Traveling to Cambodia or Siem Reap is almost always associated with visiting the Angkor Wat temple. It's like visiting Paris and going to the Eiffel Tower. It is a given because it is the attraction the makes the city iconic.
The Angkor Wat Temple is probably the most visited temple in the whole of Siem Reap, Cambodia (or maybe its Ta Prohm - the temple tomb raider was filmed).
Every time we hear "Angkor Wat Temple" we envision a huge temple, interesting details, unique relics, or we think Tomb raider and Angelina Jolie. Needless to say, every tourist who visits Siem Reap has the same expectation, or the same plans i.e. VISIT THE ANGKOR WAT TEMPLE.
I've previously mentioned the 3 Famous Temples in Siem Reap, and today i'm going to flip the switch and talk about why visiting smaller temples within the Angkor Complex might be the way to go.
Note:Telling your tuk-tuk/driver to bring you through the small circuit will take you to the FAMOUS temples, but going not the Grand Tour, or the bigger circuit, takes you to the smaller less famous ones. The irony.
All these temples mentioned (in both blog posts) are all part of the Angkor Complex. You just need to purchase 1 ticket (for 1/3/5 days duration) and you have access to all the temples.
If you're not a massive fan of temples and are thinking of choosing between one or the other, I did both during my stay in Siem Reap, and here are some reasons why you should choose to visit the smaller temples.
It Is WAY Less Crowded
I'm not a fan of crowds, I don't think any one is when they are traveling. Who wants to be shoved around or have to squeeze through people - especially sweaty bodies in Cambodia's tropical heat. Not me. Visiting the smaller temples would mean you get to actually see things, and you don't have to fight other humans. Sometimes, you might even get the whole temple to yourself!
You See The Details
In the bigger temples like Angkor Wat or Bayan, its difficult to go near to the carvings or walls as they are usually cordoned off to prevent damage by tourists. For the parts of the temple you can actually go close and touch, you'd be waiting in line behind others before you get your turn. This does not happen with smaller temples.
Smaller temples e.g. Ta Som, are similar to their large famous counter parts (Ta Prohm). They have the same beautiful tall trees, the same intricate carvings, the same unique rocks and walls. So, if you're interested in temple architecture, visiting the smaller temples makes so much more sense because you actually get to SEE it.
You Remember What You See
After walking around the Angkor temple for 2 hours, things get a bit blurry. I can't quite remember everything because the temple is just SO HUGE. The smaller temples take about 20 to 30 minutes to get through, and you get to see everything!
If you're a bit like me, and don't know the difference between one hindu temple from another, then going to the smaller will be so much easier on your brain. The details of my 2nd day temple visits are more deeply etched into my memory because of this!
I had my dad with me and he knows more about temples and history, so on the first day, he was like my real life audio guide, explaining why temples are built a certain way. If not for him, trust me, i'd just be lost and i'd forget what I any of the carvings mean.
You Can ACTUALLY Photograph Something
You can tell from the crazy number of pictures on this blog that i'm a fan of photography (or at least i enjoy clicking the shutter!) I'm not the best, or remotely great at photography or videography, but I enjoy encapsulating my travels in pixels.
Most of us 21st century travellers are probably the same. After paying so much for an experience/for a ticket, we'd want something to remember it by, and nothing is better than a snapshot of a moment in time. Well, until you have half of another human's head covering the gorgeous carving you wanted to capture.
NO SUCH PROBLEMS In the smaller temples, because: point 1!
It's Less "Boring"
Temples get repetitive after a while. I have heard people go on about how visiting Western Europe is boring because its church after church, or how temples are "all the same".
I appreciate the architecture, and intricacies of the carvings and the stories and history of the temples, but after a while, things start looking the same. Visiting smaller temples in the grand circuit, you get to alternate between buddhist and hindu temples, so it actually is less boring because you notice the subtle differences, unlike when you're in 1 huge temple and it's built by the same king, with the same influences.
Of course, if you have the time and would like to, do visit as many temples to make your money's worth. But if you don't i'd recommend going on the grand tour/big circuit, and just watching the sunrise at the Angkor Wat Temple.
