Travel Where to Wander

How to Conquer Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples

Are you a fan of monkeys and elephants? Puppies and piglets? How about ancient religious monuments? Culture? Food? Of course you are. Siem Reap has all of this and more!

Nestled in Northern Cambodia, Siem Reap has wonders that one-up the rest of the world, starting with the Angkor temples all the way to the culture and wildlife. Let us be your guide to this Angkor masterpiece and share what we learned on our Cambodian adventure.

First off, take a look at the map, you’re going to need it as we explore the temples.

Angkor Wat

The first thing you need to know about Angkor Wat is that it is ENORMOUS! You won’t miss it. It is literally the largest religious monument on earth.

The second thing you need to know about Angkor Wat is it is OLD! We’re talking almost a thousand years old, people. You are going to walk through the temple corridors and feel like some combination of Indiana Jones and an Instagram model.

All in all, this temple is extremely inspiring, especially at sunrise. You gotta wake up at the butt crack of dawn in order to get there, but we HIGHLY recommend you do just that. Wake up early, jump on a tuk-tuk, and get your booty to the temple. The sky is a perfectly painted masterpiece of purples and oranges, and the reflection pool doubles the dosage of all the views.

Angkor Thom & Bayon

Angkor Thom, with Bayon at its heart, is the 2nd most famous temple in Siem Reap. Located just north of Angkor Wat, this temple is known for the over 200 giant faces carved into the stone. Faces like the one you can see right at the top middle of the picture below. There are OVER TWO HUNDRED of those and each are as big as a person!

Story Time: While exploring Bayon, a Cambodian guide came strolling up to us. We thought he was going to ask if we needed a guide or a ride, but instead he pointed to a statue near us and said, “this phallic structure symbolizes virility and reproduction” and quickly followed with, “it’s a penis hehehe!”

We were blown away with laughter. Here we are in the middle of one of the oldest and most beautiful temples on earth, and this guy is making dick jokes. Classic! He showed us a few more penis sculptures, giggling the entire way, before he gave us a high five and went about his day. I hope he knows he really made our tour one-of-a-kind that day.

It really is something to see up close. But don’t get lost or take a wrong step! Angkor Thom has tons of twists and turns and sometimes steep drop-offs can sneak up on you…

Other Temples

The Angkor temples in Siem Reap are pretty clustered, but to be honest walking them can be a challenge. There are moats surrounding many of them, and some only have 1 or 2 entrances on the North and South sides.

We recommend getting around on a bike if you have access to one! Jumping on two wheels is a great way to see any city, and is the PERFECT way to get between the Angkor temples. You’ll be able to cruise along the streets past monkeys, pigs, puppies, and even elephants!

Story Time: Walking from Angkor Wat to Angkor Thom we encountered a group of wild monkeys. These petite primates seemed harmless enough, until Zach reached into his backpack and pulled out a handful of almonds and shared a few with these furry friends.

In a flash, there were 30 monkeys of all sizes surrounding us demanding some nuts for themselves! Zach freaked out and chucked the bag as he hastily scrambled away, hiding behind a Tuk Tuk. Thankfully the monkeys didn’t throw down and left the poor guy alone

Our favorite temple, other than Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, was the Baphuon Temple. The Terrace of the Elephants was pretty unbelievable as well.

One of the amazing parts about the Angkor temples is that you can make your own adventure! The ruins are everywhere, and outside of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom there aren’t many tourists, so you’ll have the freedom to explore on your own!

Getting Around Siem Reap:

When it comes to getting around Siem Reap, you have a few options: walking, biking, and tuk-tuks. These are in worst-to-first order. Seriously, the tuk-tuks are top notch, and only cost a few bucks.

If you are not pressed for time and want the exercise, you can walk anywhere you want to go. We decided to walk in between the Angkor temples and found many hidden gems that we would have otherwise completely missed. You will stumble upon monuments you’ll have all to yourself.

Option two is to bike. A lot of people bike from place to place, which is still great exercise but takes much less time. There is no bike rental within the temple grounds, so if you want to take this route you must rent a bike in the city. Our hotel had bikes you could use for free – Okey Guesthouse.

Finally, the tuk tuks. This is the fastest, most fun, and in our opinion by far the best way to get around Siem Reap (but be prepared to barter).  You should never pay more then $2/ride within the temples or $5-$7 for a ride from the city to the temples.

After the Temples – Pub Street!

To be honest, we didn’t know a thing about Pub Street until we got to Siem Reap. Once we arrived, everyone was telling us we had to go every evening, and we are glad we listened! Pub street was legit… too legit to quit!

The beers are literally $.25 and the food is between $2-$5. There is live music at multiple venues. The night markets are right around the street. Vendors are walking around with ice cream and crepes for $1. You will have the absolute time of your life and spend less than $10!

More Photos

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