Angkor Wat Travel Tips
Tips, It was alone, deep in the Cambodian jungle, flanked by the scattered ruins of ancient Khmer temples. The ears tickled with the cackle distant bird calls and buzzing cicadas, the shirt clung to the skin with a thick layer of sweat and ocher-hued dust, suddenly, Amanda, traveler from USA heard movement to the right behind a wall. What was it? An ancient spirit of temples? A fearsome jungle cat waiting to pounce? his muscles tensed and he stood waiting for the apparition to appear – until a flag-waving tour group emerged from around the corner. It turns out It wasn't as alone in the jungle as he previously thought.
Angkor Wat is less a place than an idea burned in our subconscious. These famous ruins float in our dreams like Indiana Jones fantasy, cloaked in thick layers of vines and overgrown jungle trees. Yet the reality of this ancient wonder of the world doesn't always align with our visions. Angkor Wat today is among the most popular tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, with nearly two million visitors annually. The abandoned ruins of your dreams are positively overrun with tour groups, brandishing their gigantic SLR's like a camera-toting guerrilla army. Yet despite its enduring popularity, a visit through Angkor can still be thoroughly enjoyable – you just need to know the right way to do it.
To truly enjoy the wonders of Angkor, you need to come armed with a few simple strategies. Ready to make your own adventure through Angkor Wat? Keep reading below for our five tips.
Tip #1 – Do Your ResearchBefore arriving in Angkor, Amanda had assumed the site was just one big temple – it's not. In reality it's a series of massive complexes including Angkor Thom and the Roluos Temples, covering more than 3000 square kilometers and 72 major temples, many of which were built during different period of the Khmer Empire. It pays to come to Angkor with at least some idea of what you want to see. Otherwise it's easy to get lost and overwhelmed.
Tip #2 – Leave Enough TimeTip two falls right in line with tip one. Considering the immense size of Angkor, you want to leave enough time to explore the site's many ruins. Though individual interest in the ruins varies, many travelers recommend at least three days for a proper visit. This ensures you can check out all the main sights while also leaving time for some of the lesser-known gems, many of which are far less crowded than the "biggies" like Angkor Wat. Any less than this and you're likely to spend a lot of time queuing behind other tourists at the big ruins. And if you're really into archeology, consider grabbing a week-long pass.
Tip #3 – Beat the HeatEven during the cooler winter months, Cambodia is positively sweltering. Daytime temperatures hover anywhere from the 25'c to over 37 degrees. Spending all day walking around in the baking heat is a bad idea. Plan a mid-day break for lunch into your itinerary if you're doing it on your own.
Another great way to escape the crazy temperatures is a side trip out to Kbal Spean, a series of riverbed carvings with a refreshing waterfall pool at the end. And wherever you go, make sure to bring lots of water. Enterprising kids sell bottles outside most temples for next to nothing.
Tip #4 – Explore the Lesser-KnownNo matter when you visit, expect Angkor Wat to be busy. But despite all the moaning about the crowds, there are still plenty of places you can find yourself all alone. Temples like Preah Kahn, the Banteay Srei/Kbal Spean combo and the Roluos Group, especially when visited early/late in the day, can make for delightfully deserted experiences. For the ultimate do-it-yourself experience, consider renting a bike to explore. You'll find you can linger more easily at sites once the tour buses have departed.
Tip #5 – Choose Your Sun CarefullyBefore Amanda trip to Angkor, people kept raving about the sunsets. With considerable anticipation, he climbed to the top of Phnom Bakheng on his first day, ready to be wowed by the awesome sight of the sun setting over the temple complexes. Except it wasn't that great. It was wildly crowded and gave very little view of the surrounding temples. Every "sunset spot" he visited during his three day tour was similarly poor. he's sure there are good sunsets/sunrise to be had in Angkor, but they don't come easy. If you're dead-set on seeing the sunset or sunrise, don't expect to be alone and make sure to get there early.
Yes, there are lots of visitors at Angkor. But with a little preparation and planning, there's still plenty of adventure to be had. You just have to look a little harder to find it.
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