Photo: Within the grounds of the Royal Palace.

Cambodia forum

Angkor - What to expect

Posted by 5acrefarmer on 20/9/2010 at 19:41

Wondering if anyone would share their experiences of visiting Angkor Wat.

I'm unsure how much time is enough, maybe 2 days is plenty. Also is it enough to aimlessly wander about or do some planning beforehand. Everyone would have different ideas so to hear some of those different approaches and why you were happy with them would be good.

Also, I've seen on TV some serious crowds there and wondering if that happens in a small part of Angkior Wat and if certain parts of the day or week are better for less crowds.

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Posted by eastwest on 20/9/2010 at 20:37

First of all it depends on your personal interests. It's hard to tell other people how much time is needed.

Your have 3 types of visitor passes: 1, 3 or 7 days and that pretty much sums it up well.

1 day is enough for people who are either in a hurry or not very interested in temples anyway. Good for quick photo opportunities and to see the major temples.
3 days is very common and will suit most people best.
Advantage of this is that you have the time to visit the main temples several times (and at odd hours to beat the crowds).
Other advantage is that you can visit some lesser known temples although they start looking the same at the end of day three. Last advantage is that you can leave time to take it easy and have a few breaks from the temple visits. Excursions to the lake, museum or an afternoon relaxing with a massage will make your stay much nicer.
7 days is more for the professionals and history experts. Most people will not fully use this unless they really have an in-depth knowledge of Khmer temples.

You will find plenty of japanese/korean group tours depending on the season. Also plenty of westerners and a very touristy Siem Reap with lots of restaurants and bars.

The main temples will always be busy. The lesser known ones are easy. To beat the crowds you have 2 options. Either very early, skip breakfast and be one of the first to visit Angkor Wat, Bayon or Ta Promh. But some other tourists also do this since it is also the coolest moment of the day.
Other option is to go during lunch time. Very hot but very quiet. Common sense says that people should do 4 hours sightseeing in the morning, go back for lunch and come back in the afternoon. You're very likely to have a temple to yourself during lunch but you have to sacrifice for that.

Bakheng (the sunset hill) is hopeless. Definitely beautiful view (my first visit 12 years ago it was completely empty). Now you have to compete with 500 other tourists and really "elbow" your way to a decent look out point. Can not recommend that anymore.

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Posted by MADMAC on 20/9/2010 at 20:48

This came from another source, but you might find it interesting as well:
Southern Isaan is a poor man's Angkor. What I mean is, if you don't want to spend US$300 on a plane ride from Bangkok to Siam Reap, Cambodia, then spend US$5 and get on a bus to Nakorn Ratchasima!Today I rented a motorcycle and drove up to see a few Angkor-style temples. In fact, the temples I saw today actually pre-date the Khmer temples I vistited last year in Cambodia. They were a bit smaller as well, but they were still very impressive. First, I stopped by Prasat Hin Pranum Wan and then went to Prasat Hin Phimai . Phimai is the bigger of the two, but both were great. I had a lot of fun climbing all over and exploring the re-built ruins.
I also stopped by an archological site called Ban Prasat. There, archeologists have uncovered Bronze Age burial sites. A few of the sites have been left uncovered so that modern-day travelers can look down into the pits to see the skeletons and pottery that was buried with them. One site in particular had about 10 human remains visible about 15 feet down. Very cool.
I finished off the day swimming a few laps at a neighborhood pool I found. Again, everyone was so very friendly I couldn't help but have a great time. The cool water was definitely welcome to my hot, sweaty, moderately sunburned body.

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Posted by Indoluso on 20/9/2010 at 21:08

You should expect many tourists, specially in Angkor Wat. Personally it wasn't my favourite temple, although you can't go to the Angkor site and not see Angkor Wat. You should save time to visit the other temples around, especially the one with the trees over the temple (can't remember the name :s) and Bayon. Bayon was my favourite, try to get there at the end of the day as people wake up at 5h in the morning to see the sunrise thus by 16h they're going back to Siem Reap . I was lucky to be the only one with my two friends around Bayon and it was a crazy experience, it can really impress you! About watching the sunrise, everyone does it, don't think like we did that it would be the moment to see Angkor with lesser tourists. I'd say 2 full days is ok, which means getting to Siem Reap day 1, day 2 and 3 visit, day 4 leave Siem Reap...

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Posted by 5acrefarmer on 21/9/2010 at 04:31

Sounds good. 3 day pass might be right for me.
I'm reminded about seeing a horde of people clinging to the top of a temple to watch sunset. Not so good.

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Posted by oscarcat on 21/9/2010 at 05:35

Try to get out to Beng Melea, its well worth the extra hike, its an extraordinary place, although I seem to recall its not included in the pass?

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Posted by busylizzy on 21/9/2010 at 10:16

@Madmac - your comments (along with those made by exacto) have reallyinspired me to visit the NE corner of Thailand. My next trip was going tofocus on Laos, but I am now keep to include this area as well. Thanks toyou and exacto for all the info you provide!

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Posted by busylizzy on 21/9/2010 at 10:17

@5acre - I have been to Angkor region twice. First trip (May 2008 – very hot!) I spent one day there with my sister who had alimited threshold for temples. We covered good ground, saw the main templeswithout lingering too long, but it wasn’t rushed. I was happy with what we saw on that visit.


