How many temples can you see in a day?
Not even a day, a morning. From say, 5am to 1pm? The answer is eight my friends. Eight temples in an eight hour period. Would I recommend seeing so many temples in such a short period of time? We’ll get to that.
I arrived to Cambodia from Vietnam after a short flight. Top tip for getting your visa in Vietnam – have passport photos ready to go and either have dollars or Cambodian Riel with you. Dollars are easiest to be honest. Once I had my passport stamped, I headed out to my tuk tuk driver to go to my hostel.
Let me take a few moments to talk about how much I loved my hostel in Siem Reap. I was still very cautious after my Hanoi experience (here’s where you can read my rant on that), and I had my doubts about hostels, having had crappy experiences in those in the past. However, Lub d Siem Reap was amazing. My room was lovely, it’s brand new so all the amenities are there, the pool is fab, the staff are lovely, the food and drinks are great and super cheap. It honestly totally changed my perspective of what a hostel can be.
The day that I arrived, I knew that I wanted to arrange to do the temple tour the next day. Reason being that I wanted a few days to just relax in Siem Reap and stroll around, and I knew if I got into that mind set, I would be too lazy to go and do the tour. I arranged to do the sunrise tour for the next morning and the hostel found two other people – Lisa and Andrew – to do the tour with me, which reduced the cost per person.
The next morning I was up at 4am, ready (I thought) for the sunrise tour. Here’s a few top tips I’ve picked up from my temple tour:
- If you’re going in the morning, bring a torch. It’s literally pitch black and the ground is rocky as hell
- If you’re going to get your temple pass that morning, go as early as possible. I naively thought that by being there at 5am we’d be the only ones. I was very very wrong. If possible, get your pass the day before so that you can go straight to the temples
- Dress respectfully. I thought it was a myth that they would check the length of your shorts, dress etc. It’s not as Lisa, who I did the tour with was checked. Play it safe, cover your shoulders, cover your knees and there’ll be no issue
- It’s pretty cool in the morning at that hour. Have a light jacket or something to stop any chill
- It gets damn hot and humid later in the day. Bring suncream, a hat, and plenty of water
- Bug spray! You’re out in the middle of a jungle at times. If you’re prone to bug bites, make sure you have spray
- Snacks. If you’re crazy like us and decide to do all these temples without stopping, bring snacks to keep your energy levels up
- Don’t be afraid to ask your tour guide to change your route. There were a number of temples we decided not to go to, and a number we decided to do instead. It’s your tour. Do your research before and know what you do and don’t want to see
- Don’t feel you have to have a tour guide. I liked having one as it’s a great way to lear about the history of Siem Reap and Cambodia. But if you just want to wander around, take it all in, get a few photos, then just hire a tuk tuk driver
- The more famous temples are jam packed. Seriously. It’s hard to move in some of them. Which really does spoil the experience a bit. Just be prepared when going to – Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider temple) and Bayon, it’s going to be selfie stick central. You’ve been warned!
Would I recommend doing eight temples in eight hours? If you’re short on time, yes. If you have a lot of other things you want to see in Siem Reap, yes. If you’re feeling sick, lethargic, tired, no. It’s pretty intense. All the walking and climbing combined with the early morning, heat, crowds etc etc. It can get a bit much. So take it at a pace you’re happy with and call it quits if you’re feeling crappy.
Once we finished our tour, we headed back to our hostel for steak and a beer, and a little dip in the pool. That evening, I invited Lisa and Andrew to join me for dinner with Meagan, a lovely girl I met at my cooking class in Hoi An. It was so nice to see Meagan again. I love that about travelling, how you can have a random meeting with someone in one place, and then meet them somewhere else. It makes the world seem less intimidating when you’re travelling alone.
Another thing that makes the world seem less intimidating when you’re travelling, is running into someone that you used to go to school with, who’s also staying in your hostel! How weird is that!? We hadn’t seen each other in ten years, both live in Dublin, but ran into each other in our hostel in Cambodia?! The world is weird and wonderful.
The next couple of days for me were all about rest, relaxation, and exploring the surrounding area a bit more. I lay by the pool, had lovely breakfasts, explored the markets and bought gifts for people, ate ice cream, drank margaritas and people watched.
One evening I went to Bodia Spa, which I would highly recommend to anyone wanting a massage or treatment. My aunt had told me about it as she came across it when she was in Siem Reap. It’s a beautiful space with the loveliest staff. I had a full body massage and treatment for a fraction of the price that I would pay at home, and I practically floated out of the spa!
One of the things I loved about my hostel, was some of the activities that they did. Of course there were the standard ones – cycle tours, pub crawls – but there was also a movie night every Thursday. The movie was projected on screens over the pool, there was free popcorn and $1 beers. It was so much fun!
I wish I had had more time in Cambodia. There’s so much to see and do there. But I think it’s a country I will definitely go back to in the future. Have you been to Cambodia? Where else would you recommend going to?