Exploring Angkor Wat
Why, hello there internet world! I'm finally getting around to blog a little more and I figured I should finally post something about Southeast Asia while the experience is still fresh in my memory. Before I begin, I wanted to mention a sidenote:
I REALLY wished I tried practicing with my camera more in Asia, but it was only in October when I really started to attempt to learn about my camera and go out to practice. I almost didn't even take my DSLR to Asia with me, but I am definitely glad I did. It wasn't until I got back from Asia (end of November) that I actually started going out to shoot every week to practice. So I'm actually excited for my future trips now that I am fairly comfortable with using my camera. I still have a lot of practicing to do, but I'm excited to see how my work progresses throughout the year.
Anywho, on to Angkor Wat! First of all, Cambodia was such an experience in it itself that I can't even begin to properly express the emotions and feelings I felt while I explored in that country. But that will be saved for another blog post and instead I'll reserve this post specifically for exploring Angkor, which is the giant city that houses Angkor Wat and other amazing temples.
In order to visit these temples, more than likely you will be staying in the city of Siem Reap in Cambodia. From wherever you stay in Siem Reap, you can choose to see the temples of Angkor via multiple options. One option is to pay a tour company to tour you around, which is probably always going to be your most expensive option and I personally NEVER like to pay for tours unless I absolutely have to. Another option is to rent bikes and bike around to explore the temples, which was the option I wanted to do, however, the group of backpackers I met weren't all fond of this idea considering the fact that it was NASTY HOT during the time that we were there. And considering the fact at how huge the city of Angkor actually is, I am glad we didn't choose the biking option because to be honest, I wouldn't have lasted even a few hours with how hot it was the day we explored. The last option (I'm sure there are more options), which is the option we chose was to pay a tuk tuk driver to drive us around the temples. We didn't have a guide with us to explain the history to us which was kind of a bummer, but we also didn't have to walk or bike from temple to temple in the wretched heat.
Also, besides the mode of transportation from getting to the site and around the city, you also have to choose if you want to explore in 1 day, 3 days, or 7 days. Initially, I wanted to explore 3 days, but the awesome group of backpackers I met only wanted to do 1 day and continue onto other parts of Cambodia so I basically followed them because I didn't really want to travel alone in Cambodia after what I saw the first two days of being in Cambodia. More on that in a future post! So after we decided to do the one day, we woke up the next day at the butt crack of dawn to watch the famous sunrise at Angkor Wat. This is definitely a must-see when you're exploring Angkor Wat, but just know that it's so popular that there is probably no way for you to witness this amazing experience without hoards of tourists near you, around you, etc. Unless you go in the off-season, but I have no idea when that is and the weather is probably even worse then.
The ticket office opens at 5am so it is extremely important to get there early so that you can get your ticket, get to Angkor Wat, and then find yourself a golden spot to stay at to watch the glorious sun rise. We actually left a little later then we wanted from our hostel and there were already tons of people in line by the time we got to the ticket office. I can't remember if they required your passport so I would definitely ask your hostel, hotel, guide, etc. just in case, but I do remember that they do take a photo of you. The cost of our one day ticket was $20 USD. Not bad, considering you get to explore all the temples with this ticket.
Also, keep in mind you are exploring temples so remember to dress appropriately! This typically usually applies to women, but I would double check for any of you guys out there. For women, it is required that you have your shoulders and legs covered in most of the temples. I made a huge mistake and did not wear the right clothes and I was pretty much dying in the heat in my yoga pants and t-shirt made out of the worst material for hot and humid weather. I was so hot that I ended up buying a dress at one of the shops next to Angkor Wat. My advice to you is, wear shorts and a loose and airy top and make sure to have some elephant pants or sarong to cover your legs when needed, and another sarong to cover your shoulders if you're wearing a tank top. One of the girls I was with wasn't allowed into one of the temples because she was using a scarf to cover her shoulders so just make sure you're wearing a t-shirt or have a sarong or take turns with a friend who has something you can borrow if you have to.
And finally, if you are choosing the 1 day to explore ALL of Angkor and the many temples within it, I highly recommend going to Angkor Wat for sunrise and then to Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider temple), then Bayon, and then to whatever other temples your heart desires. The reason I say this is because if you're like me and can't handle too much heat, and when I say heat I mean HOT AND HUMID heat (keep in mind I currently live in Florida), it's probably best to conserve your energy for the best temples first and then explore the other ones after. I'm pretty sure Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon are the top 3 or at least most popular. By the time we got to Bayon, I barely had any energy to explore and was basically forcing myself to walk around when I was actually pretty miserable from the heat and definitely not enjoying the moment! If you can handle the heat and have more stamina to keep going then by all means go for it! But if I had the opportunity to re-do Angkor, I would definitely see the top 3 first before exploring any of the other temples or go when the weather is better (is there such a thing?). I also missed out on sunset because of the lack of energy. So sad!
Regardless, exploring the ancient city of Angkor was an amazing experience and I would recommend everyone to add this to their bucket list. If you have any questions feel free to ask them below or if you have any tips from your own trip please share!
P.S. These are the shots I was able to get with my DSLR (Canon Rebel T3i), but was also not as familiar with my camera as I am now. I definitely used my iPhone a lot more and if you would like to see those photos you can always check out my instagram.