Angkor Wat 101: Everything You Need to Know About Visiting What Was Once the World’s Biggest Civilization


 With its vibrant décor, The Inn of Five Graces is a luxury gem tucked away in the city's historic district. Each room features a cozy fireplace and kitchenette, but guests can also wine and dine on the resort's terrace.  Guests can explore beyond the inn's walls by visiting the San Miguel Mission Church, which was built in the 1600s and is located across the street. The Inn of Five Graces costs around $575 a night.
Slide 1 of 25: Can I see the highlights in one day?
Slide 2 of 25: Will I get more out of the three- or seven-day pass?
Slide 3 of 25: What are the rules?
Slide 4 of 25: How do I get to Angkor?
Slide 5 of 25: Should I bother with sunrise at Angkor Wat?
Slide 6 of 25: What about the sunset temples?
Slide 7 of 25: What's the best one-day tour?
Slide 8 of 25: I only have one day; what are the insider tips?
Slide 9 of 25: What's best for day one of a three-day tour?
Slide 10 of 25: What's best for day two or a three-day tour?
Slide 11 of 25: What's best for day three of a three-day tour?
Slide 12 of 25: What should I see with a seven-day ticket?
Slide 13 of 25: What about the extra-cost temples?
Slide 14 of 25: How can I avoid the crowds?
Slide 15 of 25: How can I make the crowds more tolerable?
Slide 16 of 25: What about pickpockets and touts?
Slide 17 of 25: What about the cute kids selling stuff?
Slide 18 of 25: Should I ride the elephants?
Slide 19 of 25: Do I need a guide?
Slide 20 of 25: Do you have any photo tips?
Slide 21 of 25: Can I get lunch and a snack?
Slide 22 of 25: There's so much garbage ... how can I help?
Slide 23 of 25: What do I do when I'm templed out?
Slide 24 of 25: What time of year should I visit?
Slide 25 of 25: How do I get to Siem Reap?

Can I see the highlights in one day?

Will I get more out of the three- or seven-day pass?

What are the rules?

How do I get to Angkor?

Most people choose a tuk-tuk, though you can get an air-conditioned car and driver, rent an e-bike, or a ride a regular bike. The road to Angkor is flat, and stretches of it are shaded. But most people find they need to conserve their energy for climbing temples in the heat. The road can be dusty (cover your camera), so those very sensitive to dust might want a scarf or a car.

Tuktuk prices are negotiable, largely depending on the distance you want to go. If you just plan to go to one or two temples, you can likely save a few dollars. Expect $15 for the Small Circuit tour, with a premium if you want to see sunrise, sunset, or both. Tuk-tuks from higher-end hotels will charge $20, but this includes water and cloths kept icy cold underneath your seat and, if you ask, a lunchtime trip back to town. The Grand Circuit will be $20 or $25, as will the trip to Banteay Srei.

Should I bother with sunrise at Angkor Wat?

What about the sunset temples?

What’s the best one-day tour?

I only have one day; what are the insider tips?

What’s best for day one of a three-day tour?

What’s best for day two or a three-day tour?

What’s best for day three of a three-day tour?

It takes about 45 minutes by tuk-tuk to get out to Banteay Srei, the red sandstone temple with extremely intricate carvings. The breeze from your moving tuk-tuk should keep you cool enough, though those sensitive to dust might prefer a car. Known as the “pink temple,” Banteay Srei is small but stunning. It’s busiest after breakfast and after lunch, prettiest in the early morning and late afternoon. On the far side of the temple, follow the path to the right for a lookout onto a field often picturesquely dotted with water buffalo.Visit the medium-sized Banteay Samre temple on the way. If you have time, climb the 633 steps to the ruins atop Phnom Bok. You’ll likely have it to yourself. There’s a longer path through the shade too. If you’re quick, stop to see the ancient elephant enclosure at Krol Romeas.

You might want to add Kbal Spean, eight miles further north of Banteay Srei. It’s called the River of 1000 Lingas, otherwise known as penises. The phallic statues are mostly underwater and there’s a nice waterfall here.

What should I see with a seven-day ticket?

The Angkor park has 292 temples, 72 of them classified as “major.” With the seven-day ticket, you will have time to see many of the key ones and revisit your favorites in different light to vary your photos.Take a full day to explore all the temples in Angkor Thom. Walking through the forest and around the back of temples will reveal treasures, such as the huge reclining Buddha at Bauphon or the trees growing out of Prasat Preah Palilay.

See several temples where the trees are taking over, not just Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, but also Ta Som (go all the way to the end to the tree-covered gate) and Banteay Kdei (it’s only had minimal restoration; look for the “hall of dancing girls”). The ponds surrounding Neak Pean make for interesting photos, and the walk there across the boardwalk over the huge baray is beautiful. East Mebon has huge elephant statues. Visit Pre Rup and Bakheng Hill at any time other than sunset.Have a picnic beside Srah Srang, the Royal Bathing Pool. Cambodians will join you in the late afternoon. Wander through the grounds of Angkor Wat and sit beside the moat. See the mostly ignored temples northwest of Angkor Thom. The Roluos Group, a 45-minute tuk-tuk ride southeast of Siem Reap, was built earlier than the other Angkor temples; seeing them increases your understanding of how Angkor evolved.

What about the extra-cost temples?

How can I avoid the crowds?

How can I make the crowds more tolerable?

What about pickpockets and touts?

What about the cute kids selling stuff?

Kids will try to get you to buy a (counterfeit) Angkor book, postcards, tissues, or bracelets. They’ll follow you for a while after you say no. They may tell you it’s to make money for a school uniform or books. No matter how sad the story, never buy from a child. Never give a child money or even a gift like candy or a book. You’re just trapping them into a cycle of poverty.

Child protection NGOs such as ThinkChildSafe.org explain that anything that encourages begging, and when parents keeping kids out of school it does more long-term harm than short-term good. Know that many Cambodian kids are employed by hierarchical cartels that profit from child labor.If you want to help kids, the best thing you can do is donate cash to a reputable charity. ConCERT—Cambodia’s Connecting Communities, Environment, and Responsible Tourism NGO—will happily advise you. They’re in Siem Reap near the Old Market on Street 09.

Should I ride the elephants?

Do I need a guide?

Do you have any photo tips?

Can I get lunch and a snack?

There’s so much garbage … how can I help?

What do I do when I’m templed out?

What time of year should I visit?

How do I get to Siem Reap?

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