When many people talk about the temples near Siem Reap, Cambodia it is not uncommon to hear them referred to collectively as “Angkor Wat”. In fact, Angkor Wat is only one of many temples in the area. This discussion relates to those temples that are in what is known as the Central Angkor Temple Complex.
These are truly amazing and beautiful structures especially considering when they were constructed. It is astounding to think of the kind of wealth and the amount of labor that was required to build such temples and castles.
In all likelihood, your reason for going to Siem Reap was to visit these temples. It is possible to go on your own simply hiring a car and driver or tuk-tuk to take you to the general area and then from place to place but if it is your first visit, you’ll get so much more out of the experience if you hire a guide.
Virtually every hotel in town can arrange a tour for you or you can book through a local travel agent. In our case, we booked directly with Sowanna Yun, a well respected guide who provided a car and driver along with his services. Click this Cambodian Guide link to reach Sowanna’s informative web page.
Be aware that regardless of what time of day you visit the central temple complex, you are not going to be alone. There will be wall-to-wall tourists from all over the world. If you’re up for it, you can mitigate that somewhat by heading out to the ruins for a sunrise tour but even then there will be a crowd.
Also be aware that Siem Reap is one of the hottest places you will ever visit. Not much you can do about it but just be prepared.
On your first visit to the central temple complex, you will have to stand in line at a ticket office to buy your pass. Single and multiple day passes are available. You will receive a pass with your photo on it. You will be asked to present the pass on occasion during the day as you enter some of the temples in the central area as well as the outer temples so keep it in a safe place. You might even want to bring along one of those ID straps to hang it around your neck.
Entry into the temple complex is usually through one of the Angkor Thom gates. Just outside of that gate you will pass by rows of giant stone warrior guards on either side of the narrow road. Typically your next major stop will be the Bayon Temple with multiple towers with faces carved into all 4 sides. From there you will likely walk through some smaller temples and eventually work your way to the Terrace of the Leper King and right next to that; the Terrace of the Elephants. A typical tour will for break for lunch at about this point that can be eaten either at one of the many on-site open air restaurants or back at your hotel or a restaurant in town. Some might want to take a longer break and perhaps rest at the hotel but we usually choose to lunch at the complex and head back out for one of the highlights of the day: the temple that is correctly known as Angkor Wat.