After we got to know each other, we found out that we only lived five minutes from each other back home. We both grew up in North Wales and still live there today. Both of us feel lucky to have a passion for travel. After our first trip together to Barcelona, our passion for travel kicked in.
We took a few trips during our university years including trips to Croatia, Greece and Scotland. At this point we realised that we both wanted to see as much of the world as we could so that we could take epic adventures, experience different cultures and see beautiful new places.
The crazy year that has been 2020 changed many of our plans, so we are currently saving our money for future trips when we can travel again. We can’t wait for the day to come! Recently, we have been reminiscing about our travels and one country that totally blew us away was Cambodia.
Four Amazing Weeks in Cambodia
Cambodia has always been right at the top of our bucket list. Watching documentaries about Angkor Wat and seeing other travellers in this wonderful country gave us this desire to see it for ourselves. The rich history, incredible culture and endless diversity of Cambodia drew us in.
We spent four weeks travelling through Cambodia and had some of our most memorable experiences to date. Starting in the sensational Siem Reap we made our way around the country visiting Battambang, Phnom Penh, Kampot, Koh Rong Sanloem and Kratie. It was a spectacular journey!
It’s fair to say Angkor Wat was the most memorable experience of our time in Cambodia but there is so much more to see. This country has everything: amazing wildlife, beautiful beaches and a hard-hitting history. All of this together makes this country one of the top destinations for backpackers.
Aside from Angkor Wat, we spent time in the tropical paradise of Koh Rong Samloem and got to ride the Bamboo Train in Battambang. We saw the Irrawaddy Dolphins in Kratie, explored Bokor Mountain and we also learned about the horrific history of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Phnom Penh.
Four Sensational Days in Siem Reap
We spent four days in Siem Reap exploring all that this city has to offer. The city comes to life in the evening with vibrant markets, amazing street food and plenty of people to meet. Siem Reap is a haven for travellers, especially backpackers. It gives you the chance to meet a lot of like-minded people.
Walking along the river and taking a look at the smaller temples in the city centre was another highlight of our time here. Not only is this city the gateway to Angkor Wat but there is a lot to see and do in the city itself.
Exploring Angkor Wat on Bicycles
We decided to explore Angkor Wat by ourselves rather than joining a tour and so we rented bicycles for $2 each and headed off! Waking up early for our day at Angkor Wat, we arrived later than we had hoped (around 8:30am) because we had a problem with getting our bikes that morning.
Unfortunately, our hotel hadn’t got our bikes ready for us in time so we had to find a local business and rent them that way. If we had our bikes straight away we would have preferred to have arrived at Angkor Wat earlier.
As we were travelling on a tight budget, we decided to purchase a one day pass for Angkor Wat. In all truth, you could easily spend two or three days exploring this majestic temple complex because there is so much to see.
However, for those travelling on a budget a full-day pass gives you enough time to see some of the main sites in Angkor including the famous Angkor Wat. This temple was on our bucket list for so long that it was such a surreal moment when we finally got the chance to enter and explore it.
After we left the city of Siem Reap and entered the complex of Angkor Wat, it was like travelling through to another time. The amazement we felt when taking our first glance at the ancient temple of Angkor was incredible.
The sheer size of the complex is phenomenal. It left us bewildered as to how something so magnificent could be built during that time. With over 1000 temples in the kingdom of Angkor to explore, this ancient world has a huge variety of intricately designed temples that draw you into the past.
Favourite Places in Angkor Wat: Victory Gate & Ta Prohm Temple
Two places really stood out for us in the Angkor Wat temple complex and they were Victory Gate and Ta Prohm Temple. We came across Victory Gate completely by chance whilst cycling through the complex. It was a total Indiana Jones moment and we are so glad we got the chance to explore it.
We parked our bikes on the side of the road, took photos and walked up the side of the hill to get a closer look. Up the side of the gate is an amazing carved face hidden in the trees. This is one of our favourite spots because there was no one else around and we had this place to ourselves.
Ta Prohm Temple, on the other hand, is one of the most popular temples in the complex and is otherwise known as Tomb Raider Temple. It can get busy but if you avoid the crowds you’ll find amazing photo spots.
Ta Prohm is unique because of the trees that grow from the ruins, with the roots winding themselves around the temple. This place is surreal and a must if you are travelling to Angkor Wat. A photographer’s dream!
Top 5 Things To Do in Angkor Wat
1. Cycle through Angkor Wat at your Own Pace
Cycling through the complex of Angkor enables you to explore the temples at your own pace. We got to visit all the destinations we wanted to, got to stop off for lunch whenever we wanted and we got to take our time at each destination without worrying about a guide waiting for us.
2. Take a Glimpse of Angkor across the Lake
Getting our first glimpse of Angkor across the lake was one of our most magical moments. We had imagined it in our heads so many times but getting the chance to see it with our own eyes was something else entirely.
3. Visit the Famous Ta Prohm Temple
Explore Ta Prohm Temple and see where the jungle has taken hold of the temple. It was incredible to see both manmade architecture and nature together. It’s a great place to take photos when tourists aren’t around.
4. See the Intricate Details of the Temples
See the intricate detail that has gone into the design of Angkor. An example of this is Victory Gate. It’s simply an entrance to another area of Angkor but the detail and effort that have gone into it is mind blowing.
5. Explore the Lesser Known Areas in Angkor
Explore some of the lesser known areas in Angkor where there are less crowds. We found a little stall with a local lady selling fresh fruit and we sat there for a while whilst overlooking one of the temples. There weren’t many tourists around and it was nice to sit there and chat to her for a while.
Favourite Memory: First Glimpse of the Main Temple
Our favourite moment has to be when we first got a look at the main temple. The moment you turn the corner at the main entrance to be greeted with that world famous view is remarkable. Looking out across the lake to see one of the most historic places in Southeast Asia is unbelievable.
The fact Angkor Wat was so high on our bucket list made this moment more special. On top of this, the reflection of the temple on the lake is epic!
Need to Know Before you Go
If you want to hire a tuk-tuk rather than go by bicycle, you can hire them for $15-$20 a day. If there are a couple of you it makes it even cheaper!
We didn’t visit Angkor Wat at sunrise but our friend told us that it gets very busy. It’s supposed to be magical seeing the temple complex at sunrise, but if you are looking to avoid crowds it probably isn’t the best time to visit.
Take food with you (if possible) because you will be out all day. There are a few stalls where locals sell fruit and rice dishes but you can sometimes go a couple of hours without seeing one (especially if you decide to cycle).
It’s handy to know that the ticket office and Angkor Wat are in two different locations. The ticket office is 7km from Angkor. So whatever you do, don’t head there thinking you can buy tickets on arrival. You will be turned away and told to go to the ticket office which is a long journey back.
Coming up with a list of temples you want to see is a good idea for visiting Angkor Wat. There are so many temples that you can’t possibly see them all. Picking a number of key temples ensures you don’t miss the things you want to see. Anything else you come across after this is a bonus.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your visit to the majestic Angkor Wat!