Siem Reap: Exploring Angkor Wat

Thomas and I spent 3 days in Siem Reap. After the first day, which we mostly spent waiting to check into our Airbnb, we decided to rent bikes and explore Angkor Wat. We got a late start on day 2, but we found a bike rental place and shelled out $3 each for some city bikes (could’ve paid double for mountain bikes, but we’re cheap.)

As soon as I sat on this bike, I knew I was gonna have some problems. But we pressed onward.

Now, we were riding at the hottest part of the day, but we started the journey to Angkor Wat, which is a little north of the city. We got to the ticket checkpoint and were told that we were supposed to buy tickets at another location. The policía was very nice and suggested that we leave our bikes and take a tuk tuk. Penny pinchers that we are, we declined and rode to buy tickets. It was so far, but we made it, bought tickets, and then rode back to the checkpoint, and finally made our way to Angkor Wat. I’d been pretty cranky and frustrated because we got such a late start to our day and then wasted even more time on the most uncomfortable bikes in the world. We decided not to go into the actual Angkor temple yet, and instead made our way to Bayon temple.

After we passed through the gate, we were soon greeted by some friends.

By the time we got to the temple, it was sunset. We weren’t allowed to go inside because we arrived after closing, but we got a couple pictures outside.

We rode around for another few minutes to see some nearby temples, but then decided to head home and prepare for the next day. We stopped at a restaurant near our house for dinner, where we decided not to subject ourselves to the pain of biking one more day. We met a nice tuk tuk driver who offered to take us starting at 5 am, so we could get to Angkor Wat in time for the sunrise.

Fun fact: my phone didn’t calculate the distance that we rode on our bikes, but I calculated after and it was about 30 km. The terrain was flat, but oh my gosh was the bike horrible to sit on for more than 30 seconds.

Anyway, the next morning, we were greeted bright and early by our tuk tuk driver. He brought us to Angkor Wat and we ventured inside when it was so dark that we could barely see a few feet in front of us.

Slowly, the light started to creep in.

The place was packed with people, all waiting for the sunrise. The temples were built at different times, but most of them have been around since the 12th century or earlier.

One thing that crossed my mind as I was visiting this site is that…I don’t know, there are WAY too many people here. Compared to everything else in the area, it is expensive to come here, but the place is still absolutely packed, and from what I’ve read, it’s like this year round.

These structures are almost a thousand years old, and I’m honestly pretty shocked that people are allowed to just stomp around all over them. This archaeological site is expansive, and some of the ruins still have an obvious temple structure, while others are just a pile of rocks. Millions of people come through here every year, so what’s to stop the rest of it from crumbling? It seems like some effort is being made to restore and preserve it, but this level of tourism will have negative repercussions alongside the obvious benefits.

At one of the last temples we went to, we encountered some pretty steep stairs. Thomas opted out of climbing them, as he was feeling gross all day, but I was curious.

The trek up wasn’t so bad, but I assumed I’d come down on my butt.

Hi, Thomas!

Can you find Thomas down below?

When you get to the top, you see…more stairs.

So I climbed up more stairs and peeked inside.

And then, as I predicted, mostly went down the stairs on my butt. My knees just did not love the steep steps down.

I appreciated the next temple in part because it had become one with nature.

And I made a new friend. A teeny tiny kitten friend.

Anyway, we were exhausted and Thomas felt sick, and luckily we didn’t have to bike home! We sat in the tuk tuk and drank water and generally had a very pleasant trip home. If any of y’all are planning an Angkor Wat trip, my advice is to splurge on better bikes than we had, or be willing to pay for a tuk tuk from the start 😂 it’s been days and my seat areas still haven’t recovered.