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FOR VISITING ANGKOR
 
 

Visiting Angkor

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Orientation

ANGKOR WAT, or more precisely, the TEMPLES OF ANGKOR, is what brings you here.  At the same time, it is one of the most difficult subjects to approach:  it’s huge, it’s complex, and for the untrained eye, it all looks pretty much the same.

The golden rule to visit the temples:

  1. PREPARE: the better you are prepared, the more amazing a visit becomes;
  2. TAKE IT EASY: after the 7th temple, you’re totally burned out; besides spending a bit more time in a few temples gives much more added value than aiming for a temple marathon;
  3. CHOOSE WISELY: do what you really want to do; make your own shortlist (while preparing) and stick to it.

If you take the above golden rule serious, your enjoyment will be tenfold.  Let me explain each point.

PREPARE
The Angkor area stretches out for well over 400 km2 in area and 6 centuries in time. All of them are definitely Khmer, i.e. for ‘us foreigners’ look very similar. The differences are in the details.  If you’re not prepared, you will still have an ‘I’m totally amazed’ effect by the overwhelming size, intricate decoration and sheer number of buildings, but you’ll also quickly be ‘templed out’ as it gets boring pretty fast.  If you have a deeper understanding of the history and reality behind it, the whole visit gets another dimension, and your appreciation will increase tremendously.

For a quick, but good introduction, visit the website of Canby Publications: http://www.canbypublications.com/siemreap/srstarted.htm.
If you have more time, download Maurice Glaize’s guide to Angkor here: http://www.theangkorguide.com/download.htm.
Even if written in the early 40s, it’s still de most definite guide on Angkor ever written. He was an architect by profession and has been ‘Conservator of Angkor’ for ten years (1937-1946). The guidebook published in 1944 still remains the basic bible for any visitor to Angkor.

Further on this page, we’ll provide you with more summarized material to make your planning a bit more easily. See also under the heading ‘suggested itineraries’.

TAKE IT EASY
‘Seeing Angkor in 3 days’ – as most visitors do – is unfortunately the worst of approaches.  Stacking up an impressive number of temples ‘seen’ (and photographed) is not a good way, for several reasons.  First of all, it’s just too much. You get ‘templed out’ and at the end of the day the imprint in your memory is mainly fatigue and ‘Man, it’s hot.’ 
On the other hand, if you take it easy and plan two or three temples in a day, you have a much better chance of preserving a memorable experience of Angkor, and you’ll have a much better and deeper understanding and appreciation of what Angkor really is.
Start early, stay there for lunch (both in front of Angkor Wat and in the middle of Angkor Thom you’ll have lunch opportunities) while you’ll appreciate the low numbers of visitors in the early afternoon, and head back for your hotel by 4 pm. By that time there’s a growing  risk of rain anyhow - particularly during the monsoon period - an experience which need not to be on your wish list.  End the day with a dip in the hotel pool or a healthy body massage, and you’ll be refreshed for the evening.
Even if you’re on a tight schedule, don’t rush it.  It’s much better to go away with a pleasurable feeling and come back next year. So:

CHOOSE WISELY
While preparing, make a wish list, and stick to it.  Whether these are your personal highlights, a chronological tour, or your pick of architectural styles, if these are the things that mean most to you, they will give you the best experience.  At least, back home, there’s nothing to regret. And you’ll be much more motivated to do some more reading and come back for another visit.

Suggested itineraries

Take any guide book and you’ll find different itineraries and different approaches to visit Angkor. Depending on the time available, you personal interests, and your own creativity, you could either follow one of the suggestions below, or design your own itinerary.  We try hereunder to give you some possible approaches. It’s up to you to lay back and follow classical paths, or invest time and make a personal visiting plan.  Either way can be pleasant and satisfying.

Let's start with what Glaize is suggesting. After all, he's still the most acclaimed expert for everything Angkor.

