Angkor Wat – When you hear that name you have a lot of pictures in your mind, but seeing the Temples of Angkor in real is an astonishing experience even if you have to share it with thousands of other tourists. To escape the crowds of tourists I would recommend doing the trip on your own, by hiring a bike, because you are much more flexible, you can spend as much time as you want in each of the temples and you can go off the beaten tracks to discover hidden temples. If you are not at ease riding a bike or just too lazy you can also hire a tuk tuk driver for the day. My itinerary was the following one:
1st Day: One of the highlights is seeing the sunrise in front of Angkor Wat. For that, you need to get up early. I left my guest house around 4:30 and rode by bike to the ticket counter (opens at 5 am) where you buy your ticket for the temples. After riding 20 minutes by bike in complete darkness, followed by wild dogs (it was a bit scary) I was one of the first getting my ticket (I bought a three days ticket for $40) It took me another 15 minutes to arrive at the temple of Angkor. More and more tourists arrived and everyone was waiting for the sun to come up and no one was disappointed as after 1 hour waiting this magnificent event took place. After visiting the spectacular Angkor Wat I took my bike and started following the inner circuit (that is exposed on the tourist map) and visited the following temples: Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm and Bantey Srei.
2nd Day: The second day I started to make the outer circle tour that was mentioned on the tourist map, but counterclockwise to escape the tourist crowds. It was the right choice because there were a few temples that were almost empty, which was exactly what I was looking for. The temples I have visited that day were: Prè Rup, Mébon Oriental, Ta Som, Prasat Krol Kó, Prasat Prel, Preah Khan and Krol Romeas.
3rd Day: The last day of my temple tour I took it quite easy. I entered the huge buildings of Angkor Wat for the second time and stopped at some temples I missed the first time. For the sunset I went up (15 minutes walk) to the Bakheng temple.
Special tip: On the road from Angkor Wat to the temples of Bayone, just before Bayone on the left side there is a temple that no one is visiting and where you can relax and lay down for a few minutes.
All in all I can say that you need a few days for the temples of Angkor and you shouldn’t rush because there are lots of different temples to see. There also temples (Kbal Spean, Banteay Kdei, etc.) that are more far away (more than 30km from Siem Reap) that you can visit during a day tirp with a tuk tuk driver.
Most of the tourists are staying in Siem Reap, a city where the tourists have everything they desire. Especially for backpackers this city is the possibility to come back to “civilization”. Big supermarkets, a wide range of restaurants and famous fast food chains and many travel agencies are waiting for you. I spent four days in Siem Reap and after a few months on the road it felt so good. It’s the perfect place to get new energy for the rest of the trip.
Accommodation: I can recommend Chenla Guest House (75€ for 5 nights in a single room with a private bathroom) which is next to the main street that is going straight to the temples of Angkor. The staff is really nice, there are two balconies where you can chill out, the breakfast is included and you can hire bikes.