Angkor Wat always seemed like an unbelievably exotic place, somewhere that barely existed. I would see pics at sunrise and think “man I want to see that” but it didn’t really seem tangible. When I got to Thailand that brought a visit from fantasy to within reach. Entering Thailand they issue Americans a 30 day tourist visa, many people make visa runs to neighboring countries to extend this. I decided to coincide my trip to Angkor Wat with my visa run. So on my 30th day in Thailand I woke up before sunrise (3rd straight day at that point I’d see the sunrise) and headed to the bus station. I thought there was something mildly interesting about screaming across Thailand in a race to get to the border before my visa ran out. In my head I imagined authorities tracking me, ready to give me the 500 baht a day fine (about $15) if I overstayed my welcome. The border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia is fairly infamous with lots of scams going on and touts trying to get you to buy a visa from them. I had been warned and prepped so when the government bus dropped me off at the border I put my head down and charged for immigration.
Once across the border things were less manic but somehow hotter. I jumped on a bus and met a cool German dude and we shared a cab into Siem Reap. He already booked a hostel so I followed him there and was glad I did. A pool, a restaurant, a pool table, air conditioning all for $6 for a dorm room. We headed over to Angkor for sunset and checked out the main temple.
It was remarkably ornate. Keep in mind in the last couple months I have seen many many temples, gompas, the Taj Mahal, a couple castles, and this one blew me away. Especially since it was constructed in the 12th century.
The next morning I woke up at 4:15am to catch the sunrise at the temple (my 4th sunrise in a row) and hopped on my rental bike. She’s a sweet ride.
And made it over in time to watch the sun come up over Angkor Wat
I then hopped on my trusty steed and biked from 5:30am to 1:30pm checking out dozens of temples. The original city was almost 400 square miles and may have housed up to one million people so the ruins are very spread out. Of the temples I visited my favorites were: Bayon
and Ta Prohm
Some quick thoughts about the temples in general:
- I’ve read there’s a lot of vandalism/theft and I’m not surprised. I was carrying a backpack and it would have been remarkably easy to just pick up a chunk of engraved stone way back in the jungle and put it in my bag. (I didn’t)
- There were actually less tourists then I thought there would be (though that meant still quite a bit) and also less touts (though the few that were there were extremely aggressive. Mostly mothers and little kids, which is the hardest).
- The side-temples were great but started running together, I actually walked into one that I had already been in from the other side and didn’t realize it till I got all the way to the first entrance.
- Cambodia seems pretty interesting, in the future I would like to spend more time there. I’m told the killing fields memorials are incredibly intense.
- Cambodia uses both the Riel and the US Dollar for currency. It was weird paying for things with dollars again.
- If you want to see some more pictures I took check out here
- Overall a great trip and when I crossed back into Thailand they issued me another 15 days (because it was a land crossing, air gets you 30), of which I only needed 2 because I was flying to Paris!!!
- The Paris/Font post should come up pretty quick as I’m at my Moms right now and have a lot more free time and constant access to a real computer with real internet which is amazing, really.