For many, seeing Angkor Wat is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. And so, I wanted to make sure we did it right.
I did a lot of research on the best way to see Angkor Wat: Bicycle, tuk-tuk (a motorcycle pulling a carriage), or a personal driver in an air-conditioned Camry. Bicycle was obviously the cheapest and tuk-tuk seemed kind of adventurous, but in the end, my Western sensibilities prevailed and I had the hotel hire a driver and guide for $35 apiece for our for first day in Angkor Wat
And boy, am I glad I did. The guide was nice but not essential. He helped us navigate the sprawling complex that is the Angkor temples and provided us with historical information we never would have known. But the driver… the driver was a lifesaver.
When we woke up at 4:30 a.m. (yes, 4:30 a.m.) it was a balmy 70 degrees outside, but in three short hours the sun was up and hot. The air-conditioned car with a fresh supply of ice-cold bottled water was amazing. Best decision EVER.
You can probably find a driver for cheaper, but having the hotel do it was easier than reading a gazillion reviews on Trip Advisor. Besides, by American standards, $35 for a private driver is a steal.
Waking up at 4:30 a.m. was not as painful as it sounds. It was only 4:30 p.m. in New York, and our bodies were still more or less on eastern standard time. And there is something special about seeing one of the most famous structures in the world appear under the dawn’s early light. I highly recommend it.
After I snapped a couple hundred pictures (probably not an exaggeration), we ventured into Angkor Wat itself. And while The Boyfriend listened to our guide explain the history of the massive temple, I snapped away.
The carvings are extremely intricate and impressive. I wish I could tell you what they all mean, but like I said, I was doing more snapping than listening.
The complex is huge, and the best way to appreciate its hugeness is to walk around the entire grounds from top to bottom as exhausting as it is.
We meandered about as we waited for the entrance to the third and final level to open at 7:45 a.m.
After that, it was time to start climbing. As tiring as it was to scrambled up these modern makeshift steps, imagine was it was like for the people of old to climb up the incredibly steep stone steps built into the temple structure.
The views from the top of Angkor Wat were incredible.
By then, it was 8:30 a.m. already and we had been up for a good four hours. We were hot and hungry and asked the guide to drive us back to hotel for a quick breakfast. Walking back through the front of Angkor Wat there were a few more fascinating sights along the way: