Have you ever heard about Angkor temples OR wondered what is there in Cambodia to see? Then, it is time to pack bags for your next journey. Because Cambodia holds one of the greatest historical ruins that will soothe your photographic thirst.
Arrange tickets to arrive at the Siem Reap International Airport where most tourists start their travel in the country. If you could book your hotel before arriving, it would be great as during the season (November to March), the most hotels are booked and you may find it difficult to get a decent hotel on arrival. However, don’t worry if you are a budget traveller as there are many budget accommodation places in central Siem Reap area. I recommend Banyan Leaf Hotel in Taphul village, with my personal experience as one very good place. You could use one of those rikshaws on road to arrive as taxi cars could be expensive. Just give the address and agree for the price before you get in to the vehicle. Well, if you still carry US Dollars and wants to exchange to Cambodian currency, do not bother as almost all the vendors in Cambodia accepts US dollars and due to very high exchange rate, you would have to carry loads of local currency notes if you do so.
If you like to cycle around, you can hire a bicycle from one of the many places in the city. But Cambodia has a very humid warm weather that would make you sweat and dehydrate you within hours. Arrange a rikshaw to take you to places.
So, get some rest because you would have to get up early morning next day to start your journey to the history of Cambodia.
It is said that Angkor Wat is the largest temple premise in the whole world. Build out of rock, this place has been a castle as well as a Buddhist monastery. If you are planning to photograph the best view of Angkor Wat, you must get up early and be at the place by 5.00am. because it is said, that the best view of Angkor Wat comes along with the sun rise. Thousands of tourists gather around the moat to watch sun rising over the Angkor Wat temple. There are enough places for you to set up your tripod and arrange for the best angle if you go early.
Once you get you photographs of the outer premise, walk inside. This is a huge temple building with so many corridors and doors and one could easily get disoriented. Observe carefully for the rock carvings on walls as those carvings reveals great historical incidents in Cambodia as well as in their neighbouring countries. Famous Ram-Ravana war in Sri Lanka is one of the prominent wall carvings in the front wing of the temple. There are outer foyers to walk around the temple and see both inside and outside both at once. But careful of your step as the foyer is several feet high from the floor and there are extremely narrow, steep staircases to move from one floor to another a floor.
Bayon is the next place to visit. This amazing temple has been a castle of Jayawarman kings and the humongous rock carvings on all sides of the castle has been vividly argued as the faces of Jayawarman kings or Avalokitheshwara: a compassion of Bodhisattva. These huge carvings will be worthy photographic opportunities in your life, so make sure you take enough photos.
Have you watched the movie Tomb Raider? Ta Prohm is the place where that movie was shot and you will remember the scenes from the movie when you enter this temple. Covered with large roots of a tree, this ancient building is about to collapse therefore not allowed to go inside. But you can go close enough to take a rare photo of a tree root entangling with the rocky walls and clay roof of the temple. Fix your camera settings to capture the sun rays dripping down the tree during mid-day.
You would need another day to come to the historical Angkor ruins site. So, make sure you purchase a multiday tour ticket which allows you to come on another day. The ticket counters are well organized and issues a personalized ticket with your face printed on it. Keep the ticket with you all the time as the guards at the entrance gates come and check tickets time to time. Distance from one ruin to another is long and walking is probably not a good option as the total site spans over 160 hectares with thick jungles on either side of the road. But if you get hungry or thirsty, there are enough local food stalls inside the premise.
Keep the next day to visit other temples such as Angkor Thom, Banteay Srei, Phnom Bakheng, Ta Som and Baphuon. These amazing architectural marvels with long corridors and bottomless wells will sure marvel you and your camera. Make sure to use a flasher when taking photos inside building as thick rocky walls rarely provide any light inside.
Central city has some luxurious hotels that has cultural dancing shows featuring the ‘Apsara’ dancers. You can go to one of those shows in the evening.
If you are done with ancient ruins, you could attend a full day village excursion and learn to cook some local dishes or have a flight of the gibbon ride in a thick Cambodian tropical forest or have a cycle ride across the city or even a hot air balloon ride to see the bigger picture.
Siem Reap has some great variety of restaurants so you can make sure to try something new in every meal.
Eat some fruits and have a dip in the swimming pool and get some rest in the last day, because once you are done with Siem Reap, you would take a bus ride to Phnom Penh to see the modern Cambodia.
So, enjoy Siem Reap and be amazed with ancient marvels of Angkor Wat. I’ll see you back on the other side of Cambodia.