Maurice Glaize's suggestions

  1. HALF A DAY - MORNING
  2. Angkor Wat, Bayon, the Small Circuit, a traverse of Ta Prohm from the west to the east, the terrace of Srah Srang. [27 km]
    half day morning
    (Click to enlarge)
  3. HALF A DAY - AFTERNOON
  4. The Bayon, the Small Circuit, a traverse of Ta Prohm from the west to the east, the terrace of Srah Srang, Angkor Wat. [30 km]
    half day afternoon
    (Click to enlarge)
  5. ONE FULL DAY
    • morning
    • The Grand Circuit, with a visit to Pre Rup, Neak Pean, Prah Khan (traverse from east to west), the terrace of the Leper King. [37 km]
    • afternoon
    • The Bayon, the Small Circuit, a traverse of Ta Prohm from the west to the east, the terrace of Srah Srang, Angkor Wat. [30 km]
    one full day
    (Click to enlarge)
  6. TWO DAYS
    • first day - morning
    • The Bayon, the terrace of the Leper King, Tep Pranam, Prah Palilay, the Royal Palace, the Baphuon. [20 km]
    • first day - afternoon
    • The small circuit via the Royal Palace, the Victory Gate, Ta Prohm (traverse from west to east), Banteay Kdei (ditto), the terrace of Srah Srang, and possibly Phnom Bakheng. [27/32 km]
    • second day - morning
    • The Grand Circuit, with a visit to Pre Rup, Banteay Samre, Neak Pean, Prah Khan (traversed from east to west). [46 km]
    • second day - afternoon
    • Angkor Wat. [12 km]
    two days - day one two days - day two
    DAY ONE(Click to enlarge)
    DAY TWO(Click to enlarge)
  7. THREE DAYS
    • first day - morning
    • The Bayon, the terrace of the Leper King, Tep Pranam, Prah Palilay, the Royal Palace, the Baphuon. [20 km]
    • first day - afternoon
    • The Kleang and Prah Pithu, the Victory Gate, Thommanon, Chau Say, Takeo, on returning Phnom Bakheng. [26 km]
    • second day - morning
    • The Grand Circuit, with a visit to Pre Rup, Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Pean, Prah Khan (traversing from east to west). [37 km]
    • second day - afternoon
    • Prasat Kravan, Ta Prohm (traversing from west to east), Banteay Kdei (traversing from west to east), the terrace of Srah Srang. [26 km]
    • third day - morning
    • Banteay Samre, Banteay Srei. [70 km]
    • third day - afternoon
    • Angkor Wat. [12 km]
    three days - day one three days - day two three days - day three
    DAY ONE(Click to enlarge)
    DAY TWO(Click to enlarge)
    DAY THREE(Click to enlarge)
  8. FOUR DAYS
    • first day - morning
    • The Bayon, terrace of the Leper King, Tep Pranam, Prah Palilay, the Royal Palace. [20 km]
    • first day - afternoon
    • Baphuon, the Kleang and Prah Pithu, the Victory Gate, Thommanon, Chau Say, on returning Phnom Bakheng. [24 km]
    • second day - morning
    • Takeo, Ta Prohm (crossing from west to east), Banteay Kdei (crossing from west to east), the terrace or Srah Srang, Prasat Kravan. [28 km]
    • second day - afternoon
    • Angkor Wat. [12 km]
    • third day - morning
    • The Grand Circuit, with a visit to Pre Rup, Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Pean, Prah Khan (passing through from east to west). [37 km]
    • third day - afternoon
    • Siem Reap river and Phnom Krom. [25 km]
    • fourth day - morning
    • Banteay Samre, Banteay Srei. [70 km]
    • fourth day - afternoon
    • The Roluos group (Bakong, Prah Ko), the western baray (swimming). [54 km]
    four days - day one four days - day two four days - day three four days - day four
    DAY ONE(Click to enlarge)
    DAY TWO(Click to enlarge)
    DAY THREE(Click to enlarge)
    DAY FOUR(Click to enlarge)
  9. FIVE DAYS
    • first day - morning
    • The Bayon, the terrace of the Elephants and of the Leper King, Tep Pranam, Prah Palilay, the Royal Palace. [20 km]
    • first day - afternoon
    • The Baphuon, the Kleang and Prah Pithu, the Victory Gate, Thommanon, Chau Say. [24 km]
    • second day - morning
    • Takeo, Ta Prohm (crossing from west to east), Banteay Kdei (crossing from west to east), the terrace of Srah Srang, Prasat Kravan. [28 km]
    • second day - afternoon
    • The Bayon (to study the bas-reliefs), Phnom Bakheng. [16 km]
    • third day - morning
    • The Grand Circuit, with a visit to Pre Rup, Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Pean, Prah Khan, (passing from east to west). [37 km]
    • third day - afternoon
    • Angkor Wat. [12 km]
    • fourth day - morning
    • Banteay Samre, Banteay Srei. [70 km]
    • fourth day - afternoon
    • Siem Reap river, Phnom Krom. [25 km]
    • fifth day - morning
    • The Roluos group (Bakong, Prah Ko, perhaps also Lolei) [28/30 km]
    • fifth day - afternoon
    • Angkor Wat (to study the bas-reliefs), western baray (swimming). [38 km]
    five days - day one five days - day two five days - day three five days - day four five days - day five
    DAY ONE(Click to enlarge)
    DAY TWO(Click to enlarge)
    DAY THREE(Click to enlarge)
    DAY FOUR(Click to enlarge)
    DAY FIVE(Click to enlarge)