The second trip (Jan 2009) I got a 3-day pass and spent much more timelingering, photographing, etc and saw some of the less-frequented ones. I surprised myself at my ability to enjoy 3days worth of templing, but I loved it. (I enjoy photography, so that helped). The crowds were huge at thattime of year – I couldn't believe all the tour buses. It was actuallykind of sickening even though I was 'contributing' to the crowds.

If you get the 3-day pass after 4pm (or is it 5pm?) you can an extra'bonus' day. Get in line around that time, buy your ticket and catch asunset somewhere. Then you've got 3 full days ahead of you. (This probably applies to other passes aswell). Also, the 3 day pass can be usedover a 7 day period. You no longer haveto use it on consecutive days. This isgreat as you can break up your temple days with lounging by the pool, shopping,a village tour or whatever.

The Temples:
The TF Siem Reap travelguide has a brief summary (and rating) of all thetemples. It’s worth having a browsethrough it to get a handle on which ones you want to visit. I worked it out ahead of time, so that we hada clear plan that we could discuss with the tuk-tuk driver.

- Bayon is always afavourite. Get there first thing for some amazing light for your photos. Go there first, then make your way back to Angkor Wat.
- We skipped sunrise at AngkorWat and got there around 7.30-8.00am or so after Bayon. The place hadcleared out - and it was a much better experience. Photos at sunrise havebeen marred with the renovations and scaffolding going on in the front in 2008and in Jan this year.
- Preah Khan is my other favourite. It is a relatively unvisited temple but it’s awesome. Kind of like Ta Phrom (the infamous tomb-raider one), but much moreinteresting, dilapidated and uncrowded. Photo opps galore!
- Ta Phrom – it’s one of the ‘mustdo’ ones, and it is worth it. But thecrowds get a bit maddening!
- Sunset - I totally agreewith eastwest - Bakheng was a complete waste of time at sunset (it’s OK tovisit at other times). It was literallycrawling with hoards of people – people crawling and sitting all over thesteps, walls, etc. There was nothing special aboutthe atmostphere hatsoever. Not sure where I wouldsuggest as an alternative. Maybe the Bayon if you couldn't make it earlyin the morning.

- Use one of your 3 days to do a day trip up north through the countrysideand local villages to Kbal Spean(waterfall carvings) and Banteay Srei(beautiful!). These are included in yourpass. Visit the landmine museum on theway. Waterfall was a mere tricklewhen I was there in May. You might wantto invest in one of those face masks though - the road was dusty and wereorange by time we got back!

- Beng Lea (mentioned by Oscarabove) is supposed to be fantastic. Heis right in that it’s not included in the Angkor Wat ticket – it’s an extra USD$40I think, plus your tuktuk expense to get there.

(Any one of my long rambling posts – sorry!)

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Posted by eastwest on 21/9/2010 at 11:37

Excellent ideas from busylizzy.

Two comments
- Beng Lea is presumably Beng Mealea which is a great temple (just in case 4acre got interested and is trying to look it up). Phnom Kulen also fits in that category.
- Last time (2008) I visited Bakheng (the sunset one) in the early morning as my first temple. Can recommend that. Nobody there and still great light for good photo and atmosphere.

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Posted by busylizzy on 21/9/2010 at 16:51

Thanks eastwest for the typo correction - you are correct, I meant Beng Mealea. (I can see some other typos too - sorry about that! Things also went a bit haywire when I cut and pasted in from a word document - spaces have been stripped out between words in some places.

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Posted by 5acrefarmer on 21/9/2010 at 17:00

I'm excited!

Is there a map that anyone recommends? Maybe you get one when you buy your ticket.
I'll check here on TF in a minute.

Sounds like the temples are spread out over a large area but also tuk tukking from here to there is easy enough.

I need to get back to Asia, it's been too long!

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Posted by busylizzy on 21/9/2010 at 17:36

You will most likely hire a tuktuk for each day that tour the temples. (Some fit people who don't mind the heat hire bicycles in Siem Reap and cycle in). Personally, I like the idea of a tuktuk as you get the nice breeze to cool you down as you travel between temples. Don't underestimate the size of the Angkor Wat area.

Just did a quick google and this site uses google maps to show the different temples: http://www.angkorwhat.net/angkor-wat-map.html

I printed the map from this site: http://www.theangkorguide.com. The map didn't make much sense to me on my first trip, but did so on my return visit. Used in conjunction with the Google Maps it might be of use to you. There is also some good reading on this site if you are interested in learning more, and some suggested itineraries.

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Posted by 5acrefarmer on 21/9/2010 at 19:12

Thanks Busy, great sites and info. So much for my feeble brain to absorb!

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Posted by Voyagner on 30/9/2010 at 12:52

Just to add I believe the fee to enter Beng Mealea is $5, $40 would be crazy but maybe it was a type meant to be $4. Most temples not in Angkor will cost between $0-$5 to enter, unless a private road has been constructed like at Phnom Kulen where it is $20.

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Posted by edwuppy on 19/10/2010 at 05:30

Rent a bike!! I biked them all in 3 days. It was fantastic.

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