The National Geographic images and texts did not bring justice to what I felt when I stood there, a mere dust in the constellation of things. As I was walking towards the Angkor Wat temple, despite the many people walking with me, I can hear the eerie silence, the sacred silence of centuries. One day was not enough, and I can walk around it every day, if only to find my inner peace.
Our trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia was reduced to one day because Cebu Pacific rescheduled our Aug. 8 departure date to Aug. 10. We were supposed to spend 3 days in the small historic town north of the Cambodian capital but ended up just spending 24 hours in the city. It was what I called a whirlwind love affair. Kifi, my contact person with the hostel we are staying, Pan Pan Saga Villa Hotel, offered me a $58 per person day tour and I accepted it. It was kinda expensive when converted to peso and I think we could have gotten a similar tour for a lower price but time is against me, and, honestly, we were satisfied with the tour package.
The tour package included:
— two-way airport transfers
— one day Angkor pass worth US$37.00
— tour of Angkor Wat, Bayon, Angkor Thom, and Ta Phrom
— tour of Tonle Sap lake
— unlimited cold water
— airconditioned four-seater car
— dinner buffet
Our one-day went like this:
6:00 AM – 7:00 AM – Wake up. Prepare things. Bathe. My brother woke up earlier, around 4AM, to jog around the place.
7:00 AM – 8:00 AM – Breakfast. The hotel gave us a simple breakfast of toast, fried egg, and coffee, and we were still famished so we walked towards the end of the street and bought and ate more food.
8:30 AM – 9:00 AM – Start of tour. Bought Angkor day pass. One day pass is $37. This was included in our $58 tour.
9:00 AM – 9:20 AM – To Angkor Wat. The Angkor archaeological park is far (you can’t walk) from Siem Reap.
9:20 AM – 11:00 AM – Angkor Wat. I was the last one in the group to get back to our vehicle because I circled the whole of Angkor Wat and found the right side of the temple emptier than the left side and spent some time there taking it all in.
11:00 AM – 11:05 AM – Angkor Thom’s South Gate. This gate is famous for the heads of the guardian and devil gods pulling a snake in opposite directions. We stopped only for photo opportunities.
11:05 AM – 12:00 PM – Lunch. We had lunch at one of the small eateries near Bayon temple. We also went souvenir shopping. Warning: Most merchandise sold here are made in Thailand. For lunch, I ordered a pork and rice dish with egg for $7 and a can of Coke for $1. If you are not very hungry, their serving was for sharing.
12:00 PM – 12:05 PM – Bayon. We only stopped for photo opportunities.
12:05 PM – 12:25 PM – To Ta Phrom.
12:25 PM – 1:30 PM. Ta Phrom. This is made popular by the movie, Lara Croft, that some people call it “the Lara Croft temple.” I find the walk from the east gate to the west gate relaxing and soothing because the temple was covered in trees and significantly cooler than Angkor Wat. I also enjoyed looking at the pictures of the preservation process, and looking at how nature can easily defeat man’s progress.
1:30 PM – 1:45 PM To War Museum.
1:45 PM – 2:15 PM War Museum. I paid the $5 entrance fee because I wanted to see what’s inside. Turned out, I could not stomach anything related to violence so I went out after a few minutes. My husband though enjoyed looking into the old war vehicles.
2:15 – 2:30 PM Back to Siem Reap center. Kim wanted to take us to Tonle Sap Lake but we didn’t want to pay the $20 boat ride so we just decided to go back to the town center and just asked Kim to fetch us back at 5:30 PM for dinner and to the airport.
2:30 PM – 5:30 PM Ice cream, coffee, river walk and other things you can do in Siem Reap beyond Angkor Wat. We always want to do a river walk, especially when the river passes through the main artery of a town or city, because that is where the “life” of the place is. I loved that the Siem Reap river had a proper foot path and bridges, and was dotted with cute cafes.
Here are some of my tips in order to effectively tour the UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the wonders of the world:
- Wear comfortable shoes. I wore comfortable shoes, but, it was a new pair of shoes and I got blisters the size of my own toe after walking around the ruins. Comfortable shoes should also be shoes you have broken in already.
- Wear comfortable clothes. Better yet, wear sports clothes or quick-dry clothes. Walking around and among the ruins will make you sweat.
- Keep yourself hydrated. Angkor Wat, specifically was very hot because there were no trees. It is best to bring a bottle of water with you.
- Expect to do serious walking. While it is named an archaeological park, it won’t be a walk in the park because it is a seriously large park, and if you want to cover everything, which you should, then prepare to walk. Don’t worry, Khmer food was delicious.
- If you only have one day, do the short circuit tour. This should cover Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Phrom. However, there are kind guides, like Kim, and, if you can negotiate with your guide, you can add the smaller ruins in your short circuit tour.