Siem Reap and Angkor Wat 3


One of my favorite parts of traveling is seeing ancient ruins.  I let my imagination run wild as I try to envision what life was like in that particular time period, probably never coming close to reality.  However, this was exactly one of the reasons why the temples and ruins around Angkor is so fascinating!

We are not the “Hire a Guide” kind of travelors.  However, when it comes to a land steeped in so much history, we wondered if having a local give us background and historical information would make for a much clearer and memorable picture of the sights we would be seeing.  In hind-sight, we could have done most of it on our own, but at the end of the day, I am glad that we had someone who knew exactly where to go, we didn’t have to worry about driving and, while the history background wasn’t as rich as we had hoped, we still came out knowing more than going in!

Day 1:

After an all night flight, our first day was spent simply relaxing by the pool, taking a nap, getting a great lunch and wandering the Pub Streets.  Knowing that the next few days were going to be go-go-go, we opted for a day of leisure and relaxation before jumping into the fun.

Le Meridian 5 Start Hotel

Le Meridian 5 Start Hotel

Day Two:

Beng Mealea, a beautifully ruined old temple.  This was a temple we had both wanted to see and where quite happy to have a driver (as it was far from Siem Reap; 70 KM) but was a great way to see more than just the city of Angkor Wat, which is where most tourists flock to.  Like many temples in the area, it has a mix of Hindu and Buddhist elements and combined with the overtaking trees, has a magical feel to it.

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On our way back to Siem Reap, we stopped at one of the many floating villages on the Tonle Sap, the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia.  The lake in high season can stretch all the way from the outskirts of Siem Reap to Phnom Penh!  We were taken to one of the less touristy areas of the lake, where we were really able to see the locals living life literally on the “sea” and back channels.

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Day Three:

Our first stop was the Preah Ko Temple, a beautiful sandstone temple with very few other tourists, which allowed us plenty of time and space to take in the magnificent carvings on the walls.

Preah Ko Temple

Preah Ko Temple

The next temple of the day was the ancient temple, Bakong Temple, built in the 800s!  The towering steps gave way to beautiful views over the jungle.

Bakong

Bakong

Heading back, we stopped at one of the may crocodile farms.  While we could have paid a few dollars for the spectacle of feeding a chicken to the crocs, we quickly made our way through the complex and prayed we didn’t slip into the pits!

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The rest of the afternoon and into late evening was spent at the “Cultural Village” in Siem Reap.  This complex held several shows throughout the night that brought folktales to life.  There were mini circus shows, a “traditional wedding” show, a myth about peacocks and the finale being the tale of the famous ancient king, King Jayavarman VII, who was also responsible for building many of the temples in the area.  This cultural village may be a great place if one has kids and would like a few shows, but I would have rather spent my time exploring the “real” culture of Siem Reap and Cambodia; one of the downfalls of having a guide, I suppose.

Mini Circus at the "Cultural Village"

Mini Circus at the “Cultural Village”

Day Four:

Our next morning was spent exploring the beautiful jungle and “mountain,” Kbal Spean, home of the thousand lingas.  A short hour long hike through the tangled jungle brought us to beautifully ancient stone carvings in the stone riverbed.  These lingas were a symbol of fertility to the land and all water that rushed over them considered holy.  Even after hundreds of years of water erosion, beautiful images of Buddha lying in the river and other motifs could be found all over the riverbed.

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The next stop of the day was the beautiful pink “Lady Temple,” Banteay Srey and then to the “farmer’s temple,” Banteay Samré.  With very few other tourists here, this was one of my favorite of all the temples we saw.  We also stopped at the great Pre Rup complex, with plenty of ruined statues and staircases.

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Banteay Srey

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Banteay Srey

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Banteay Samré

Banteay Samré

Banteay Samré

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Pre Rup

Pre Rup

 

 

We finished our day going to yet another temple in actual Angkor town (unfortunately, I do not know the name, as our guide rushed to get us there in time).  As the sun set over the jungle, it cast beautiful shows over Angkor Wat off in the distance.  Even though we shared the experience with a mass of other tourists, it was still a stunning spectacle.