Dawn Rooney's suggestions

Dawn Rooney in her excellent guide 'ANGKOR, Cambodia's Wondrous Khmer Temples', has a refreshing approach. She concocted 14 'Groups', each of which form a closely connected cluster and will keep you busy for about 3 to 4 hours of visiting, not including transfer time (approx. 30 minutes, more for some groups) from and to Siem Reap. If you choose the Groups which contain the temples on your personal wish list, you get each time some added value, and nice half-day excursions. Groups 12 to 14 are far away and will require more than a day trip.

Rooney grouping
(Click to enlarge)
  • Group 1
  • Angkor Wat - Ta Prohm Kel.
  • Group 2
  • Angkor Thom - Terrace of the Elephants - Terrace of the Leper King - Phimeanakas - Prasat Top East - Baphuon - Bayon - Prasat Top West.
  • Group 3
  • Preah Khan - Neak Pean - Krol Ko - Ta Som - Prasat Prei - Banteay Prei.
  • Group 4 *further away
  • Beng Mealea - Kapilapura - Kabal Spean - Phnom Bok - Phnom Kulen.
  • Group 5
  • Roluos - Preah Ko - Bakong - Lolei.
  • Group 6
  • Prasat Kravan - Srah Srang - Bat Chum - Bangeay Kdei - Kutisvara - Pre Rup - Prasat Leak Neang - East Mebon.
  • Group 7
  • Ta Prohm - Ta Keo - Ta Nei - Chapel of the Hospital - Spean Thma - Chau Say Tevoda - Thommanon - Baksei Chamkrong - Prasat Bei - Thma Bay Kaek - Phnom Bakeng.
  • Group 8
  • Banteay Srei - Banteay Samre.
  • Group 9
  • West Baray - West Mebon - Ak Yom.
  • Group 10
  • Tonle Sap - Phnom Krom - Wat Atvea - Preah Einkosei.
  • Group 11
  • Preah Pithu - The Kleangs - Prasat Suor Prat - Tep Pranam - Preah Palilay.
  • Group 12 * far away
  • Beyond Angkor - Banteay Chhmar - Koh Ker - Preah Khan - Kompong Svay - Preah Vihear.
  • Group 13 * far away
  • Sites North of Phnom Penh - Sambor Prei Kuk - Spean Praptos - Wat Nokor.
  • Group 14 * far away
  • Sites South of Phnom Penh - Ta Prohm of Tonle Bati - Phnom Chisor - Prasat Neang Khmao - Angkor Borei (and museum) - Phnom Da - Ashram Maharosei.

 

Highlights

This section is currently being written. It will contain a summary description of the major temples in the Angkor area

For the time being, the above section on Glaize's visit proposals gives an excellent overview of what are the not-to-be-missed temples (half day or one day visit), important temples (two day visit), what's worth a visit (three day visit), and the minor attractions (four and five day visit):

  • Absolutely not to be missed
    • Angkor Wat
    • Bayon
    • Ta Prohm
    • Srah Srang Terrace
    • Pre Rup
    • Neak Pean
    • Prah Khan
  • Important temples
    • Terrace of the Leper King
    • Tep Pranam
    • Prah Pilalay
    • Royal Palace (Phimeanakas)
    • Victory Gate
    • Banteay Kdei
    • Phnom Bakheng
    • Banteay Samre
    • Banteay Srei (if you can afford the 70 km detour)
  • Worth a visit
    • Baphuon
    • The North and South Khleang
    • Prah Pithu
    • Thommanon
    • Chau Say
    • Takeo
    • Eastern Mebon
    • Ta Som
    • Prasat Kravan
    • Banteay Samre
     

Email: makaratravels@gmail.com
Phone: +855 97 235 6554