Bittersweet Memorable Visit to Angkor Temples Siem Reap

After months of planning we finalised a vacation to Cambodia. Most of the visit to Angkor Temples in Siem Reap turned out as planned. However there were enough surprises and shocks too to make this holiday memory a bittersweet one.

Why Visit Cambodia? And if Cambodia why visit only Siem Reap?

It is really hard for me to describe why I zeroed into Siem Reap for my 8 days vacation. Friends suggested other places in Cambodia and even other neighbouring countries like Laos and Vietnam but I stuck to my choice of visit to Angkor Temples of Siem Reap. The temptation to experience these alluring temples undisturbed was too hard to resist. Large religious monuments fascinate all, and being a Hindu I had this deep desire to visit the world’s largest Hindu Temple complex. No temple complex in India matches this heritage yet. The second reason is the craze to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites, which many travellers can relate to. (One of these days I have to count how many of them I have visited and photographed.)

Visit to Angkor Temples Siem Reap

Lord Buddha in Angkor Temple

These two passions made me read up about the ruins of these magnificent temples. Angkor Wat temple was built in 12th century. The symbolism attached to Angkor Wat is interesting, hard to believe so much of Hinduism existed then and had spread so far in south east of Asia. The central tower of the temple is believed to represent Mount Meru which is the legendary abode of Hindu Gods. Four other towers represent peaks surrounding Mt. Meru. The wall that goes around it represents the edge of the world. And the moat represents the ocean.

Once Hindu Temples now Buddhist Temples

Today most of these temples are converted to Buddhist Temples. There are evidences of Lord Shiva worshiped here once, with several scattered broken Nandi (vehicle of Lord Shiva) in several temples. Most of them have housed idols of Lord Buddha and is worshiped too. So the sanctity is still maintained.

Beyond all religious significance what enthralls all photographers, tourists and travelers, and historians and architect more is the brilliant sculptures that adorns the walls of these temples. The architectural style that existed then is so impressive and is still evident from the ruins. The detailed structuring of chambers, corridors, and porches was done in symmetrical manner with lot of precision. All these done around 10 centuries back!

Hindu Temples in Angkor

Remains of Shiva Linga at Preah Khan Temple, Angkor

Tuk Tuk Drivers in Siem Reap

Photography of Angkor Temple during sunrise is widely accepted must do activity by locals. So much so that the tuk tuk drivers include it in their travel packages they offer. The cost for the visit to Angkor Temples at 4.30AM and back to hotel for breakfast and again back to temple tour cost the same as that for temple tour without sunrise part. Not sure if I was lucky or all tuk tuk drivers charge the same way.

Dealing with tuk tuk drivers of Siem Reap can be tricky. It is better NOT to hire the very first driver who approaches you. Check with couple of drivers and also discuss the route you will take through the temples. Temples are scattered over a large area so a little bit of homework helps, else the tuk tuk driver can really take you for a ride.

Tuk Tuk drivers Angkor Temple

Tickets for Visit to Angkor Temples

Had we made the visit  to Angkor Temples an year back we could have saved a lot on tickets alone! There is a steep increase in prices for Angkor Temples from first February 2017.  This increase is after 22 years.

  • Make sure you carry cash for the tickets. They don’t accept cards.
  • Make sure you are dressed properly else chances are you may be denied a ticket.
  • Purchase the ticket in the morning because an evening purchase leaves with you very less time to see even 1 temple.
  • The penalty for loosing tickets is very high so take care of it till last day.
  • Last but not the least wear that smile because you will be photographed and put in your ticket. This is a good carry back souvenir item.Ticket for visit to Angkor Temples Siem Reap
ticket cost for visit to Angkor Temples Siem Reap

New Price of Tickets for Visit to Angkor Temples from 1st February 2017.

Should you take a tour guide?

There is plenty of info both online and in books and it is possible to tour without a guide. Advantages of having a guide are one – they tell you the best photography angles. And two – they tell little stories revolving around the sculptures which may not be available online, but then one cannot be sure how authentic they are.

Little adorable sales kids at Angkor Temples

Oh! They are so cute, smart and simple! It is really pleasing to see that there are NO kids begging for money in this temple complex. The kids will run after you, pitch for sales, coax you into conversations and ultimately make a sale. I fell for them easily until a moment came when I had to consciously ignore them. Some of their sales pitch includes dialogues in English like:

8$ for two, ok you give me 6…
I need to make profit…
and they will add I feel sad if you don’t buy
stressing more they will say – I remember you… I wait here when you come back
I make no sale from morning… you are first

Now, I have this habit of getting into conversation with locals. And I did the same in Angkor. However, beyond a point our conversations never happened. I soon realized the kids know only these few lines. They seem to have been tutored to say them over and over again. But they are smart, they can judge easily whether they will be able to make a sale or not and move on to next tourist they see.

Sales kids at Angkor Temples

Food in Siem Reap

At night without fail we hit the pub street. It is lined with superb restaurants and one can have authentic Cambodian cuisine. During day,amidst temple tours we halted at restaurants in the complex. These are priced high but then one has no option but to food in them, as coming out to city was impractical. Check out what they serve unless you are ready to eat anything under the sun.