Sunset over Angkor

Sunset over Angkor

 

Day Five:

Our final day was the big finale.  After days of seeing temples in the Angkor kingdom, today was the day we actually saw THE Angkor Wat and the Angkor City.  We started with sunrise (which depending on the time of year can be absolutely breathtaking, or in our case, somewhat lack-luster).  Regardless, you will be sharing the morning with hundreds of other tourists jammed near the pond waiting for their photo-op.

Everyone else wanting their perfect sunrise

Everyone else wanting their perfect sunrise

Instead of going straight to the Angkor Wat (which is what all those tourists taking pictures are going to do), we left to go yet another favorite temple, Bayon.  This amazing temple had Buddha heads everywhere you looked, giving the feeling that Buddha himself was watching over you.

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Bayon

Next, we headed to the very touristy location of Ta Prohm, yes, the Tomb Raider temple.  There is a reason why this was the set of the film and why so many people want to see it.  The jungle has truly taken over the temple, but in such a magical way that religion and nature are bound as one.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

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Finally, the grand finale: Angkor Wat.  We spent the afternoon wandering around the giant ancient complex, taking in the carvings, staring up at the massive towers or just watching the young Buddhist monks.

Angkor Wat at Sunrise

Angkor Wat at Sunrise

Angkor Wat

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LeAnna

Author and Creator at Economical Excursionists
Former teacher turned blogger turned mom turned full time travel addict, LeAnna has never been one to live life by the rules. Whether she is moving to a farm in Switzerland to learn to make cheese (Yes, CHEESE), jumping off a mountain to paraglide over Cinderella castles, or taking her baby all over the world with nothing but a backpack on their backs, LeAnna designs and defines her OWN life. LeAnna, her husband Andy, and kiddo, "Lil B" love to live a minimal lifestyle, not only for the "thrill" of pinching pennies but in order to save for traveling the world. Considering over 40 countries and 90+ cities have been explored, we'd say they are doing something right!

About LeAnna

Former teacher turned blogger turned mom turned full time travel addict, LeAnna has never been one to live life by the rules. Whether she is moving to a farm in Switzerland to learn to make cheese (Yes, CHEESE), jumping off a mountain to paraglide over Cinderella castles, or taking her baby all over the world with nothing but a backpack on their backs, LeAnna designs and defines her OWN life. LeAnna, her husband Andy, and kiddo, "Lil B" love to live a minimal lifestyle, not only for the "thrill" of pinching pennies but in order to save for traveling the world. Considering over 40 countries and 90+ cities have been explored, we'd say they are doing something right!


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3 thoughts on “Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

  • Scott

    Do you have any more specifics on this trip for others who may want to go there? How much did everything cost? Where did you find your tour guide? You said you could have done most of it on your own, but HOW would you have gotten to all of these place? Any specific insight would be a great help.

    • LeAnna Post author

      Hi Scott! Of course I can share more! And feel free to email me w/ more specific questions.
      1) We stayed at Le Merdian on points (5 nights/ 18,000 points total).
      2) I searched (and searched and searched) for tour guides via both google and viator. I found that Viator charges more, so once I found a guide I liked, I tried to google to see if they had their own page (most did!) There is a whole range of options and prices for guides. I went w/ mine because of cost, flexibility and he loved photography even more than me! 😉 For a three day tour of the surrounding temples, it was $199 total for the both of us. We did an additional fourth day for an extra $97 to Beng Mealea which was further away. Sarak was a good guide, not the best but absolutely not the worst! He didn’t try to push anything on us and gave us great context into current politics (only had general information on the history of the temples though) He was a great photography and actually took pictures of us the whole time, which was great since we normally just get one or neither of us in most shots! [email protected]
      3) You can do a lot of the temples close to Siem Reap by Tuk Tuk. They are everywhere and you can negotiate a price for the day. To get out to the further temples, a cab would be necessary. I’m not sure if I got enough background/history/ context from our guide to have made the extra price of a guide worth it, which is why I said we could have probably done it on our own. If you have a phenomenal guide though, I still recommend going that route
      4) Food is pretty cheap around Siem Reap so that didn’t add much at all in terms of expenses
      Let me know what else I can help with!