I have just finished my temple adventure marathon in Angkor, Cambodia’s top travel destination. And I’m glad I’ve done my homework researching a few things about the temple ruins before visiting, as some bad choices could’ve really ruined the trip.
1. Angkor Wat is not as huge as you’d think
Without taking away its greatness, while Angkor Wat is huge it takes you only about 2 hours to explore the temple (especially with many of the pathways being blocked). Some tourists visit just Angkor Wat and that’s it, but the reality is Angkor Wat is just one of the many equally impressive temples around the area.
Budget your time wisely and go explore around more. Make sure you do a little bit of research on the temple options, some of the less popular temples are gems!
2. The distance between temples, though, are massive
“Look at the map. They don’t seem so far, should I just ride a bike around?”
NO. Many travelers, especially the backpackers, love biking around at their own pace. But this one’s different. Getting to the first temple from the main city in Siem Reap alone takes half an hour… by car. Traveling between temples also take quite some time, especially if you plan to visit some amazing outlying temples like Banteay Srey.
Do yourself a favour and forgo the bike. Even if the above reason doesn’t bother you, then #3 below certainly will.
3. Angkor is scorching hot!
The one temple I gave up halfway ’cause the 2-4 pm sun was a merciless rain of heat.
If you have a few extra days in Siem Reap, don’t burn your neck and go get yourself a long relaxing lunch or afternoon Khmer massage instead. Or at least, go to temples with plenty of shading and indoor walkways. If you want to have a pleasant adventure, don’t plan your favorite temples around late afternoon, obviously. And boy was I happy that I decided to take air-conditioned car instead of tuk-tuk.
The irony of it all? You better pray it stays hot during your visit. Wet, muddy steps are the last thing you’d want in Angkor because…
4. You actually need to CLIMB some of the temples
Yep. The steps are exactly wide enough for the size of one shoe, and you might even need to use your hands to climb some of the temples!
When I was at Ta Keo, a woman was crying to her boyfriend that she no longer have the energy to descend. And her boyfriend? Wasn’t any better, shaky legs and all. While I wouldn’t go as far as to call the temple steps “dangerous”, you certainly need some physical fitness and courage. Make sure you do your research and know your limits.
5. The number of tourists in Cambodia probably outweigh the locals
It’s 5 pm and you’re already sharing your sunrise with hundred other tourists. Some places, like Ta Prohm where the famous tree-temple scene from Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider was filmed, is crazy crowded. Good luck getting a clean shot.
Cambodia receives about 2 million tourists every year. Everywhere you go, you see more Caucasians than local citizens. If you’re expecting a romantic, eerie adventure among the deserted ruins, you’ll not get it in Angkor. Set your expectation right and your trip to Angkor will be a much better experience.
Have you been to Angkor? What are the things that you wish others have told you about Angkor? How would you have done your trip differently?