Angkor Temple Adventure

14 August 2009

The 2nd day in Siem Reap started very early; the alarm went off at around 4:15 and we wasted no time and hurriedly prepared ourselves. Snacks, guidebooks, notebook and camera in tow, I was all set to witness the mystical sunrise once more in Angkor Wat.

We went down from our room a good thirty minutes later and were met at the front desk by our guide whom we hired the day before through our guesthouse. We went on to meet Seth, who was patiently waiting for us (we agreed to be fetched at 4:30 AM), in the main road. Immediately we went inside the tuktuk and headed towards Angkor Wat.

While on our way, our tour guide introduced himself as Vanna. He is a 24-year-old guy who has been in the tour guiding industry for the past three years. He came from a village just outside Phnom Penh and came to Siem Reap in order to earn a living from the booming tourism industry.

A good 20 minutes later, we were outside the western gate of Angkor Wat. Briefly we stopped just before we reached the first causeway and Vanna explained some basic stuff we need to know about the temple.

It was still a bit dark when we entered the temple grounds but you can clearly notice that the color of the sky on the east was beginning to change and brighten. It was a chilly dawn, the air was cool and damp – a hot cup of coffee would be more than welcome at that very moment. Unfortunately there wasn’t any establishment in sight; we continued walking until we went past the front gate and into the second causeway. From there, we can already see the spires of Angkor Wat.

Vanna suggested that we find a good place somewhere near the northern pond as that spot offered one of the best places to witness sunrise. We were not surprised to see other tourists who came much earlier than us and already positioned themselves for the much-awaited sunrise.

when it was still dark

view from the northern pond when it was still dark

As if the gods heard my longing for a hot cup of coffee, a woman approached me and said “buy hot coffee from me sir for 1 dollar and I will lend you a chair” – I said “sure, give me 2 cups of coffee and 2 chairs”. A few minutes later, we were comfortably seated very near the northern pond with a hot cup of coffee in hand.

enjoying a cup in hand

enjoying a cup in hand

The wait for the sun to rise from behind Angkor Wat was one of those rare moments in my life as a traveler wherein I really felt a sense of inner peace within myself. In that brief moment, I sat down, enjoyed my coffee and really savored the moment without a care in the world. Cheesy as it may sound but yes, I considered it as one of those magical moments in my life. It really was a joy and beauty to see the sky brighten up and changed colors while the rays of the sun slowly light up the ruins of the ancient temple.

i traveled a thousand miles for glimpse of this...

i traveled a thousand miles for a glimpse of this...

there were a lot of us actually

there were a lot of us actually

We finished the sunrise viewing with a photo taken by Vanna, it was his first shot of us and it was a lovely shot.

Vanna has an eye

Vanna has an eye

Afterwards we started the tour of Angkor Wat; we entered the temple from the NW entrance. The bas-relief on the Battle of Lanka was explained to us, we learned from thereon that this was one of the more famous Hindu legends in Cambodia.

churning of the sea of milk

churning of the sea of milk

We moved in a counter clockwise direction with Vanna carefully explaining to us the meaning of the various reliefs and pointed out the important sections of the gallery. There are some sections of the gallery wherein the reliefs looked like polished sandstone; this was the result of years of rubbing by pilgrims.

the Hindu god Vishnu

the Hindu god Vishnu

We spent probably at least an hour and a half inside Angkor Wat before my stomach went grumbling; I guess it was telling me that it was time to have breakfast. I let Vanna and Seth decide on where we will eat as I have read somewhere that they will be getting free food for every tourist they bring to the food establishment; getting free food will certainly go a long way to these guys. They took us to this small Khmer restaurant inside the ancient city Angkor Thom where I ordered a spicy Khmer beef dish. It turned out to be very good; these guys know the places to eat.

the victory gate in Angkor Thom

the victory gate in Angkor Thom

The next 2 hours after breakfast, we explored the ruins inside Angkor Thom. We restarted our tour at the Bayon; this is one of the most famous creations of the god-king Jayavarman VII. There were bas-reliefs in this temple as well, which depicted everyday life in ancient Cambodia. The highlight of this particular ruins are the 54 stone towers that each comes with 4 mysterious faces.

one of the 216 mysterious stone faces in the Bayon

one of the 216 mysterious stone faces in the Bayon

From the Bayon, we stopped by the Terrace of the Elephant and the Terrace of the Leper King. The famous Jayavarman VII (or simply J-7 according to Vanna) also built these two structures.

the statue of the Leper King

the statue of the Leper King

We left Angkor Thom shortly after and headed out towards Ta Prohm. This particular temple was pretty much left in the same condition as when it was found. The giant trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings helped made this ruin becoming one of the most popular temples with visitors. And yes, this was again built by J-7; specifically as a temple to honor his mother.

the temple taken over by the forest

the temple taken over by the forest

Mr Whattaworld versus the trees

Mr Whattaworld versus the tree

Ta Prohm from afar

Ta Prohm from afar

Pretty much exhausted from all the walking and the heat of the sun, we left Ta Prohm at slightly past noontime. We had lunch at a small Khmer restaurant recommended by Vanna before we headed out towards Kbal Spean, a temple that is more than an hour away from the city.

As it was a very long tuktuk ride, the breeze was too much to resist. I managed to get some shut-eye for more than half the time on the way to our destination.