At one of the places I was horrified to see a huge ant in my dish. It was promptly photographed and the chef was called to explain. He replied we Cambodians eat such ants in our dish – with a smirk on his face. But chef… I am a tourist! The dishes were replaced in a jiffy to avoid further embarrassment.

Visit to Angkor Temples - Ant in food in Siem Reap

Use of Travel Insurance

After making 6 international travels safely we got to know how useful travel insurance is! The husband had a fall in one of the temple premises, a simple trip and fall case which turned complicated with a fracture. When there was no sign of pain subsiding we had to ask the driver to take us to a hospital. The tuk tuk driver took us straight to Royal Angkor International Hospital. It seemed like the tuk tuk drivers are instructed to take injured tourists to this hospital.

The hospital has top class facilities and the doctors at emergency were prompt and efficient. It was a matter of two hours when we walked out of the hospital; his hand in sling, with X-ray report and fit to fly certificate from the good doctor. Verdict was – surgery required!

Royal Angkor International Hospital

pic: http://www.royalangkorhospital.com/

We had one more day to go. With the injured arm tied up firmly, the husband popped in painkillers and we managed to reach back home. Thus ended our visit to Angkor Temples of Siem Reap Cambodia! Bittersweet in a way! If I get a chance I will visit these very temples again as they are so enchanting!

Prasat Kravan – Vishnu Temple in Angkor, Cambodia
Tips for Best Sunrise Capture in Angkor Wat, Cambodia

37 Responses to “Bittersweet Memorable Visit to Angkor Temples Siem Reap

  • I agree with your choice not to get lured to other destinations as I would have prioritized Siem Reap also. Just an amazing site and I loved your description and photos. I am looking forward to the day when I can experience this also and I hope your husband is back to normal now. That was really bad luck.

  • I am super excited to come across this article and read about Cambodia. I am heading there for Christmas and I am looking forward to it. It is a shame you had a bad experience there with the bug in your food.

  • What struck me about your post was the kids selling stuff at the site. I really don’t like this aspect of tourism. In my humble opinion, kids should be in school, not hustling for tourist dollars. Same thing happens in the Caribbean.

  • Angkor Vat temple is like very high on my wishlist! Its quite funny to know that the World’s largest Hindu temple is not in India!!! Weird and yet fascinating!
    Thanks for the tips about the tickets and outfits!
    Oh my!!! I hope your husband is better now…. Take care!

  • Angkor temples remains one of the most stunning complexes I have ever seen as well. Too bad your husband fell in one of the temples. I can totally see the possibility of falling, with all those uneven walks and impressive walls and structures. Hopefully he is all OK now. You have a good reason to come back for more now.

  • your post is useful with practical tips, Indrani! Always nice to come through your write ups!

    https://jaipurthrumylens.com/

  • Yogi Saraswat
    6 months ago

    Large religious monuments fascinate all, and being a Hindu I had this deep desire to visit the world’s largest Hindu Temple complex. No temple complex in India matches this heritage yet. What a beautiful site it would be , I can imagine only . I am very interested to visit this place since my first introduction of this largest Hindu temple in the world since my childhood . But as I can see the ticket price are really very high . Can I make a suggestion ? Pl.write about the flight and the fare of that particular so that it can be easier to make our plan like me .

  • I may go next year.. Will trouble you that time for inputs

  • ANT!!!! My god. I better be well equipped if I plan to go. Must be a nightmare for vegetarians! 😐
    Always wanted to visit Angor Wat. It is the largest temple complex right? Hope your husband is better now:(

    • Yes Divsi Angkor Temple complex is the largest Hindu temple complex.
      The H is healing. Thank you.

  • Being a Hindu this largest Hindu temple of Angkor Wat is on my wishlist. It is very sad that food is not upto the mark with some insect in it. Going to ANGKOR WAT on tuktuk at 4.30 A.M. for sunrise must be a thrilling and splendid experience. I will carry cash as on tourist place I sparingly use cards.

  • Red ants are a delicacy in Cambodia. So really you got a freebiee in your meal! I loved visiting Angkor Wat and can’t wait to go back. Even if the same sad children will be there trying to sell us postcards

  • A great visit! Lovely pictures 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing the information about the increase in price I am currently working out a trip to go to Ankor wat so that is really useful and I will make sure that I don’t loose my ticket!!
    Lucky you spotted the ant before you ate it.

  • Very informative post! We are planning to go tho this place in a month so I learned a lot from your experience. Angkor temples are such an amazing place, can’t wait to be there. How much is the reasonable price you can accept from a tuk tuk driver? These taxi hassles are my least favorite part of these kind of trips, so good to be aware or the average.

  • I visited Angkor Wat, Cambodia about 15 years ago, the town of Siem Riep was almost non existent. I don’t remember the tuk tuks, I remember only motorbike taxis which is what I hired and it was super cheap as was the ticket into the temple. You gave a good example of why you always need travel insurance here, it can happen to anyone.

