Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom


Sunrsie over Angkor Wat

We arrived at Siem Reap airport in the middle of the afternoon and were welcomed by the Sokha Resort & Spa driver, who carried our bags to the car, gave us a nice fresh towelette and a cold bottle of water. What a difference from Kunming!
Angkor Pass
We got to the hotel which is extremely well located at the intersection on National Road 6 (where most of the hotels are) and Sivatha Blvd (which is the main street in Siem Reap and will take you straight to Pub Street - the main entertainment area - in about 10minutes on foot). We immediately made our Angkor passes directly at the hotel to save time the next day. We had brought passport-sized photos but they used their webcam to take them and print them out onto the pass directly. This pass lets you go in and out of the Angkor complex as often as you want for however many days you bought the pass for. We got a 3-day pass which is valid for 3 consecutive or non-consecutive days over a period of 1 week and costs US$40. Oh yeah, everything is in US$, and that's the currency you'll get at the ATM. If you're visiting from the States, it might be in you interest to just bring cash to avoid the fees at ATMs. The biggest local denomination is 1000Riel which is about 25cents.

outfit for Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom
Zara harem pants, white Zara t-shirt, brown Gap tank top and Indonesian Batik scarf, Accessorize necklace

Sunrise at Angkor Wat
We woke up at 4AM to get ready to head out to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. The hotel kindly organized a tuk tuk for us for the day for $15/day + $8 for the sunrise. He would be waiting for us at 5AM. The sunrise at Angkor was at 6:10AM. We arrived a little early (it took about 15-20minutes from the hotel), but the parking lot was already full of tuk tuks. We got into the complex (you have to show your pass at the main entrance of the complex and at every temple entrance, so make sure it's stashed somewhere safe but easy-to-access) and followed the line of people walking into the grounds. It was pitch black, so we took advantage of other people's flashlights when possible, or resorted to the flashlight on our phones when necessary. We could barely make out the outline of the temple as we got through the main wall.

sunrise at angkor wat in cambodia

I would assume that during the rainy season, there are 2 ponds in front of Angkor Wat from which you can get great shots of the temple. At the time we were there, one pond was almost dry and looked more like a puddle. The other still looked pretty legit and everybody was waiting for the sunrise there. We continued straight up to the temple and ventured inside. Dawn was starting to break, and we could see without a flashlight. The temple was deserted. We almost felt like we were the first to discover the temple after centuries of it being abandoned. Well, apart from the wooden stairs that had been added for our convenience.

We made our way to the pond that had shrunk to the size of a large puddle to wait for the sunrise. The sun did rise at 6:10, but it wasn't until almost 7AM that the sun made its appearance over the iconic spires of Angkor. By this time, the crowds had dissipated and we could get some fantastic shots of the temple.

sunrise over pond at angkor wat

We stayed at Angkor Wat until about 9AM then headed back to the hotel to have breakfast.
One of the best tips we read online was to split the day in half.
Start early and then take a break around lunch and the early afternoon
when it gets really hot. Then, go out again in the late afternoon when the sun
has started to go down and the air gets a little cooler.
Angkor Thom
After breakfast we went to the pool and relaxed a little, checked out the gym and headed ou again for the afternoon with the same tuk tuk driver at around 3PM. In the afternoon, we went to Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom is another complex which is includes the Bayon.

Our driver dropped us in front of the Bayon and explained that we could walk through it and onto the next couple of ruins including the Terrace of Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King, and that he would be waiting in the parking lot across the street.

the Bayon at Angkor Thom

At 3PM it was still pretty hot and it is a lot of walking. It's in Angkor Thom that the climbing really starts. The stairs are steep. It's not really a question of good walking shoes, it's more a question of having shoes that won't fall off. I did the whole thing in a pair of old flats, my {travel} partner was in flip flops (which he took off on the way down). We were both absolutely fine. However, please be careful about what you wear. A girl in front of us was not allowed to climb one of the ruins because she was wearing a red maxi dress with straps. Remember: it's a religious place. Shoulders and knees should be covered!

We got lost, but that's what Angkor is about. We came across amazingly-shaped trees, a small, half-collapsed temple and popped out at the exit. So we went against the flow of visitors and found ourselves back at the Terrace of the Elephants.
Amazing trees and temples at angkor thom

We found our driver and headed off to see the sunset at Phnom Bakheng. It wasn't worth it. It was a bit of a hike (or an elephant ride, if you prefer) and when we got there it was absolutely packed. Sure, there's a nice view of the surrounding area (you can vaguely make out Angkor Wat in the distance), but I think the sunrise at Phnom Bakheng would be just as beautiful - if not more - than the sunset. So we left before the sun actually set and headed back to the hotel.
 That evening we walked all around Siem Reap's Pub Street area looking for a place to eat and ended up at a small restaurant one street down from Pub Street and had our first fish amok (of many).
Check out more pictures here and here and the Angkor packing guide!

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