I arrived refreshed from that brief siesta which turned out to be good, as we needed to hike uphill for approximately 1.5 km before actually reaching Kbal Spean. It took us approximately 30 minutes before we reached the site. Not much to see here except for some stone carving in the riverbeds depicting Hindi gods. There was a small waterfall nearby, it was just too bad that we were not aware of this otherwise we could have brought with us extra clothing for swimming.

carvings by the river bed

carvings by the river bed

the waterfall near Kbal Spean

the waterfall near Kbal Spean

Another 30 minutes of trekking going down plus another 30 minutes in the tuktuk and we arrived in our final destination, Banteay Srei – a site that was highly recommended by my brother. Arguably, this is considered by many as the crown jewel amongst the Angkor temples. Although very small in size as compared to the other ruins, it makes up in its carvings, which are very fine and intricate. Easily, this became my new favorite temple.

intricate carvings in Banteay Srei

intricate carvings in Banteay Srei

main entrance of Banteay Srei

main entrance of Banteay Srei

the three small towers of Banteay Srei

the three small towers of Banteay Srei

It was already past 5 in the afternoon when we headed back to town; we were very tired, weary and dirty from a fully packed whole day temple tour but nonetheless we were very happy and we got a dose of a good adventure.

It really helped a lot that we got a guide for this as it enabled us to understand and appreciate the wonderful ruins that we saw. It also helped a lot that Vanna can take good photos, so at least we got to document wonderful snaps for posterity sake. If you happen to be traveling in Siem Reap and would want to get a guide in the temple, please contact Vanna by email:

We got back to our guesthouse at around 6 in the evening, we rested a bit and freshen up. We bought our van tickets to Phnom Penh and had a brief dinner for one last time in Siem Reap – at least for this particular trip that is.

23 Responses to “Angkor Temple Adventure”

  1. nina Says:

    Nakaka-miss talaga ang Angkor Wat! Definitely going back there in the future!

    Katawa yung picture niyo with the picture-taking tourists in the background lol

  2. I love Siem Reap, wish I could go back, and it hasn’t even been 6 months since I went there! We didn’t know about that waterfall, sayang!

    • I didn’t know about the waterfall as well until we were there, it would have been very nice to take a quick dip…

      When you go back, just to Kbal Spean… You will see this waterfall, better yet go for Kulen Mountain nalang. There is also a waterfall there.

  3. Good that you followed your brother’s advice. Banteay Srei for me is the prettiest, most intricate temple in Siem Reap. After a while, everything else looks the same. Temple fatigue, no?

    • It all looks the same which was why we stick to the Big 3 (Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm)

      But hands down, Banteay Srei is my favorite ruin…

      Thanks for dropping by!! 🙂

  4. AudMraz Says:

    Hi 🙂

    Great pics. How much did it cost for the guide?

  5. liyah Says:

    Hi! My boyfriend and I are planning for a trip to Cambodia this Christmas. Would you know how to get there from Manila? Thanks a lot.. BTW, nice pictures!

    • Thanks much for dropping by and for the kind words… 🙂

      There are no direct flights from Manila to Siem Reap so you have to take connections from (a) Bangkok (b) Saigon (c) Singapore and (d) Kuala Lumpur

      (a) Airplane to Bangkok then from there take a bus going to the Thailand – Cambodia border. From the Cambodia border, you have to take a private car going to Siem Reap.

      (b) Airplane to Saigon, Vietnam and from there take a bus to Siem Reap. Might take 12 hours on the average.

      (c) and (d) Both involves taking a connecting flight directly from either Singapore and Kuala Lumpur directly to Siem Reap. This is very convenient but it can be expensive with regular airfare, best if you can get cheap tickets courtesy of the budget airlines Jetstar and Air Asia.

      Hope this helps… 🙂

  6. liyah Says:

    Wow! Thanks for the quick response. Seems that option A is more exciting! But options c and d are the most convenient.. I will consider these options and hopefully we can visit Cambodia by December this year, thank u very much for your help!

    Have a nice day!

    • Welcome!! 🙂 Option (a) can be a bit stressful as well especially in getting a private cab from the Cambodian side of the border… Drop me a line if you have more questions!

      Gotta work for now… 🙂

  7. ros Says:

    hi, just to ask about the tuk tuk driver, Vanna. Was he your tuk tuk driver and also guide? or you have to hire another guide? i’m going there in 3 weeks.


  8. dodoy Says:

    cool mr.whattaworld.would u recommend side trip to PP if i only hae 3D2N getaway…planning to go there mainly architectural ruins purpose ko.i like to try their food though.thanks for sharing this bro…mabuhay ka:)

    • Hi dodoy, sorry for the late reply… I have been out of communication lately, laptop crashed and got so busy as well with my new work. Anyway, a side trip to PP would be practically impossible if you only have 3D2N. A bus ride to PP would take at least 5 hours. 3D2N is just perfect for a stay in Siem Reap.

  9. dodoy Says:

    and i’ll hire vanna he he di ba bading to pre…

  10. Jaz Says:

    Nice blog you got here… 🙂 Makes me miss Siem Reap all the more. If only there was a direct flight to Siem Reap… Banteay Srei is also one of my favorites! Angkor Wat is grand and Bayon is haunting but Banteay Srei is the prettiest of them all. 😀

  11. chyng Says:

    magkano rate ni vanna?
    1 whole day lang ng lahat yang post mo?

    • Sorry to respond super late Chyng. If I remember correctly, we paid him USD25 – plus an additional tip of USD5 since he was with us for practically more than 12 hours. Yeah, all of it happened in a span of 1 day. Kaya naman although nakakapagod talaga.

  12. Angkor Wat is my home town! I love her very much! every body in the world should taking care all our temples

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