You can take a bus to Siem Reap, famous for the Angkor temples. This is quick and easy taking around 6 hours. Many bus companies are on offer and I heard countless horror stories about certain companies being dangerous.
Bus to Siem Reap
I booked through Mekong Express and it was around $13. A mini van comes to pick you up at your hostel and take you to the station where the bus departs. You are even given free pastries which are from one of the local bakeries, packaged nicely in a box. I can vouch for this company, it got us to Siem Reap in one piece and we had no complaints. Siem Reap isn’t in top list of favorite cities during my travels. It has amazing sites to see, but I was left feeling slightly jaded here. Read my blog post on why i was glad to leave.
The rumors about the bumpiness of the journey are evident from the cracks in the bus windows and banged up vehicles. Part of the road, were not road at all, and the bus was jumping off the road on regular intervals. It made it pretty tricky to play cards, but we gave our best go at it anyway! The bus was old but comfortable. They even had a TV where they showed a few films. King Kong and Ong Bak were on the screen for us!
Accommodation in Siem Reap
I stayed in two hostels in Siem Reap:
The Siem Reap Hostel
The hostel is close to the backpackers area so you would be able to meet lots of other travelers. Amenities include swimming pool, pool table, hammocks, good wi-fi, dedicated tourist information desk and bar/restaurant. You can stay in a 6 bed dorm, which was clean, has hot water in an ensuite bathroom for $9. It isn’t the cheapest hostel but very sociable, so a great way to meet friends to enjoy temples with. You can sign up for different Angkor tours here. More on that later. I would definitely recommend this hostel for a solo traveler.
One Stop Hostel
This hostel is cheaper at $7 and offers similar amenities, minus the pool. It is clean, has decent wi-fi, computers, a movie area in the common room and is in a good location close to all the cafes etc. However, I found that this hostel lacked the vibe of the Siem Reap Hostel and many people would sit around doing their own thing. They also offer organised Tuk Tuk sign ups for Angkor trips.
Angkor Wat Temples
Of course, everybody comes here to see Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. This is one of the most iconic and famous sites in the world. Having the chance to see this was unreal! First things first though, how to actually visit the site.
There seemed to be lots of options and circuits to choose from. By this, I mean you can hire a tuk tuk and the driver would take you round in a particular chosen circuit.
Do the Sunrise
I think the best way of doing the temples, if you have a short amount of time is to first do the Angkor Wat sunrise circuit. Sign up in your hostel that you want to be part of the shared tuk tuk. A driver will take you and 3 others for the day at 4am for sunrise. I put my name on the sign up board of the hostel costing $15 between 4 people. This meant that I would get to go with other travelers, sharing the experience with others is always more fun. You can have the driver for as long as you can stay awake. The 4am start and extreme heat really drains you.
Half way to the Angkor Wat site, you will need to purchase your Angkor Pass, which will allow you access to most of the temples in the Angkor area. There are a few which aren’t part of this but most are. You can choose between:
1 day pass for $20
3 day pass for $40
7 day pass for $60
In my experience…
It’s a good idea to get here early, as the consequences of being late, means you have to fight large queues. By the time we were on our wayto get to the main site, the queues were so big that I swear many would miss the sunrise. The pass has your photo printed on the pass, so no selling your pass onto someone else. Although it’s relatively expensive for Asia, it is an awesome, unforgettable experience so I believe that it is worth every cent and I hope that the money goes towards maintaining the site.
When you arrive at the site, it is still pitch dark and you can sense an air of magic about the place. You walk about, not knowing what’s around the next corner. As you walk further down the path, you see can see a silhouette of the famous towers. The experience is surreal and it’s hard to put in words, perhaps because expectations are so high. The best viewing area is in front of the lake where you can see reflections in water, and if you are lucky for a beautiful sunrise, this spot would prove a majestic photo area.
Angkor Wat is very popular and therefore the crowds are large at all times of the day. There’s no two ways about it, but it doesn’t detract from how amazing this place is. My advice would be to take your time and soak it all in. Looking back, I rushed through it more than I would have liked, probably due to the excitement. Just after the sunrise, there is less people, so walk around the site. From the photo below you can see that there is virtually no one.
After leaving the main site, our tuk tuk brought us to a few more sights before we were worn out and headed back to the hostel for a nap! One of the highlights was Ta Prohm. This was the site of the Tomb Raider movie and is instantly recognizable with the huge tree roots engulfing the temples and everything in it’s path.
See a sunset
Later we shared a tuk tuk to one of the many sites for sun set. We chose to go to Pre Rup which is rated as a great sunset spot. In my opinion it was average, but there was nothing in the foreground of the sunset, just low lying trees. In hind sight I would have maybe chose a different temple. But having the 3 day pass, I could do it all again tomorrow.
Apart from the main Angkor Wat complex, there are other temple sites that are well worth visiting. Here are a few of my favourites.
- Ta Prohm
- Beng Melea – This was one of my favourite temples in Siem Reap
- Preah Kahn
- Banteay Srei
I recommend a minimum of 2 days for temples. I did 3 pretty intense days and managed to see so much. Definitely worth it. I mean, how many times are you going to be back again?!
Here is some photos I captured of the other sites. Please hit the share button below if you enjoyed the post!