The Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap city is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Asia. It houses the remnants of the ancient capital of the powerful Khmer Empire which largely shaped the history of Cambodia. Declared a UNESCO world site heritage in 1992, the Angkor complex is home to several temple ruins originally built by Khmer Kings between 9 to 12 centuries. Due to its massive size, Angkor is considered the largest religious complex in the world.
The big three must-see temple ruins in the complex are the Angkor Wat, the Bayon temple, and Ta Prohm. Angkor Wat is the best-restored among the ruins and where tourists flock in at early morning to witness the beautiful ascent of the morning sun.
Exploring Angkor on your own is very possible. All you have to do is check online resources for some guide and tips. It’s totally a fulfilling experience when you are in Angkor. It feels like stepping back in time into a different world with all those big, rare trees and ancient ruins. Cool atmosphere, quiet surrounding, and a very laid-back environment.
If you’re a budget traveler and planning to visit Angkor Wat on your own without a tour guide, here are the top things to consider to make the most of your trip:
Angkor Wat at Sunrise
Arrange a Tuktuk ride
The moment you arrive in Siem Reap, tuktuk rides are available. Tuktuk, similar to a tricycle in the Philippines but larger, is the cheapest transportation in Cambodia. It is safe and very practical for budget travelers.
Tuktuk drivers are open for fare negotiation especially if you will hire them to take you to the Angkor complex, so don’t hesitate to make an arrangement. This is good for four passengers, so you can divide the amount among yourselves. You can save a lot with Tuktuk versus hiring a car.
Upon our arrival in Phnom Penh, we made an arrangement with the tuktuk driver to take us to the hotel. We asked for a discounted rate since we will hire him also for our Angkor trek the following morning. Luckily for us, he agreed.
Useful Reminder: When visiting Cambodia, better prepare for US dollar currency. Cambodian locals prefer to be paid in US dollars than their local currency. Buy US dollars in your home country because foreign exchange rate in Cambodia is slightly higher.
APSARA Ticketing Office
Angkor pass can be bought only at the Apsara ticketing office. This is your first stop when traveling to Angkor Archaeological Park. Tourists must come individually to the ticketing booth to have their digital photo taken for the Angkor Pass. This is to ensure you have bought the ticket yourself and is not stolen. Always keep your ticket with you because this will be checked every now and then when you enter the complex. Opening time is 5:00 in the morning.
Angkor at Sunrise
Good morning Angkor! At the crack of dawn, we started traversing the dark street of Siem Reap for our Angkor Wat adventure. We brought a packed meal (the night before, we requested the hotel receptionist to pack our complimentary breakfast) so that we would have something to eat in the morning during the trek.
One of the highly anticipated activities when visiting Angkor is the early morning trek to the Angkor Wat to witness the sunrise. The soft golden glow of the morning light that cuddles the towers of the central temple allures tourists. It magnifies freshness and peace as the rays spread throughout the clusters of the ruins and into the neatly manicured grounds.
We entered the West Gate of the Angkor Wat and walked along the causeway with a lake on each side to reach the main area of the temple. Tourists were all over the place the moment we arrived and thronged to the spot where a reflecting pool is situated. Photographers and adventurers crammed to this area to take an iconic shot of the Angkor Wat’s reflection at sunrise. A useful tip, bring a flashlight when taking a sunrise trek to Angkor. Siem Reap is still dark at 5:00 in the morning.
Our next stop was Angkor Thom, just few miles from Angkor Wat. This is my personal favorite in the Angkor Archaeological Park due to its breathtaking scenery of nature. An interesting haven for artists and photographers, Angkor Thom is also home to several temple ruins including the famous Bayon temple. It has an extensive ground for photo shoots and is literally covered with thick vegetation and a magnificent landscape of nature.
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