Angkor Wat

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Travel Guide Asia Cambodia Siem Reap Angkor Angkor Wat

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Introduction

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat, Cambodia's most famous temple and most visited temple in Angkor, dates back to the early 12th century when it was built for King Suryavarman II. It has remained a functional religious centre since its foundation, originally Hindu, now Buddhist. This is a must see when visiting Angkor. Remember the stairs up the temple are very steep and some tourists have been injured on them. Walking around the different levels can be very rewarding because most travellers do not stop and look at the amazing statues and art work on the walls.

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Brief History

According to legend, the construction of Angkor Wat was ordered by Indra to act as a palace for his son Precha Ket Mealea. According to the 13th century Chinese traveller Daguan Zhou, it was believed by some that the temple was constructed in a single night by a divine architect. The initial design and construction of the temple took place in the first half of the 12th century. Towards the end of the 12th century, Angkor Wat gradually transformed from a Hindu centre of worship to Buddhism, which continues to the present day. By the 17th century, Angkor Wat was not completely abandoned and functioned as a Buddhist temple. Fourteen inscriptions dated from the 17th century discovered in Angkor area testify to Japanese Buddhist pilgrims that had established small settlements alongside Khmer locals.

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Sights and Activities

The climb to the top is a must for any traveller in good shape. Remember the climb up is hard and the stairs are steep and slippery. Remember to take the time and enjoy each level. Every level is covered with stone statues and carvings on every surface. This also includes the dark hallways around the permitter. Many times local monks can be found just spending a few minutes sitting in the stone windows of the dark hallways to enjoy a moments rest.

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Opening Hours

The temple is opened from 5:00 am (to allow keen photographer to capture the iconic sunrise above Angkor Wat) until 5:30 pm. If you do go early bring a flashlight, or make sure you can use your phone as a flashlight.

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Cost

Non-Cambodian visitors require an Angkor Pass to enter Angkor Archaeological Park and these can be purchased as a 1-day (USD37), 3-day (USD62), or 7-day (USD72) pass - $ cash only. The 3-day pass is valid for any 3 days within a 10 day period, while the 7-day pass is valid for any 7 days within a month. Children under 12 may enter for free by presenting their passport; ID is not requested of visitors paying the full fee. Both 3-day and 7-day options involves taking a photo which is printed on your Angkor pass. If you have a guide or driver you don't need to buy a pass for them as they most certainly will be Cambodian and can enter for free. Passes issued after 17:00 each day can be used to enter the park without counting as use of a day on your pass. However the sale of Angkor passes end at 17:30.

Make sure you purchase your Angkor Pass only at the official APSARA ticket sales office, which has been relocated away from the entrance checkpoints. The office officially opens at 5.00 am, but is in fact opened a bit earlier. The lines are split into the kind of pass you want to have (1,3 or 7 days), so check where you queue up, as you will be turned away if you are not in the correct line. Passes cannot be purchased from any other source, including tour operators. Note that Angkor passes are non-transferable, so do not purchase one second-hand off someone else. Regular checks for valid passes are performed at almost all sites within the park, including even some washrooms, so make sure you carry it with you at all times. And don't lose it! - else you'll have to go back to the ticket booth to buy another, or give up on seeing one of the world's most remarkable sights. As a last note: buying the pass, means you can also use the toilets in the park for free.

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Getting There and Around

From Siem Reap it it possible to rent a bicycle, a moto/tuk-tuk (motorcycle-taxi) with driver or a car with driver. The motos are quite nice because they offer shade in the sunny season and shelter in the rainy season. You should pay US$10-15 for an entire day starting between 7:00am and 9:00am.

It is possible to rent an air conditioned car for the day in Siem Reap. This is more expensive then renting a moto/tuk-tuk although can be more comfortable during the hot dry season. Talk with your hotel about arranging a car for the day.

Bicycles are a very convenient option to visit Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, the little circuit or even the big circuit - depending on time you have and how big fan of Khmer temples you are. Renting a bike in Siem Reap is easy and cheap (USD1 per day), in most of places you don't even have to leave your passport, locks for bikes are provided, check the bike before and ask for some amendments if needed, e.g. pumping air, oiling the chain). It is about 6 kilometres from the city to Angkor Wat (if you go first time, make sure you go by the Visitors Centre which is the only place where you can buy passes. In the little circuit most places are at most 15 minutes away from each other by bike, so it is actually not a problem for a regular tourist (without much biking experience) to visit Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and spots on the little circuit in one day. If you are willing to get up early and start your trip at 06ː00 (it is not uncommon to see a bike rentals open from 04ː30) it won't be a problem to visit all above plus the big circuit (where spots are 30 minutes away each other by bike) in one day. Take into account your shape and visiting preferences. If you bike a lot at home - you can easily get around much quicker, but do take into account the humid conditions, which you might not be accustomed to at home. If you enjoy Khmer architecture more than the typical Angkor visitor, it is recommended you reserve at least 3 days for the trip (it doesn't matter if you go by tuk-tuk or by bike). It is a good idea to take a lot of water with you, rent a bike with a basket, but it is not a big problem if you run out of water during your trip. Around every temple in Angkor park you can buy some food and drinks (it's just more expensive than in the city, about USD2 per big bottle of water in the park). Cycling in Angkor Park is safe (traffic is low), pleasant (nice views and a lot of trees providing shadows in sunny days) and, last but not least, it saves you a lot of hassle of dealing with tuk-tuk drivers.

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Eat

Despite a ban on development and commercial activity, dozens of small noodle and snack shops have sprung up near the major attractions of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Some shopkeepers may be willing to bargain. During summer low season, you can bring the price of a good lunch down to as low as USD1 for a dish and USD0.50 for a drink. Their flocks of five year old emissaries aren't likely to hold price-cutting authority. However, avoid hard or aggressive bargaining, either because the odd dollar is nothing to you but can be significant to a local, and also it is unwise to offend or upset anybody before they prepare your meal! You'll also find some local people selling fresh pineapples and mangoes (beautifully cut) for about USD1 a piece. Also try the seasonal toddy palm fruit, a hollow sack as soft as jelly at 4 pieces for USD1 sold at the roadside to Bantay Samre and at temple refreshment stalls.

The modern Angkor Cafe lies just outside Angkor Wat's main entrance, and also doubles as a crafts shop, with fine works from the Artisans d'Angkor shop, where they train locals in the arts. Their prices are on the high side for Cambodia, but very reasonable for Western pockets (mainly USD3–5) with excellent food, nice decor and air conditioning.

Chez Sophie lies just outside Angkor Wat's main entrance. It is a favourite among expatriates and by many rated as the best restaurant in Siem Reap. Food prices are a bit higher than the cheapest places, USD8–15, but the standard is also much higher. Excellent place for lunch and or a coffee/wine break. Or for a romantic dinner. The owner Mathieu, a French UNESCO photographer who came to Cambodia in 1998 is charming, and the only foreigner living within the temple compound.

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Drink

Soft drinks are hawked by stalls in front of practically every temple. As you might expect, prices are inflated: USD1 for a can of soft drink or a cold 1.5 litre plastic bottle of water is more or less standard, although this can easily be bargained down to half or less.

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Sleep

There are no accommodations within the park itself and camping is not permitted. Like most tourists you will find yourself staying in Siem Reap, with a multitude of options ranging from grubby little guest houses to upmarket hotels and villas. See Siem Reap for more details on accommodation options.

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This is version 15. Last edited at 17:10 on Nov 18, 17 by Herr Bert. 8 articles link to this page.

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