Siem Reap’s Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia is one of the few places left on earth where one can really feel all the childhood magic of adventure as an explorer- where Indiana Jones’ type escapades are almost possible. Credited as the largest religious site in the world, the 1,000 square kilometers of UNESCO World Heritage ancient ruins are a place to get lost and to find wonder. The majesty of craftsmanship, creativity, and devotion that is exemplified by each site in Angkor is truly humbling and awe-inspiring.
I felt and saw so much during the mere 3 days I spent in Angkor. I climbed steps much more narrow than I would normally be comfortable with which were made that way to remind visitors that the ascent to heaven is difficult and not to be taken lightly. I met with monks in their monastery and learned about their way of life. I touched two thousand old stone and felt small. Angkor is such a special place.
Angkor is also one of the harder destinations to plan for. The choices of temples to explore is endless, the Cambodia’s weather is unpredictable, and time is limited. I was lucky enough to be staying at an amazing place which took my interests and preferences to helped in building an itinerary at breakfast in the mornings over croissants or in the evenings over mango margaritas. Thank you Rambutan Resort!! I had an amazing 3 day itinerary that captures the variety and beauty in Angkor.
Itinerary Day 1- The Rolous Group
The Roulous group temples are farther out, but they make an amazing introduction to the Angkor ruins and are not as crowded as the bigger temples.
The Bayon is my favorite temple of the Rolous Group which is like a miniature version of Angkor Wat. I explored virtually empty stone hallways and chambers letting my imagination run wild with the Indiana Jones theme song.
Itinerary Day 2- Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom
Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom are the two biggest and best preserved temples of the bunch. They are the most popular and feature scenic moats that catch the reflection of the temples, but they are not without their quiet areas.
At Angkor Wat, I took a turn down a hallway of columns and ended up taking some steep steps down to an empty grassy field of smaller temples and butterflies.
Angkor Thom is known for its plethora of smiling faces and being the former capital of the Khmer empire, it is gigantic. I ended up lost in Angkor Thom by myself for about 2 hours, and it was one of the best experiences ever! While searching for my boyfriend and the right exit, I found myself almost completely alone in the largest temple of the park navigating obscure narrow stone hallways, climbing steps that led to nowhere, stumbling upon altars and monks reading Sanskrit from the stones.
Itinerary Day 3- The Tree Temples
On the last day I wanted a quiet nature meets ruins farewell to Angkor so, I ended up going to Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, and Ta Keo.
Ta Prohm is famous for the massive trees which have grown right into the temple- their roots entwining with the stone carvings. This is what I picture Indiana Jones and Lara Croft exploring to find priceless ancient artifacts.
Banteay Kdei was even more immersed in nature. The temple is less restored than the others, but full of moss covered rocks and chambers to explore. While venturing inside one of the empty stone temple, I heard the screech of a bat and looked up to see that I had disturbed a temple resident. The screech by the way, sounds exactly like in the movies.
Ta Keo – the temple mountain, was one of my very favorite temples because it was so daunting. The temple is 21.5 meters or 7 stories tall from ground to summit in 3 sets of very steep, very narrow stairs between 3 plateaus.
The most terrifying set of stairs climbs about 5 stories, but the feeling of accomplishment at the top is indescribable, especially for someone with a fear of heights. The feeling of awe, accomplishment, adventure, and conquering of fear was the perfect note to leave Angkor on.
Do’s and Dont’s
- Do wear a shawl or t shirt to the temples, most guards will require your shoulders and knees be covered
- Do take advantage of the free extra sunset entrance you can get if purchasing your Angkor passes in the afternoon.
- Don’t overload yourself, in order to appreciate Angkor’s temple ruins, don’t rush or try to cram pack your days.
- Do explore Siem Reap, Cambodia. The city has so much to offer from a thriving marketplace with thousands of hand crafted souvenirs, to an amazing lake, to hip pubs and restaurants.
- Do stay at the Rambutan Resort! The staff couldn’t be more helpful and friendly and the rooms are awesome.