Finding food whilst at Angkor is no problem. Dozens of small noodle and snack shops have sprung up around the temples, and competition keeps prices lower than in Siem Reap and certainly within the reaches of the budget Wat’s main entrance. The prices are still within reach of most budgets, and the air-conditioning provides a welcome respite from the heat.
It is important to remember that Angkor is a Khmer holy site, and it is best to follow a respectful dress code of “long trousers/skirt and covered shoulders.”
Many tourists arrive before daybreak to watch the sunrise crawl over Angkor Wat’s majestic towers. However, arrive later to avoid becoming part of the manic circus of tuk tuks racing around the ruins. Remain one step behind the crowds, find yourself entirely alone in shaded courtyards and free to explore Angkor’s secrets. Another option is to stay until sunset, and watch the stunning scenery melt into darkness.
It is possible to hire a guide either for individual temples or for the day, a worthwhile investment to appreciate the fascinating history and architecture of the ruins. Guides are friendly and can help discover the secrets of the temples leading you through the labyrinth of endless passages sharing ancient superstitions and stories. Mysterious chambers reveal Buddhas shrouded in orange cloth, perched amongst incense candles that fill the air with perfume.
Located six kilometers north of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is one of the largest of Khmer monuments. Built around the first half of 12th century by King Suryavarman II, the temple’s balance, composition and beauty make it one of the finest monuments in the world.
Though ‘Wat’ is the Khmer (Cambodian) word for temple, the westward orientation of the structure is atypical of temples. Scholars believe that the architecture and sculptures are that of a temple where Lord Vishnu was worshipped but it was also built as a mausoleum for the king after his death.
To See & Do
The temples can broadly be categorized into four groups:
- Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, the grandest temple of all and the ancient capital next to it
- Little Circuit (Le Petit Circuit), taking in major sites to the east of Angkor Thom
- Big Circuit (Le Grand Circuit), taking in major sites north and further out east
- Roluos group, 15 km east from Siem Reap along National Highway 6
- Outlying temples, located over 20 km from Angkor Wat
You can, of course, mix and match freely, but as distances are fairly long, it makes sense to plan ahead and pick sites connected by road. Most for arriving at sites a step ahead of the big tour groups.
Angkor Thom – Built in the latter part of the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, recognised temples in Siem Reap because of the giant stone faces that adorn the towers of Bayon. There are 54 towers of four faces each, totaling 216 faces. There is still a debate as to who is being depicted in the faces. It could be Avalokiteshvara, Mahayana Buddhism’s compassionate Bodhisattva, or perhaps a combination of King Jayavarman VII and Buddha.
The Temples of Angkor • Locations & Activities
Angkor Archaeological Park