I was considering the best option for a day exploring the temples : bicycle or tuk-tuk? The weather was hot and humid and I thought it best to go with tuk-tuk and damn I was right!
You’ll see many people riding bicycles around the place, but in my opinion it’s worth hiring a driver for the day (or half-day in my case). The typical price for a personal driver is US$14-18 for the day – this is the cost for the whole tuk-tuk, so I guess you could split it between four people if you wanted. And the driver won’t be too concerned with time, but you will need to decide before you head off to which places you would like him/her to take you.
We started our day at 12:30PM, lunchtime. I knew in the back of my mind that the driver would take us to somewhere fairly expensive. When we arrived at the entrance to Ta Phrom temple, we were taken to a very lux restaurant where the food prices were upwards of $6 per dish.
I don’t want to embarrass this man with the price I’d rather pay
I knew I could satisfy my hunger at a much cheaper price and walked over to the open field next door where all the market stalls stood. Right at the back there was a shack with a few tables set up. A gentleman greeted us with a menu, a quick glance showed food prices quite higher than I had expected (still upwards of $5 per dish).
He kept saying “I’ll give you a discount” and I thought to myself, I don’t want to embarrass this man with the price I’d rather pay, which is comparable to Siem Reap City prices (around the $2 range).
He agreed to sell at the local price and we had a great meal, surrounded by the curious peckings of fowl and other wild birds.
Post-lunch, we walked through the gates of the Ta Phrom temple. Security guards were waiting to check our tickets, on which photos of our faces had been printed. I was glad to have brought along my fan to keep me cool – everyone else just looked red raw and beaten by the heat.
These legends kept the secret of the ruins
The temple was beautiful to look upon. Centuries passed, not one person knew of its existence. Many local legends told of the forest and jungle hosting an array of supernatural creatures, ghosts and other monsters – these legends kept the secret of the ruins.
With time, nature reigned, moving back in to reclaim the land. Trees literally engulf the walls and structure of the temple complex, as if nature’s arms shot up through the dirt to pull the built-environment under the ground in a rush of fury.
A few selfies here and we jumped on the tuk-tuk to the next stop: Bayon. This is a temple known for the distinctive faces carved on the exterior of the temple. It is located inside the walls of the Angkor Thom complex.
Inside, the smell of bat excrement was unpleasantly overpowering. I discovered a few shivlings, stone obelisks dedicated to Lord Shiva in the Hindu belief.
Our driver was having a nap in a hammock he had set up in the tuk-tuk. I quickly shook him from that slumber! Now that I think about it, he was probably grumpy all day because he had a sleep debt – sorry buddy.
Angkor Wat, is a marvel to behold. The water moat surrounding the outer walls is bridged by a wide stone path leading to the entrance of the complex. The famous shape of the temple is not yet visible from this path.
Much like the Taj Mahal, the architecture at Angkor Wat has some surprising optical illusions. The gateway to the complex is through a darkened square room – framing the temple ahead perfectly. As you walk through, the door seems to grow as does the temple itself. The gardens and ponds begin to appear and it is as if you are transported to a new world – breathtaking!
Of course, it is not good practice to touch such ancient structures, but you can tell that many people choose to disobey this rule – see which parts of this stone carving have been touched the most? Fertility charm?
The King is ruling.
View to the back.
View to the front.
Here is the best spot to take a photo in front of the temple:
The result is a photo with the water in the foreground and the beautiful ancient temple looming in the background.
But look out for cheeky monkeys!
We then made our way to the last stop of the day: sunset temple. Arriving before 4:30PM is a good idea – otherwise you may have to wait in an enormous queue.
As you climb the stairs, the security guards give you a laminated pass – this just ensures that no more than 100 people are at the top at any one time. As you descend and return the pass, it is given to the next bunch of people who go up.
Depending on the season and day, time your visit for the sunset. I saw the circular rainbow around the sun and that was sunset enough for me.
At 5:30PM, the sun was still high with no sign of descending, though it was due for sunset at 5:45PM. Even at 7:30PM when we were having our dinner, the sun was still around – so you may have to play a bit of a waiting game, be patient.