But, If you're not an avid fan of visiting temples, or you get bored easily when visiting the same type of places, consider going to the smaller temples when you find yourself in Cambodia. I know, it's like visiting paris and not going to the Eiffel Tower.
I've lived in Paris, trust me the Eiffel Tower isn't all that impressive (there are much better places!), and when it comes to temple visiting, you could totally just photograph the exterior of the Angkor Wat to show you were there and then head on to explore the smaller temples! After all, the same ticket (for the same cost) gives you access to every single temple in the whole Angkor Complex, you would not lose out!
The 5 temples I visited in the grand circuit are, Banteay Sri, Banteay Samre, Preah Khan, Ta Som, and Neak Pean, all very different from each other, and just as impressive as the famous temples.
16 July 2016 Angkor Wat Basin, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
In my past few Cambodia posts, you'd see that I used "we" instead of I when I was describing where I went or what I did. That is because I went to Cambodia with my dad! This isn't the first time i've traveled with my dad, but it is the first trip we took alone, without my siblings, without anyone else, and yes, it was fun! Here are some benefits I noticed during my with daddy!
1. YOU CHOOSE THE DESTINATION
This is probably true when it's just you and your dad. If you're the kid and he's the adult, he's bound to let you have a say in where you want to go. For me the conversation went,
Me: "Daddy I wanna go to Cambodia and see the Angkor Wat temple, wanna come?"
Dad: "OK! When? I need to apply for leave."
2. DAD PAYS
Well... technically, I paid first because I booked and plan the entire holiday, but my dad works on a reimbursement basis, so i'm pretty sure i'd get my money back.
This definitely won't be true when I graduate and start working (which is in a few months time), so... this might just be a one time thing, anyway, Thanks Daddy ;)
3. YOU GET THE CHOICE OF BED
Daddy probably will ask you which side of the bed you want or which bed you want. My dad did, and I got to choose the bed I wanted!
4. THE BETTER TOILET/SHOWER DEAL (or any deal tbh)
i.e. shower first after the end of a long day and get to use the toilet 2nd in the morning so you get a teeny wee bit more sleep
Dads have short hair - well, shorter than us girls with long hair that is. Since my hair "takes a longer time to get dry" my dad had me shower first every night during our trip!
5. PERSONAL PHOTOGRAPHER
Part of daddy's duties? A lot of my friend's dads end up being their Instagram photographer. I think Dads just think we're being typical millennials and just accommodate with the 101 retakes.
We aren't talking about the awesome quality photos, but when they take more than 20 shots, one of them is bound to be good enough!
My dad had some experience with photography/videography during his time, so he was all like "Ready? Ok, Go! Start!" while filming clips for this travel video.
6. YOU HAVE AN ADVENTURE BUDDY!
Different people want different things whilst traveling, and that is true even with family members. I'd throw a general stereotype out there and say dads are typically more adventurous than mums.
My dad and I both enjoy visiting the more exotic places going to temples, and seeing what my other family members would term "boring stuff" so we make a good adventure pair!
7. GOOD FOOD
'Cause... point 2? I'm kidding. Although you gotta agree, free food tastes better.
Basically, I have this theory that parents always seem to pick the better food option. My dad always orders tastier food than I do, so when I eat with him, I let him pick and hey, good food!
8. YOU NOTICE THINGS YOU OTHERWISE WOULDN'T
Dads are older, they have more life experience, basically they pick up on things and point out stuff you otherwise would have just glanced by and not notice.
For example, I totally didn't realise these monks were praying and offering blessings in exchange for some food or donations, when we were walking around the market early in the morning. It's some kind of buddhist custom, but I know so little about the buddhist religion. So my dad pointed that out to me.
And, Dad pointed out that there were bottles of petrol/oil just sold in conveniences stores. I'd totally have passed it by without realising.
9. YOU GET TO CONNECT ON A WHOLE NEW LEVEL
Traveling alone with one parent is truly the best way to connect with them. I finally heard a different side of the same story about how and why my parents' split. I heard stories of what my dad was like when he was younger, and since he did a lot of traveling in his time, I got to hear those stories too.
I hardly had to get a tour guide for the temples because my dad seemed to know so much about Cambodia and buddhism - he could even hold conversations about Cambodia's customs and government with the driver that took us around!
