I’m usually quite skeptical of destinations that have been hyped and that are extremely popular with tourists. When I arrived in Siem Reap, there were a lot of tourists here, which had me worried. I went exploring Angkor Wat thinking I was going to be disappointed. I wasn’t! This is one of the most impressive historic sites I have ever seen.


Angkor Wat is just one of many temples in a giant complex of buildings that made up the capital city of the Khmer Empire in Cambodia. Between the 11th and 13th centuries the city had almost one million residents. It now has over two million visitors a year, and was the setting for Tomb Raider. The famous tree with roots over the temple is in the Ta Prohm complex.


The sites are near the current city of Siem Reap, and has been my base for the exploring the temples. You can hire cars, tuk tuks, or rent a bike to explore the sites. They are spread over hundreds of acres, and you could spend days exploring the temples. There are also many different strategies to get the best photos of the temples, and to avoid the crowds. I was here during slow season, so crowds weren’t a worry for me. Sunset and sunrise are great times to photograph the sites, but sunrise comes at about 5:30 a.m. so that would be a 4:00 a.m. wake up call to get out to the temples and ready for the sunrise.

I joined up with some Dutch friends I had met at my hotel, and we rented a tuk tuk with driver for the day for $15. The driver took us to four sites, dropped us off, and waited while we toured the temples. He’d then drive us to the next temple wait. His preferred style of waiting was tying a hammock from one end of the tuk tuk to the other and taking a nap. You are able walk all around the temple grounds, and walk through most of them, and climb a couple of others. Every corner you turned, it felt like something mystical, like from the Indian Jones ride in Disneyland, was about to happen. Some temples are massive single structures; others are spread out and covered in years of tree growth. Tickets for the temple complex are $20 for the day, or $40 for three days.


Angkor Wat, the main temple, is only a few minutes ride from Siem Reap. Hotels are plentiful and cheap in Siem Reap, I have a room with breakfast and pool for $12 a night. I’d recommend staying as close to the center of the city as possible, you can then take advantage of the markets and Pub Street. I’ve been having beers for .25 to .50 cents a glass and eating for about $1-3 a meal.

ColumnsI’d always had Angkor Wat on my travel list, and was thinking I’d tag it on with a trip to another Southeast Asian destination, but this has been a highlight, and would be worth an entire trip. If you are wanting to visit as an add on to another destination in Southeast Asia, it is very accessible from Thailand, or Southern Vietnam.  Siem Reap has an airport with regional flights throughout Asian including flights to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, and most major Chinese cities. Air Asia has recently started flying into the airport, which has helped with lowering fares to/from Siem Reap. There is also really great bus service to Bangkok or Phnom Penh.  I’d arrived on a bus from Phnom Penh for about $12, and am going to catch a bus to the Thai border for $5, then a train to Bangkok for $2 when I head out.


After a Portuguese monk saw the temples in the 1500’s he noted that they were more impressive than anything the Romans or Greeks had created and was disappointed in western architecture compared to the beauty of the temples.  I’m going to have to agree that this was one of my favorite historical destinations, and was in awe every step I took exploring the area.

Lake View