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Angkor Park and specially Angkor Wat should be in the top list of any traveler. It is really an impressive place, but visiting it proves to be challenging to many visitors not only for the extension of the whole area but because the hot and humid weather and the multitudes that normally arrive there each day. With some planning it is possible to get a lot out of the visit.
Where is it exactly located?
The closest city is Siem Reap, this is actually the second largest city of Cambodia. There is an international airport and many good hotels for all kinds of budgets. The archaeological Park is located around 20 minutes driving from the center of town.
What is this?
These are the ruins of several capitals of the Khemer empire. Built originally around the 9th century. It is a huge area of almost 400 square kilometers. The most famous pictures come from the Angkor Wat temple and Bayon temple. Depending on what one is interested in, it can take even many days to see everything.
Plan your visit. When to go?
Most visitors will go from November to February. The weather is dry and cooler, but I personally think it is the worst time to visit. Everything is more expensive and Angkor is totally crowded making it really difficult to even get a decent picture of the place.
Being true with our ideas of slow travel, we visited Siem Reap during July this is the lowest season of the year. The weather is normally hot and humid with rain. The common misunderstanding is that it rains the whole day. We stayed in Siem Reap for five days and we only had one full rainy day and a couple showers the other days. The rest of the time was sunny, with amazing blue skies.
Arrive early! Many travelers want to se the sunrise at Angkor Wat, it is a beautiful experience but at times it feels more like a cliché, so maybe the ideal thing is to arrive early (maybe 8 am) but not too early.
It is good to set priorities. Do you want to see everything? Do you want to have a beautiful relaxed experience? Start by reading a lot, not only about the history but about the place itself and the distribution of the temples and ruins and set your priorities.
Choose your transportation options:
One can rent a bike to ride all around for only 1 or 2 USD per day. It sounds like fun but even for me that I am a bike rider I do not recommend it, After three hours riding around it becomes a burden and one is always afraid about the bike itself. It is possible to rent a taxi for 30 USD a day. We went for the Tuk Tuk. This was arranged by the hotel and it costed 12 USD for the whole day.
Buy the right pass: There is a daily pass (the one we got) you can buy it in the afternoon before and see the sunset and come back the following day for the whole visit. It costs 20 USD. There are three day passes for 40 USD and seven day passes for 60 USD. They take a picture and one has to be ready for frequent checks of the pass during the visit.
Do you need a guide? It is up to you, there are certainly a lot around. It is possible to arrange for a guide for as little as 20 USD per day. In our case we were really happy to explore the place at our own pace by ourselves.
When to arrive? If you like cliches, yes arrive at around 5:30 for the sunrise. It is still a nice experience.
We were there in low season. We departed our hotel at 8 am and around 9:40 we were wondering around Angkor Wat. The beauty of low season is that the place was totally for ourselves. The sun was against the Temple, so we just crossed to the opposite part and we got beautiful pictures
What to see? That again is up to you. We want to share the circuit we followed and we have to say we enjoyed it very much. We started at Angkor Wat, from there we moved to Victory gate, then we saw Angkor Thom, Bayon, Preah Khan and finally Ta Prohm. Our Tuk Tuk driver was awesome. He was awaiting for us always at the same spot were he left us and he always welcomed us back with a bottle of cold water. At 3pm we were back in the hotel enjoying lunch and getting ready for a relaxing Spa treatment.