As I mentioned in the previous post, our attempts to tour the Angkor Temple Complex on our own were not a good idea. One our own we were just wandering around not knowing what we were looking at or even where we should be looking since the complex is huge!
Our second visit to the Angkor temples we hired an official tour guide named Mr. T, he was the best! Our hotel arranged for a tour guide to come meet us at our hotel and we hired the hotel’s tuk tuk driver Mr. Ke to drive us around for the day. Honestly, I would recommend a tour guide if you are planning of visiting the Angkor temples, Mr. T’s services for the day cost $35…for a private tour…for the whole group. We really lucked out with Mr. T as he was a super passionate tour guide with an interest in photography, so basically he was the perfect guide for us. You can of course tour the complex on your own, you just need to pay for ticket entry to park for however many days you choose to visit. There are even books you can buy both on and off site that tell you about the temples. But why would you want to do that when you can have a real life person, who knows SO much about the temples, who knows all the good spots to take pictures (away from the HOARDS of tourists) and who will give you extra information about Cambodia??? Yeah, to our group it was the best decision we could have made and we all agreed it was worth it.
As our time in Cambodia was limited we only had one full day to tour the Angkor temples. If you have enough time you can tour the temples for longer periods of time, I think there are even week long tours of the temples which I would be interested in doing some where down the line. With our limited time we went to the most popular temples: Angkor Wat, the Bayon (in Angkor Thom), the Terrace of the Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King and finally Ta Prohm (or as it is better known, “the Tomb Raider Temple”). Since we had our own tour guide for the day, Mr. T suggested that we visit all of these places (which was awesome because when I made a list of my top places to visit in the complex, this was everything I was interested in seeing) but we could have easily have visited other temples if we had wanted to.
Angkor Wat was the biggest of the temples and by far the most crowded. It is suggested that you start your tour of the Angkor temples early in the day both to avoid the crowds and the heat. I would follow this advice!
Next up, we visited the Bayon which is the temple inside of Angkor Thom. This was my favorite place that we visited. The temple itself is not that large, so you can explore most of it pretty quickly. The Bayon is famous for its many faces, which are in various states of wear from being in the jungle. Each of the faces is different and some express happiness while others look melancholy. Apparently the faces are a combination of Buddha and the king responsible for having the temple built.
We then traveled to the Terrace of the Elephants which was really neat looking. The stone trunks even felt reminiscent of actual elephant skin.
Next up was the Terrace of the Leper King which was another interesting area.
Finally we visited Ta Prohm, made famous from Angelina Jolie’s movie Tomb Raider. Ta Prohm is currently being reconstructed (funded by the Indian government). This temple is famous for the giant trees that grow on and around the remains of the temple. According to Mr. T the trees that grow on the temples are silk trees that can grow around the structure because of its softness. I have to say when I thought of visiting the temples in Angkor I was really thinking “oh wow, I want to see the Tomb Raider temple” as this really appealed to me. Upon visiting Ta Prohm I have to say it was really nice and of course beautiful but I much preferred the Bayon and its mysterious stone faces. Also Ta Prohm is always filled with tourists…everyone trying to get in on the Tomb Raider action. There were quite a few Korean tourists walking around taking selfies and saying “Angelina Jolie,” “Angeline Jolie.”
This ended our tour for the day. It was an amazing time and we saw so many beautiful structures, in various states of reconstruction. If you ever find yourself in Cambodia I would highly recommend hiring a tour guide (there are official tour guides, you can see them scattered throughout the park in light orange button up shirts) and going for more than one day as there is so much to see!