Angkor Wat – Huge Hindu Temple built in reign of King Suryavarman II
Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat and an exterior wall measuring 1300 meters x 1500 meters. The temple itself is 1 km square and consists of three levels surmounted by a central tower. The walls of the temple are covered inside and out with bas-reliefs and carvings. Nearly 2000 distinctively rendered apsara carvings adorn the walls throughout the temple and represent some of the finest examples of Apsara carvings in Angkorian era art. But it is the exterior walls of the lower level that display the most extraordinary bas-reliefs, depicting stories and characters from Hindu mythology and the historical wars of Suryavarman II. It is in the viewing of the bas-reliefs that a private tour guide can be very helpful.
Popular Sunrise location with Reflecting Pool at Angkor Wat
The northern reflecting pool in front is the most popular sunrise location. For sunrise, arrive very early, well before sunrise begins. The sun will rise behind Angkor Wat providing a silhouette of Angkor’s distinctively shaped towers against a colored sunrise sky. Some of the best colors appear just before the sun breaks over the horizon.
A giant Postcard Photo Against the Sky
The visual impact of Angkor Wat, particularly on one’s first visit, is awesome. As you pass through the outer gate and get your first glimpse, its size and architecture make it appear two dimensional, like a giant postcard photo against the sky. After you cross through the gate and approach the temple along the walkway it slowly gains depth and complexity. To maximize this effect you should make your first visit in optimal lighting conditions, i.e. after 2:00PM. Do not make your first visit to Angkor Wat in the morning when the back lighting obscures the view.
Carvings in Angkor Wat
The first level of is the most artistically interesting. Most visitors begin their exploration with the base-reliefs that cover the exterior wall of the first level, following the bas-reliefs counterclockwise around the temple. Bas-relief highlights include the mythological Battle of Kuru on the west wall; the historical march of the army of Suryavarman II, builder of Angkor Wat, against the Charm, followed by scenes from Heaven and Hell on the south wall; and the classic Churning of the Ocean Milk on the east wall.
Angkor Wat was constructed as a Hindu temple, it has served as a Buddhist temple since Buddhism became Cambodia’s dominant religion in the 14th century. Some say that it is good luck to pay homage to all four Buddha images before departing Angkor.
The Thai border crossing at Aranyaprathet/Poipet is the most accessible to Siem Reap. It’s a 465km, 9-12 hour overland Bangkok-Siem Reap trip. The usual route begins with a 4-5 hour bus or a train ride from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet (‘Aran’), the town on the Thai side near the border, then a short tuk-tuk ride the last 6 km to the border crossing to Poipet Cambodia. If you would like to get Siem Reap faster then try to search for cheap flights here. There are two options in planning an overland trip from Bangkok to get Siem Reap. You can buy a Package Ticket Bangkok-Siem Reap or put it together yourself.
Package Ticket to Get Siem Reap from Bangkok
In Bangkok you can buy package tickets from travel agents. The price ranges from 400-800 baht. Regardless of the cost of the ticket, most travel agencies are sending customers to the same bus companies. When you buy your ticket, ask about the type of transportation you will be on, especially on the Cambodian side. Make sure it is a tour bus or full sized bus, not a pickup truck.
You will depart Bangkok between 7AM and 8AM, arriving at the border crossing near Aranyaprathet 4-5 hours later. At the border, you will disembark and will be told how to locate your onward transportation on the Cambodian side of the border. The last leg of the trip to Siem Reap tends to be uncomfortably slow, due to the tendency of some bus companies to deliberately drag out the trip so that the passengers arrive in Siem Reap at night, who are then ‘delivered’ to a commission-paying guesthouse. Scam alert: Some travelers report they have purchased package tickets on KhaoSarn Road for a trip to Siem Reap via Poipet, but instead are taken through an alternate crossing point such as Pailin or O’Smach. Travel through these crossing points is longer, slower and more vulnerable to additional scams. Generally speaking, package trips going the opposite direction – from Siem Reap to Bangkok – are quicker and there’s less hassle.
Do it Yourself to Get Siem Reap from Bangkok
- From Bangkok take a bus or train to Aranyaprathet. Bus: 164-196 baht (firstclass), 140-155 baht (second class), 4 hours, departing the Northern Bus Terminal (Morchit), hourly from 4AM to 6PM. Train: 48 baht, 3rd class, 6 hours, departs Hualamphong Station twice daily (5:55AM and 1:05PM).
- From Aranyaprathet, take a moto or tuk-tuk from the bus station to the border for 50-60 baht, respectively.
- Cross the border to Poipet.
- On the Cambodian side, you have four options for transportation from Poipet through Sisophon and on to Siem Reap: a) Taxi; b) Official Bus; c) Tourist bus, b) Shared/private taxi, or d) pickup truck.
- Taxi: Recently increased to $40-$50 for the whole car. 3-4 hours. This is the easiest, fastest, most comfortable, most expensive option. For a local shared taxi, $10/seat.
- Official Tourist Bus: From the border take the free shuttle 1 km to bus station. $10 for the official bus. Buses leave when full which can sometimes take quite a while.
- Package Tourist Buses: These are the same buses that the package ticket holders from Bangkok use. (See option 1: Package Tickets.) Price is variable. Comfortable but often very slow. 4-6hrs.
- Pickup Truck: 30 baht (bed) – 50 baht (inside) to Sisophon. Change vehicles in Sisophon. 50 baht (bed) – 100 baht (inside) to Siem Reap..