angkor wat itinerary
As we stated in the tips and suggestions post, we felt the need to have a semi-proper plan of what we intended to see each day. We were overwhelmed by all the different temples, which was special, which was more of the same old, same old. After a little research and talking to our concierge at Diamond D’Angkor Boutique, we felt more prepared and confident in our itinerary.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat
To witness the enchantment and splendor of a sunrise at Angkor Wat, set your alarm early..no, really early. Even earlier if you haven’t bought your park ticket yet. If you arrange it, your hotel can also provide a boxed breakfast for the morning that you decide to go.
Our tuk-tuk driver picked us up at 5:15, which gave us enough time for the drive from Siem Reap, purchasing tickets, and making the sunrise.
Once we entered the park, we were dropped off around the back entrance of Angkor Wat. At first, we were not happy. We saw the sun start to rise and thought for sure that we were going to miss our chance of being a spectator. We rushed past the practically empty back-side and made our way to the front of the temple, facing the hordes of people waiting for the chance to get that perfect shot.
We found a spot behind the throngs of others by the pond. Devin reached his long arms up, above everyone else trying to get the shot. You know the one, the one of the temple reflecting on the water.
As it turned out, we had plenty of time. We arrived at 6:00 and it took at least 30 minutes to get the colors we wanted. Once we realized that we were entirely too early still, we wandered around to find a better area that was less-crowded. We kicked ourselves for not taking our time in the empty temple. C’est la vie.
While we sat waiting for the sun, a woman ran around selling coffee and food and would deliver it right to you! Devin ordered and was slowly sipping on his latté, when the time finally came. The breathtaking displays of radiating reds and oranges embraced the morning sky. Angkor Wat, in all of its glory, proudly stood in front of the intense scenery.
*This is when people recommend to continue visiting the temples, when the number of people are considerably lower.
After, we decided to join the crowds of people leaving to go back to their hotel for breakfast. We were hungry too! Plus, it was already hot and humid, so why not?
Our tuk-tuk waited for us to finish, then brought us back into the temples. Next up was Ta Prohm. This temple is probably the second most-known of them all, following Angkor Wat. The reason is thanks to Angelina Jolie in the movie Tomb Raider. What is also cool about visiting this temple, is that UNESCO and the park have agreed to leave it alone. They do not alter or maintain any of the overgrowth. They’re letting the forest take complete control, letting nature be the new contractors.
After spending a considerable amount of time at Ta Prohm, we went to Angkor Thom to see one main temple, Bayon. Angkor Thom is a big area, with a lot of other temples and could take a large chunk of your day, if you let it. We decided we wanted to just spend time in Bayon. Here, you will see temple of the elephants and actual elephants giving rides to tourists around the park.
The unique and interesting characteristic of Bayon are all the faces. A lot of tourists try to get the picture of their nose lining up with the faces in the rock. A popular challenge also going around is trying to count all the faces- it’s hard to keep track!
Once we finished at Bayon, we were ready to get back to the hotel. We were dripping in sweat and honestly, losing interest rapidly due to the heat. Time to head home! There’d be much more time to see more temples!
After allowing ourselves to sleep in for the day, we decided to take a “day off” from temple sight-seeing. We figured we could squeeze all the rest that we wanted to see in our final full day in Cambodia. We also heard from others in the hotel and even read online, that it was very easy to be templed-out after just a few days. We thought we’d keep it simple. Why kill ourselves with a packed schedule?! So, we decided to spend the entire day at Common Grounds working. Devin had work to do for his company and Ryann worked typing on the blog. Very productive day indeed. Not too far from our hotel, it had good WiFi signal and seating, excellent American food, A/C and all for a great cause! Ryann continuously ordered the fried chicken salad with the honey mustard. It was a craving finally quenched.
Finally, our last full day in Cambodia would be spent outside, out of the beloved air-conditioning and iced coffees and into the sticky heavy air. All part of the experience!
So we first left our hotel at 8 am and drove 30 minutes to Banteay Srei. We both thoroughly enjoyed the tuk-tuk ride in the countryside. For more information on this, visit enter tomb raider. Banteay Srei was special because the rock was red. This caused the temples to have a completely different feel and atmosphere. Although it seems like “quite the trek for just red rock,” it was well worth it in our opinion.
After, we headed back to visi Banteay Prei. This temple wasn’t too much different than the rest, except it seemed to be in relatively good standing. Plus, the best part was that NO ONE WAS THERE! We had our own mini photo-shoot in the temples. It was absolutely amazing being able to explore without anyone else spoiling our freedom to wander. Excellent!
After, we drove the long ride back. But first, we had to stop and get a couple of coconuts to drink. We already went through two large water bottles. Our tuk-tuk driver recommended that he take us to two more temples before we called it quits for the day. It’s very special to see the pride pouring out from the Cambodian people. They are hands down, the friendliest people we’ve met. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with smiles and excitement. Truly, if it weren’t for the killer heat, it would be one of the greatest places on earth.
So, next up was Ta Som. Ta Som was a bit like Ta Prohm and Bayon combined, but not as big and a little more touristy. There were children running around with baskets full of postcards and magnets and other souvenirs to sell. A boy had sold Ryann a book while we were there- quite the push at this temple! Nevertheless, it was a pretty cool temple.
Last up was Banteay Samre! This probably held the record for the quickest visit. We climbed the steps, watched a Chinese man yell at his wife in public, leaving her in tears, and climbed back down. It was very crowded and honestly, other than a few deteriorating elephant statues, ehhh. We were very much done with temple-visiting for the day. We were ready to head home. You can skip this one, in our opinion.
We realize we didn’t have the most jam-packed schedule, but were more than satisfied with what we saw. It was extremely hot and humid and we felt exhausted after just a couple hours because of it! We left Cambodia feeling like we saw everything we needed to. We didn’t feel burnt out by the amount of temples or have any residual cases of FOMO. A big thank you to our tuk-tuk drivers!
One other attraction that many people flock to is Tonlé Sap Lake. Read our reasons below as to why we chose to skip it.
Tonlé Sap Lake
A lot of other people include and suggest visiting Tonlé Sap Lake. We decided against it. We looked at the Trip Advisor reviews- which had more terrible than excellent reviews. At the time of writing, there were 224 terrible reviews. Upon further research, we read that it was mostly a scam and tourist-driven impoverished area. According to many, they rely solely on tourists for money to purchase the overpriced goods for families and schools, which only adds to the problem. How will this ever help them solve their issue? What kind of living is this?
Another post we read described it as “like feeding a wild animal for years and then releasing it back to the forest.” Sure, it’s an eye-opening (and overpriced) experience to see how many disadvantaged Cambodians live, but it doesn’t solve the problem. Many people who purchase items or visit, further enhance their proble
We do hope for the best for the Cambodian community- we found the people to be extremely friendly and kindhearted.