10. YOU GET TO BE DADDY'S LITTLE GIRL
This is probably my favourite. If you grew up as a single child, you probably won't feel the way those who have siblings would.
Traveling alone with dad (or mum!) means getting their undivided attention. No siblings around to vie for their attention, they don't have to vote who to follow, and basically you get your way the whole time.
Being the oldest of 3 kids, I'm always making the plans on family outings and trips and having to accommodate everyone's schedules and preferences. On this trip alone with dad, I got to be daddy's little girl and daddy was just accommodating me, that was AWESOME.
If your dad is like mine, it probably means you have to plan the entire holiday and he's just gonna follow along. That could come in as a plus point if you like deciding where to go and what to do like I do. But, if you're not much of a planner or decider, then this might be a teensy bit annoying.
I've never really talked about my dad on this space, so in honour of him, I decided to craft this fun post. If you've never gone on holiday/vacation alone with your dad (or mum), and have the chance to do so, i'd say go for it! The experience might just be incredibly fun.
Time for me to travel alone with mum some day!
10 July 2016 Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Sunrises. They are probably my favourite natural phenomenons. A new day, a new beginning, a fresh start. Each time I think about how the sun never fails to rise, and how fortunate it is to have the chance to be better to be more each day, I get a warm feeling in my heart.
There's something spiritual to sunrises, won't you agree?
One of the famous touristy things to do when visiting Siem Reap Cambodia is to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. As much as you might dislike doing touristy things, I think sunrises are never too touristy. There is no good enough reason to pass watching a beautiful sunrise.
We left our hotel around 5 am in the morning and headed for the temple; our driver came later than expected, which was such a bummer, as it started to get bright as we were heading to the temple.
I was so worried that i'd miss the opportunity to see the sunset.
NOTE: DO NOT Leave the viewing of the sunset to your last day of visit.I thought I was being logical for doing so, especially since the last day in Cambodia was a short one (I had an early afternoon flight), but bear in mind that sometimes things happen, and don't go as planned, so always have 1 back up day!
In my previous post: 3 Famous Temples in 1 Day, I mentioned how the mornings and nights were really cloudy but the afternoons are crazy hot. Thankfully, despite the cloudy mornings, we still got to see a pretty decent sunrise.
The good thing about watching the sunrise when I was there (early may) was the lack of tourists. Since it was during a non-peak tourist season, we did not have to squeeze with tons of people just to catch a glimpse of the sunrise.
After the sunrise, we headed back to our hotel for some breakfast. The tranquility of the Angkor Wat temple and its surroundings is just amazing at 6 or 7 am in the morning. Calm and beautiful.
The opportunity to witness sights like these is the reason why traveling is such an important part of me, it really does bring balance and centralisation to soul.
17 June 2016 Angkor Wat Basin, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
From my previous post, you would probably be able to tell that my Cambodia trip was a more chilled out, enjoy, no rush kind of trip. Pretty different from how I travel when i'm traveling alone.
Hanging out with daddy (or mum - any parent really) means there is no need to rush, thats just the way we prefer group trips.
Cambodia has always, ALWAYS been a place I wanted to visit. I've always wanted to go the Angkor Wat temple. I've always imagined it to be like some archaeological site, cum Dora-the-explorer-come-to-life, cum all that Tomb Raider coolness. Alas, life is not a movie. It was still really cool though. Just less the movie effects.
ANGKOR WAT TEMPLE
Angkor Wat temple was the first place temple we visited. Before going to cambodia, I did not realise that the Angkor region isn't just a temple, it's a WHOLE COMPLEX. A MASSIVE COMPLEX.
Some people are able to go through temples like... I don't even. They do 10 temples in a day! How?
I for one will never be able to do that, because I wouldn't be able to digest everything I see.
Since Angkor Wat is a protected area, despite all the rivers drying up in the summer, the moat is ALWAYS filled with water. This moat around the entire complex is a protection. Restricted access, so that people can't go into the temples and steal things (that happened in the past).
Angkor Wat Temple is the biggest temple in the complex, and although it's not the cheapest, to be able to fully appreciate the temple and history fully, i'd recommend getting a guide on site when you get to the temple, at least for the massive temple. Wouldn't have known about the moat if I didn't get a guide!
