Alright. I know you want to see Angkor Wat (see review here), but how else can you fill your day? I included the map above to give you a true perspective of just how much there is to see! Not to discount Angkor Wat (because it really is great), but there is so much more to see on the Angkor complex that I really think if you only allow yourself a day to discover, then i think you need to make it the longest and fullest day possible. 2 days should suffice if you have the time. The complex in its entirety is approximately 402 acres so I highly recommend devising a plan beforehand.
Each temple has a different feel and level of work and detail to it, but there were a few that really stood for their uniqueness and ability to make you feel transported through time. Here are a few of my suggestions that actually ended up making my entire experience on the complex worthwhile and has me seeking more from the wonderful country of Cambodia.
Key Hi-lights that can see in 2 days including Angkor Wat:
Bayon (day 1 with Angkor Wat)-
This one was a bit of a surprise for me! A far shift from the obligatory Angkor Wat checklist item, this is probably one of the easiest to check off the same day and it takes you from the “tourism driven vibe of Wat and transports you to the true essence of the Khmer society. Located in Angkor Thom (an area I would definitely plan to drive around), this temple is known as the home to the “face towers” of about 11,000 figures and the minute you make your way down the beautifully landscaped and tree lined streets of sporadically passing motorbikes and tuk tuks, you run into smiling carved faces staring back out at you over stone remains. It truly is something special. Walking amongst this temple just simply feels special the deeper you make your way through. The bridge and entrance to Angkor Thom has to be my favorite spot on the entire complex. Each side has Buddhist statues of mythical devas and ashuras holding a serpent over the water, a balancing act of good and evil to bring fruitfulness to the complex. If you are by car or tuk tuk, then I recommend getting out and walking across the bridge and through the entrance to get the full feel of it.
Terrace of the Elephants-
I only got to drive by this location but it is worth checking out, especially if you love elephants. The whole area depicts elephants and the worship and usage during the era. One part of it is even built as if the structure was a line of elephants with their trunks hanging down the side panel of the building.
Ta Prohm (Could do on day 2 since it is further out)-
Known for its fame from the Tomb Raider movie, Ta Prohm was the #1 place I wanted to visit on my SE Asia tour. It definitely didn’t disappoint! Hidden in a forested area of the Angkor complex, amongst crumbled towers and tree roots that have grown on top of the building frames; this temple transports you to an entirely different sense than the rest of the complex. The jungle embrace surrounds and embraces you. Give yourself a couple of hours to get lost in this unique and worthwhile bucket list temple. I am so glad I got to see it before it is fully restored (currently a group from India is working on the project so we will see how far they get under that budget) as I really loved all the access I had to it.
Banteay Srei (would recommend on day 2)-
Not too far from Ta Prohm is this red sandstone visit worthy Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva. I put this one on the list because the carvings here are some of the best I saw on in the entire complex. The detail is intricate and stands out amongst the red and pinkish stones. Word to the wise, go early! This area is smaller and even a small crowd makes it feel crowded; however it is well worth it! Besides the bridge to Angkor Thom, Banteay steals the show for me in the Angkor complex as far as beauty.
I can promise that you won’t be sorry if you carve out some time (pun fully intended there!) and add these temples to your list. If you have more time and feel like exploring, but need a break from temples, then I suggest relaxing by the water with a snack and just taking in your amazing surroundings. Although….beware of monkeys! They will not only pay you, but your SNACKS a visit as well. They also have an eye for keys, cell phones, etc; so you have been officially warned! ; )
Touristy Tomb Raider
For my full photo gallery from Siem Reap, please click here