trousers I've seen in the UK, they were nice and light too which was a bonus!
On arriving at Angkor Wat, we were instantly faced with our first scam. A lady approached us right outside the entrance, pointing to Jacs' shorts saying that he can't come in. We initially thought that this rule was only for females, so we were quite confused looking around at other males who had a mixture of long trousers and shorts on. She pointed to a clothing stand on the left and said we could buy them from there to enter the temple. SCAM ALERT: Jac cottoned on straight away that it was a scam and we walked straight past her into the Temple. If a conversation with a local results in them telling you you should buy something, they are most likely about to have your pants down! (Quite literally in this case as Jacs' pants are attached to the lining of his gym shorts!)
It was around a half mile walk through the darkness to the base of Angkor Wat. The crowds gathered in their hundreds, setting up cameras and securing their space at the waters' edge to get a good view. Still seeing loads of space at the side of the river, Jac and I went for a coffee instead. Top tip for coffee lovers - if you are like me and prefer sweetener to sugar in coffee, buy a pack and bring them travelling with you. They aren't available in any street cafe's and cost around £3 (100 pack) to buy in the supermarkets here (Daylight robbery in comparison to the £1 packs of 100-300 you can buy in the UK!)
We walked over to the waters edge at around 6:10am and perched ourselves on the stones ready for sunrise. However, on looking at the abundance of clouds in the sky and the weather forecast that day, we were under no illusion that that sun wasn't coming out for no man! The sky got brighter and although nowhere to be seen... We had sort of ticked 'Watching the Sunrise at Angkor Wat' off our list of things to do (for an extra $5). I think you can already guess my top tip on this one - check the forecast before you go, although it was a lovely atmosphere and something different in getting up so early for the event... It was a bit rubbish if you actually wanted to see the sun rise! If the weather isn't great, we would suggest skipping Angkor Wat for sunrise and heading straight to one of the other temples. They would be completely empty at this time and would give a real adventure experience (especially if it's still dark!)
We headed over to Angkor Wat itself and were both pleasantly surprised. It was amazing inside, the towering sculptures formed corridors and ancient-feeling open spaces. A young monk sat at in front of a pillar, giving blessings to those that asked (for a small fee, of course). We walked around inside and thought we better make a move if we wanted to miss the crowds at the next temple. Top tip - if like us, theres no sunrise as soon as you can see, go straight over to Angkor Wat and get exploring. There will be hardly anyone in there as they’ll all be desperately waiting for the non existent sun.
Upon our walk back to the TukTuk, we saw our first monkey! It looked so cute and innocent until it snarled its' teeth and shook his goolies at us! Another monkey nearly attacked a man who was silly enough to offer out a banana. He ended up throwing his bag of bananas at the monkey before it did! (Wise choice). Top tip - monkeys are very cute. We can't deny this, but they are so vicious when it comes to their primal instincts around food! Never offer your food to monkeys and keep it out of site when passing them! We've also heard rumours that you aren't supposed to show your teeth to a monkey as for them this is a sign of aggression. Although, I hope this isn't true as I don't know how I'm going to cope not being able to smile at a monkey!
The next temples, Angkor Thom and Bayon were our favourites, mainly because there were so many rocks to clamber across and so many little hideaways to explore. We were both absolutely fascinated by the faces in the rocks too, there were so many of them and they were so detailed, it gave the temples such an ancient feel. After a bit of exploring and Jac doing his jazz hands with the GoPro, we made our way back to the Tuk Tuk. We found this amazing spot on the way and stopped to eat our packed lunch. We sat on the edge of a huge opening of water, surrounded by 3 of the 12 towers that face Angkor Thom. The scene was so beautiful and reminded Jac of a scene from the Lost City of Z!
Upon getting back on the TukTuk, we must have been looking pretty tired as the driver asked us if we wanted to go and see the next 3 temples on the tour (Takeo, Thamanon and Chavsay Thevada) or skip to the last one - Taprohm a.k.a the temple featured in the Tomb Raider film. We both looked at each other and knew we were thinking the same thing. Don't get me wrong - the first two temple visits were amazing and we would definitely recommend it - but it's just not something we would spend a whole day doing. So, we went with the second option and went straight to Taprohm.
My goodness, it's safe to say Taprohm might be the second most popular as it was full of tourists. It was very busy and a little suffocating when in close contact through tiny corridors. However, the temple does look really cool and had an amazing Amazon setting. There were vines growing through the walls of the temples, wrapping around the humongous trees that grew within the centre of the rocks. We took a scenic route away from the tours and found a huge vine, which instantly looked like a great makeshift swing. We both had a go and carried on through the temple. Upon taking another scenic route, we saw a snake! We were so giddy to see one but for all you snake-scaredy cats out there, don't be surprised if you catch a glimpse of one too.
There were a lot of no climbing signs at this temple. However, rules are made to be broken as they say so we scattered through the tiny doorways and ducked under the low hanging beams. We found out that this rule was probably put there for good reason as Jac ended up slipping off one of the rocks, smacked his head into a beam and got bitten to death by the red ants nest that he landed in! Funny as it was in the end, we decided it was time to go!
We finished our tour at 10am - from what we've read in other blogs, this is a pretty early finish. However, for us, it was more than enough time to have a look around and see the things we wanted to see.
Overall, we had a great day seeing the temples and would definitely recommend it. However... If you are very adventurous, enjoy fast paced activities and like to distance yourself from big tourist attractions (like us), a one day pass for the temples (or a 5/6 hour round trip in our case) is more than enough! They do a 1 ($37), 3 ($62) or 7 ($72) day pass for the temples. This lets you into any temple you like for an entirety of the ticket. We thought this was quite expensive at first but once we got there and started looking around, we both thought it was worth the money you pay - especially considering you’re seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World!
Tour guides are also available, although we chose not to do this - we actually tagged on the back of one for half an hour and listened to what the guide had to say (this is easy to do as no one notices, hint hint - if you’re on a budget). It was actually very interesting, looking online you pay roughly $35 for this privilege. There are also people walking around selling guides for extortionate prices outside of the temple, but if pick one up inside its a fraction of the price.
In regards to our TukTuk driver - we paid $25 in total for a 4:30am - 10:30am trip including the 4 temples that we chose to visit. This was supposed to be for a 6 temple tour as mentioned and we think our TukTuk overpriced us a little so around $20-$25 is what you should expect to pay for the 6 temple tour including sunrise.
Great day, all in all.
Adventure rating - 4/10
Fitness Level - 3/10
Fear rating - 2/10 (unless you don’t like snakes, monkeys, face-planting beams and red ants - 6/10!)
Cost per two people - TukTuk $25, Entry for 2 - $74, 2 baguettes — $12, Coffees - $6 = $117 (£84)