Lots of people recommend not spending the money ($15-20) because you can read the facts on your own. Unless you're the kind that reads up about the history of places before visiting them, I doubt you'd get much value from visiting Angkor Wat Temple without a guide. I'm more of an audio learner, so i'm usually pro audio/people guides.
*Note: At least for the big Angkor Wat Temple, I think it was worth getting a guide! Smaller temples you can do without, or just eavesdrop on other people's guides. I understand mandarin, so I did lots of mandarin tour guide eavesdropping from passing Chinese tour groups.
Our Angkor Wat Temple guide brought us through the temple, explained the legend behind the carvings, pointed out which images depicted the good guys and which were the bad guys, how immortality was shown in these carvings and the symbolism of different statues found in the temples.
*Note: When visiting temples or places of worship, always wear something that is appropriate. And check before you leave! Dad and I had to repack THANKFULLY, when I told him about the temple dress codes after finding out 1 day before our trip!
The entire tour of the Angkor Wat temple took my dad and I roughly 2 hours or so, because we went to all the different levels and saw as much as we could. Thankfully it was the low season, so temples weren't crowded. Apparently they get up to 7000 visitors in a day during the peak period. How insane.
Even though getting a guide was kind of expensive for 2 people (you pay a fixed price, so if you go in a bigger group the better!) I'm glad daddy persuaded me to spend that little bit of money at least for the big Angkor Wat Temple.
Since we had a late start to the day, by the time we got done with Angkor Wat Temple, it was time for lunch. After lunch, we went to what is probably one of my favourite temple, called Ta Prohm.
If you've read my blog post and kept up with my different adventures, you'd know that even though i'm a city girl, I LOVE nature sights while traveling. These tall beautiful trees surrounding the Ta Prohm temple made this little temple my favourite one among all the temples i've visited.
You see that little green shrub? That was located at the roof of a temple structure, and from that little shrub, an insanely tall tree will grow. One with roots that will creep along side the temple walls all the way to the ground.
Wanna know how Alice in Wonderland felt after taking the shrinking potion? Visit this temple!
Compare us and the trees or the temple structure. The roots of the tree itself is probably 3 or 4 times my height. I mean, I'm short, but my dad is about 5'7 (170++ cm) and he too looks tiny beside those tree roots!
The last famous temple of the day was Bayon Temple, the temple where Angelina Jolie filmed Tomb Raider when Cambodia first opened its doors to visitors several years back.
From the pictures in this post, you can tell that these 3 famous temples are all very different.
Bayon temple, unlike the other 2 temples, had HUGE buddha heads as part of its structure.
The top of the temple were filled with 4 faced buddha structures made out of individual stones pieced together. How impressive is that!
*Note: Don't get scammed by the people who offer to take photographs of you in this temple, because they'd make you give them a tip after doing so. I saw it happen to someone else.
At the bottom of the Bayon Temple, you'll see window like structures and beautiful carvings on the walls of these "windows".
Some people were sitting and stepping all over them just to take photographs, but I over heard another guide saying in mandarin how that is really disrespectful, and it actually destroys the carvings on the wall, especially since our hands have sweat and all sorts of the minerals that will degrade these stones and rocks.
After visiting these 3 temples, our driver asked if we wanted to see the sunset. So being a sunset lover, I said yes immediately, and we headed for the famous Phnom Bakeng, but not before passing by some animals and the filming session of a local TV show - which I'm convinced I saw an episode on TV later that night at the hotel!
There were elephants and cameras, and some animal trainers too. They even smoked the area to prevent mosquitos from attacking the cast members.
Eventually, we headed up Phnom Bakeng, and got to catch the sunset. Well, technically we didn't because this time of the year is when the days are crazy hot and the nights get really cloudy. The opposite is probably true for the rainy season. During the rainy season, visitors will then get to see the sunset on Tonle Sap River - a place we skipped because rivers dry up during the summer.
Regardless, both my dad and I were glad that we chose to go to Siem Reap, Cambodia in May. Despite the really hot weather (VERY VERY HOT), we did not have to deal with massive tourist crowds, and for me, that makes traveling at a less ideal season worth it!
I'd highly advice people to visit in May, or maybe march or April when the crowds are dying down but the weather isn't too hot!