Siem Reap, Cambodia
16.01.2012 - 16.01.2012
....part of my backlog clearance activity
Angkor Archaeological Park
Day after arriving in Siem Reap, we set off early in the morning to explore Angkor ruins, around 6 km north of the town. Angkor Archaeological Park, as it is known today, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains numerous temples built over a period from 9th to 15th centuries AD, spread over more than 400 sq.km, including forests. Angkor (the Khmer word for Capital City) was the seat of the powerful Khmer empire, founded by the Khmer Hindu king Jayavarman II in the 9th century AD when he declared himself as a universal monarch (Chakravarthin). At it's zenith, the empire encompassed almost all that it is today Cambodia, Thailand, Lao PDR and Vietnam. Magnificent temples were built by the Khmer emperors at Angkor to worship Hindu deities like Vishnu, Shiva (as Linga) and at intermediate periods, to worship the Buddha (initially, Mahayana and later Theravada). Today, more than a 1000 temples or their ruins are located in the area, the most famous and largest is of course, the Angkor Wat (Wat is the local word for temple).
Exploring all that is there in the park will take months, so tourists make do with circuits of important temples, based the time they have. We had just a full day. This site suggests some good itineraries: http://www.canbypublications.com/siemreap/sritinerary.htm
Entrance: Passes (you can get in/out anytime during validity) are sold at the front gate, in 3 variants:
1 Day (valid for same day only) @ 20 USD
3 Day (any 3 days over the week) @ 40 USD and
7 Day (any 7 days over a month) @ 60 USD.
Take your passport along for identification. You don't need to buy passes for your guide or driver since it's free for Cambodians. There is no camera fee.
Transport & Guidance:
Guide: Hire a registered guide from your hotel, they charge about 20-25 USD/day. And it's worth it, they will not only guide you along the best possible circuit of important temples based on the time you have, but also save you the hassle of directly dealing with the driver. Relying just on the tuk tuk driver can be risky since most can't speak English and they aren't linked with the Hotel too.
Transport: Best way is travel by a tuk tuk (motor cycle driven carriage seating usually 4 persons, keep one seat for the guide). It costs about 12-15 USD/day. Other options include renting a bicycle (1-2 USD/day), motorbikes with driver (8-10 USD/day), taxis or guided tour buses. However, there isn't as much fun in taxis or buses as you have on a tuk tuk.
There are no restaurants within the park, you can have lunch at the numerous restaurants outside the park. Most restaurants have separate free food for the driver and guide when you visit them, so don't pay additionally for it.
Timings: 5 am - 6 pm.
Other stuff to carry along: Plenty of bottled water, mosquito repellent, rain coat/umbrella for rainy seasons and hat/sun glasses for the summer.
Our itinerary: Since we had kept a full day for Angkor, we covered this way:
Morning (starting around 8 am) - South gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon (Face Temple), Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Elements, Terrace of the Leper King.
Lunch at a restaurant outside the park.
Afternoon (until about 4 pm) - Ta Prohm (Jungle Temple), Angkor Wat.