I love gangster rap just as much as the next girl. When the DJ drops the beat and my hips endure the unavoidable need to twerk, I’ve been known to get jiggy wit it in the most socially appropriate places available. I didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose me.
With DJ Snake’s “Turn Down For What” song taking the world by storm, it was difficult to refrain from cracking jokes throughout our visit, but it kept our spirits high as we braved the 4am journey to the ancient ruins of Angkor.
Angkor Background: Angkor is a proudly a UNESCO World Heritage site and was built from the 9th to the 15th century. The most famous temples include Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and the Bayon Temple. Angkor is found in Cambodia’s northern province of Siem Reap and is the largest religious monument in the world.
And the rumors are true. It’s pretty damn cool.
Angkor is also famous for being the backdrop to Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider. As a personal hero of mine, it warmed my heart to know that Angelina fake-killed bad guys on the same ground that I was walking on. I will admit that it was a bit confusing for us (due to the terrible guide we were with) to understand the history behind the the ruins and how to distinguish between them. I suggest that you GOOGLE it (because you obviously have internet access) if you’d like to know more about the cultural and historical significance of Angkor.
If you plan on going to Angkor Wat, the “thing to do” is to witness the sunrise or the sunset at the main temple… but I’m going to advise you to do neither. We woke up at 4am to see the sunrise, but the place was littered with trash, tourists, and vendors begging for you to buy things. People will tell you that you can see the reflection of Angkor in the pond water… but they don’t tell you that you’ll also see the trash bags and rubbish floating in the reflection as well. What was EVEN MORE DISAPPOINTING was the fact that the sunrise was behind the temple, thus, casting the sunlight on the crowd instead of the temple so all of our pictures turned out really dark with little detail.
Overall it was pretty disappointing.
However, you should wake up at 5am and still hit all of the temples as early as possible because as soon as it hits noon, it will either be:
A) Ridiculously Hot or B) Ridiculously Packed
A fellow traveler and I gave up before the last temple around 2pm as we were “all templed out” and were rapidly approaching a potential heatstroke. Our tour guide was clearly unhappy with us and took revenge by telling our tuk tuk driver to drive somewhere COMPLETELY different than where our hotel was, but jokes on him because we still only paid the previously agreed $5 USD.
NOTICE: Ladies, be sure to cover your shoulders and knees or you won’t be allowed into a few of the temples because that’s just how they roll. OR if The Man is cramping your style, bring a shirt to change into at a later point and continue to take your clothing on and off throughout the day. That’s what I did. Sun’s out, guns out ya’ll.
You can either reach Angkor Wat and the other Angkor temples via tuk tuk or bicycle. If you choose to travel via tuk tuk, be sure to rent your driver for the day and don’t pay him till the END of your day trip. It should cost you $15-$20 USD for the day, depending on your haggling skills. You can also rent a bicycle for $2-$3 USD a day, but be sure to have a plan about navigation so you won’t get lost.
There are seriously TOO MANY TEMPLES to deal with and they’re all fan-freaking-tastic. A complete guide to all of the temples can be found here. I went to Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Banteay Kdei (I think), Beng Melea, Preah Khan, Roluos Group, and Ta Prohm…. I think. They all tend to blend together after waking up at 4am so I suggest that you only hit the highlights and then head home before 4pm and enjoy a relaxing $6 USD massage.
After all the temples that I have every seen in Asia, the Angkor Temples are BY FAR my favorite and most memorable experience… yet. Even though Cambodia isn’t completely a tourist trap yet… yet. These local folks have already gotten ahead of their competition by positioning themselves to earn a ton of money off of tourists with nothing better to do with their dollar… such as myself.
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About Vanessa Elizabeth
Vanessa Elizabeth is a cultural chameleon currently based in London. She enjoys sports (such as CrossFit and dating), cooking, and demolishing her savings account. When she's not busy blogging about her feelings, she works full-time and practices Chinese with her English/German friends.
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