Angkor Wat is actually a complex of temples, which includes the temple known as Angkor Wat, dating from 1125. It is the largest religious complex in the world. There used to be a city there but since only holy buildings were made of stone, these are the only ones that remain. We decided to buy a 3 day pass and were so glad that we did, as it meant that we could take our time and have a rest day in the middle (the 3 days don’t have to be consecutive). You can hire a tuk tuk and driver to go around them, or you can bike around them – we decided to bike as we were feeling cheap but it turned out to be a great way to get exercise and to be able to see the temples at our own pace (as well as saving us nearly $50 USD). It was also a hot and sweaty way to see them – over the 3 days we cycled about 75km with one of those days covering 40km…we were very grateful for the cold jacuzzis on the roof of our guesthouse!
On our first day we visited five temples – we started with the tiny and steep Prasat Baksei Chamkrong, which had no other tourists there but made us feel a bit like Tomb Raiders with its steep overgrown steps.
Our next visit was the fantastic Bayon temple with its repeating pattern of the King’s face – this temple was one of our favourites.
We followed this up with a visit to the Baphuon, which is also known as the jigsaw temple as it has been reassembled and its parts put back together – this was only finished in 2011. Our next visit was to the Elephant and Leper King terraces, where we loved seeing the carved elephants. Our last stop for the day was Phimeanakas, which is back in the jungle – we had this one all to ourselves.
On our second day we cycled around the Grand Circuit, visiting 9 different temples. Our first stop was Prasant Kravan, where Hindu images can still be seen (Cambodia was originally a Hindu country).
Next, we visited Prasat Banteay Kdei, Srah Srang and the beautiful Ta Prohm, seen in the movie Tomb Raider. Ta Prohm is famous for its tree roots that entwine themselves with the temple itself – this is one of the most popular temples to visit, and we could see why.
We had lunch at a roadside cafe, where we learned that they had two different English menus, one with prices for low season and one with prices for high season! Next stop was Pre Roup, Eastern Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Pean and Preah Khan. We thought we might feel templed out but they were all so different that it was easy to stay interested.
On our last day, we visited Angkor Wat itself. We decided to skip the crowds of people visiting at sunrise and went instead at the middle of the day, which was fantastic as there were not many people there and at times we were by ourselves in the temple. Angkor Wat was stunning, but probably not our favourite of the temples – we couldn’t have missed it though!