  • I currently live in Siem Reap and am glad you enjoyed your trip despite your husbands fall – I hope he’s ok? Just for info (it’s a shame no one told you) but you can buy a ticket from 5:30pm and go to the Temples for sunset then use the same ticket the next day; so you actually get a little more time out of a one day ticket! Great post

  • ” 8$ for two, ok you give me 6…
    I need to make profit…
    and they will add I feel sad if you don’t buy…
    stressing more they will say – I remember you… I wait here when you come back
    I make no sale from morning… you are first”

    hahaha I feel this! I actually had one of these when I visited Cambodia, so I bought some of their stuff. They are locals and wanted to sell and earn for a living but some of them are too much. haha Anyhow, Cambodia is a majestic place. The temples fascinated my soul.

  • Claire Summers
    6 months ago

    The kids are just like that here in Guatemala. They will sell you chocolate and write your name down and come and find you later for the money. It’s so hard to turn them down as they are so funny and friendly. Looks like you had a great time. Sorry to hear abut your husband’s accident! Good job you had insurance!

  • Angkor Wat temples are indeed the stuff that dreams are made of. It has been and continues to be a burning desire with me to see these magnificent structures that stand so proudly, defying the advance of time with their glory. It was sad that your husband was injured.Hope he is fine now. I am sure you will get back there again to photograph the beauty of Angkor Wat.

  • Great post! I’ve always wanted to visit Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. You’ve provided some great advice on ticket prices (I had no idea you needed to have a photographed ticket). What bad luck that your husband injured his arm, but that it such great news that the situation was well taken care of. It’s pretty scary to have to visit a hospital away from home.

  • I would have chosen Angkor Wat too because I like the temples and sculptures. They are also well-maintained so it would be a delight to take a lot of photos there. I like that they will take a photo of you and put it on your ticket. It is a good remembrance of the trip. The girl looks nice, friendly, and like a young entrepreneur too. The story about the ant was funny but it was great that the chef replaced your food.

  • We were lucky enough to run a marathon through the ruins of Angkor. The place is totally surreal at sunrise and is a must see. I really didnt like the elephant rides up the steep hill, but many tourists still took them. Please go and try Vietnam, and a very cool place with amazing food!

  • I would still argue to get a tour guide but find one that is authentic by doing your research. The Angkor Wat temples are best appreciated if you know the back story and honestly, not many people have the time nor the patience to research it all on the Internet. It’s best to hear it while touring the temples as it makes the experience much more meaningful. At least this is my opinion. When I went there I had a very reliable tour guide and I am so thankful for all the information that he gave me. Because of him I had a better appreciation of the temples compared to those who just went there to take photos.

  • Hope your husband is fine now.. Bittersweet indeed!!

  • That ant in the dish gave me a little shiver .. 🙂 But Cambodia indeed is very beautiful, ancient, historical and it’s a must visit on my list. Thanks for all the info Indrani. I will love to explore siem reap when I go here.

  • Always a delight to see Angkor. What a magnificent structure! Loved the humane touch about the sales kids towards the end although not too sure about the food with insects. he he

  • Great info! I love tuk tuk rides. Funny that one of the perks of having a guide is that they tell you the best photography angles. I’ve never had a guide do that for me before! Sounds like a good perk. I always find I learn so much more with a guide.

  • Oh! hope your husband has recovered and he didn’t have to undergo surgery. I loved your detail article for the info on Angkor Wat. After reading so many posts and seeing pictures of world’s largest Hindu temple, my curiosity for the same has increased by several folds. That ant in the food is really big and horrible.

    • Indrani Ghose
      6 months ago

      Thanks Suruchi. He did need a surgery. If you get a chance you must visit Angkor. 🙂

  • I hope he has now recovered. I know this was not a great end to your otherwise amazing tour but well, thankfully all is well now. Loved your pics 🙂

  • UNESCORTED sites are always high up on my list also. I didn’t know about about it originally being Hindu but now Buddhist. At the time things that go wrong (even if painful) can be some of the most memorable. I’m glad it didn’t keep you from the rest of the visit.

  • Thank goodness you got the travel insurance, that is something that I always forget. And ants in food sound like a horror story to me, but I know it’s different in different cultures.

  • I am very much aware of your passion for historical places and the fascinating tales. It reflects through your stories as you give a lot of importance on the history. Angkor Temples in Siem Reap are on my list for a long time. Great post. I hope that everything is fine with him now.

  • This is one of the places I really want to go to in Cambodia, there is so much history there. Interesting about the Hindu history in particular. Oh my gosh the story about the ant made me feel queezy – can’t believe the chef’s response! But glad they replaced it, although I wouldn’t have been so hungry after all of that! Sorry to hear about the accident too – how awful! I know exactly what it’s like to have an injured husband abroad, requiring surgery…sending wishes for a speedy recovery!

  • Your posts are luring me to visit Cambodia. Thanks for the tips for buying the tickets to Ankor temples.
    OMG, that ant in that plate is not what I would expect at any restaurant even if people eat it. This definitely alerts us all to be prepared for surprises.

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