Winter Vacation Day 12 Siem Reap: Professional Tour of Angkor Temple Complex

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!

Starting off at Angkor Wat, you can see Mr. T in front with his light orange shirt and backpack

Starting off at Angkor Wat, you can see Mr. T in front with his light orange shirt and backpack

Inside Angkor Wat

Inside Angkor Wat

This Buddha is one of MANY that have been destroyed (heads and hands removed and sold) but this guy is lucky because they reattached his head!

This Buddha is one of MANY that have been destroyed (heads and hands removed and sold) but this guy is lucky because they reattached his head!

This is why you want to go earlier than we did (we left our hotel around 9:30) to avoid these crowds

This is why you want to go earlier than we did (we left our hotel around 9:30) to avoid these crowds

One of the two large pools in front of the temple

One of the two large pools in front of the temple

The backside of the temple, not as crowded

The backside of the temple, not as crowded

How amazing is the architecture?

How amazing is the architecture?

10 bonus stars if you can spot me, but in all seriousness can you tell how HUGE this place is?

10 bonus stars if you can spot me, but in all seriousness can you tell how HUGE this place is?

Taking a break in the shade

Taking a break in the shade

In this chamber you lean with just your upper back against the wall and beat your heart. You will hear your heartbeat echo throughout the chamber and you release something that is heavily weighing on your heart.

In this chamber you lean with just your upper back against the wall and beat your heart. You will hear your heartbeat echo throughout the chamber and you release something that is heavily weighing on your heart.

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.

These are the good warriors on the left side of the bridge to Angkor Thom, on the right are the demons. A huge theme in the temples is balance...good and evil. Most of the heads of these statues were removed under the rule of Khmer Rouge. They were removed with cotton cloth and gasoline.

These are the good warriors on the left side of the bridge to Angkor Thom, on the right are the demons. A huge theme in the temples is balance…good and evil. Most of the heads of these statues were removed under the rule of Khmer Rouge. They were removed with cotton cloth and gasoline.

Monkey break! We spotted some monkeys lingering in the forest in front on the Bayon in Angkor Thom

Monkey break! We spotted some monkeys lingering in the forest in front on the Bayon in Angkor Thom

The Bayon

Inside the Bayon

Inside the Bayon

We then traveled to the Terrace of the Elephants which was really neat looking. The stone trunks even felt reminiscent of actual elephant skin.

Terrace of the elephants

Terrace of the elephants

More stone elephants

More stone elephants

Next up was the Terrace of the Leper King which was another interesting area.

Apparently there was some controversy on whether this was Buddha or a king...the argument was made that since the statue was unclothed it was a king

Apparently there was some controversy on whether this was Buddha or a king…the argument was made that since the statue was unclothed it was a king

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.”

Ta Prohm, the "Tomb Raider Temple"

Ta Prohm, the “Tomb Raider Temple”

The infamous trees that grow all around the temple

The infamous trees that grow all around the temple

The temple has been under a state of reconstruction for a while now, some even happening during our visit...but there is a ways to go

The temple has been under a state of reconstruction for a while now, some even happening during our visit…but there is a ways to go

More of Ta Prohm

More of Ta Prohm

These trees are everywhere!

These trees are everywhere!

Apparently this is area is in a scene from the movie, I'll have to watch Tomb Raider again to refresh my memory

Apparently this is area is in a scene from the movie, I’ll have to watch Tomb Raider again to refresh my memory

Nice view of the temple

Nice view of the temple

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!

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