HOW TO DO ANGKOR IN ONE DAY: A GUIDE
Short answer: You absolutely cannot. Believe me, I tried my hardest – I woke up at 4am to watch the sunrise, and soldiered on for a solid 12 hours before I finally gave up. It is impossible to see ALL the temples of Angkor in a day – but you CAN do it strategically. In an ideal world, you would have a long enough stay in Siem Reap to spend more than a day exploring the temples of Angkor, but I know what it’s like – so much of SE Asia to see, so little time. Here is MY top tips for tackling Angkor (or as much as you can) in one day:
HIRE A PRIVATE TUK TUK DRIVER FOR THE DAY:
I DEFINITELY recommend to make arrangements with a tuk tuk driver the day before you explore Angkor – they will pick you up for the sunrise and be your designated driver for the entire day. You can choose whichever temple you want to go to – they will drop you off, and just wait for you until you are done and ready to move onto the next one. Seems like a terrible deal for the tuk tuk driver, but it’s not all bad – they have a little hammock they set up and sleep in whilst waiting. I made such good friends with my driver, Sokhom – I would recommend him to anyone! We are now FB friends and still talk about our great time together! In fact, if you want to book him directly, send him a facebook message and tell him Hayley sent you! I’m sure he would be happy to help. Alternatively, stay at Navutu Dreams Wellness Resort and you can reach him directly through there as well! Hiring a private tuk tuk costs around $20-$25 USD per day (not per person).
GET YOUR PASS THE EVENING BEFORE YOU GO:
This is KEY to unlocking Angkor: Expert level, and my best secret tip – get your pass BEFORE you go. To enter Angkor you must have a pass – (complete with photo and all) which you can only get from the ticket station a 15 minute drive from the entrance to Angkor. As EVERYONE gets up at 4am for the sunrise, the lines to get the passes in the morning are ridiculous. What many people DONT realise is the passes are valid for 24 hours… hence if you go to the ticket office at the end of the day – say at 5pm, just before it closes… you can go straight to Angkor Wat in the morning and set up camp to watch the sunrise, without having to waste time in the ticket line. If you are really smart, once you have got your ticket, have a little explore around Angkor the evening before (it shuts at 6) so that when you go to explore it in the morning, you have less area to cover – which means you can move onto other temples quicker. Smart.
PLAN WHERE TO GO IN ADVANCE:
Your life will be so much easier if you decide exactly which temples you want to go to, and estimate exactly how much time you expect to be there for – BEFORE you actually go. There is a general route that most tuk tuks will go – from Angkor Wat, the common way is to go onto Angkor Thom, and then go to Ta Phrom and onwards. I’ll let you in on a little secret… go the opposite way to everyone else. There will be far less people at your chosen temples, which allows for much better photo opportunities! You’re welcome.
HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH TEMPLES ARE OK TO SKIP:
This is about personal preference – again, if you research all of the temples BEFORE you go, you will have a much better idea of which ones you actually want to look at. Some of the smaller temples are literally ruins peeking up from the ground, which in my mind signifies it’s worth skipping – but in someone else’s mind it might be fascinating, and the temple they studied in school… hence it would be a must see for them. Here are my personal favourite temples:
Described as the largest religious monument in the world, this is an obvious must do – it is estimated over 2 million people visit Angkor Wat each year!
Visit briefly before it is closed at 6pm to get a scope of the place, then return at 5am for a spectacular sunrise before beginning your day of exploring!
Angkor Thom is my favourite – simply because it holds the majority of my favourite temples! Enter from the south side and go straight to Bayon. Bayon is the coolest temple in my opinion – it’s the one with the most well preserved inscriptions – something that has always astounded me.
Another temple in Angkor Thom, or should I say… pyramid! It’s a steep climb to the top of this pyramid, but the view is great! Baphuon is also surrounded by lush greenery, perfect to escape the hot Cambodian sun!
Once a foundation for royal reception pavilions, Elephant Terrace is basically a long wall with beautiful, intricate elephant carvings.
A unique island temple with a lovely 5 minute boardwalk over lush Cambodian countryside. Much smaller compared to the other temples, but still a must see!
This temple is the most eerie and mysterious – and appears to be eaten by the jungle. Ta Prohm is home to the famous tree featured in the Tomb Raider movies. A must see!
Hallways, and hallways and hallways and hallways. This temple hosts a never ending hallway, with windows or rooms off each section. Incredible!
And finally: PACK SNACKS!
If there is one thing that is going to get you through this massive day, it’s food: and a lot of it. Exploring the temples is EXHAUSTING – especially in the burning Cambodian heat, whilst being totally covered up. You are going to need a whole lot of nourishing food, and plenty of water to get you through the day. I was staying with the lovely people at Navutu Dreams, who packed me a beautiful breakfast box to take with me to watch the sunrise. Sokhom was well prepared for the day too, he had bought me a chilly bin (dunno what the rest of the world calls it, there’s some NZ slang for ya… icebox)? Filled with ice and 10 bottles of water. I thought 10 bottles of water was excessive, but incredibly, Sokhom and I drunk every single one! I also bought some snacks to have in the Tuk tuk, so I could snack on the way to each temple – trust me guys, you seriously seriously need it. It is HOT and HARD WORK. I recommend snacks like bananas, apples, nuts, museli bars, fried rice… it was unbelieveable how hungry I was that day. In retrospect, could’ve just been an excuse for me to eat a lot of food. Just buy snacks, ok – it’s better to be safe than sorry!