This story is part of my list of things to do in Siem Reap »
There are no shortage of temples in Siem Reap and it is one of the major draws for tourists. If you are a temple trekker you will be in heaven. We visited three temples during our stay: Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm.
Angkor Wat is best accessed at sunrise so pick up is at 4:45am (and aim to return around midday for lunch and a rest, temple trekking is more tiring than one might think). Many of the hotels are accustomed to guests leaving early to visit temples and provide food and or takeaway breakfasts. The Shinta Mani Club gives a generously portioned 5 stack tiffin for guests provided you order it the day before.
Young monk and friend at Angkor Wat
To access the temples you will need to buy a 1, 3 or 7 day temple pass (the lines for the 1 day passes are the longest) so leave some time for the queues. The most popular position is across the lake to get the sunrise in the background. But just know that you will actually share this moment with thousands of people.
A little tip though: if you want a few minutes of Angkor Wat to yourself, the temple opens at 5:45am and from 5:50pm is when people start to file in. This literally gives you five minutes to have some quiet, contemplative time to yourself before everyone comes in. There is also a dress code at Angkor Wat because you are entering a place of worship. Women must have their shoulders covered as well as clothing past their knee (although on the day about 50% of tourists ignored this and we saw bra tops and Daisy Dukes). They have however been known to refuse entry to those that don't adhere to this.
Read more about Temples in Siem Reap LINK HERE
After Angkor Wat, if you want something hot and local for breakfast stop by Preah Dak village for some breakfast Cambodian noodle soup. This is served with Teukpheam, a sweet peanutty sauce as well as a bowlful of village and mountain vegetables that you pick off and add to the dish to enhance its goodness. To the side there is a bowl of Trosok pickles.
Ta Phrohm Temple
After this we visit Ta Prohm, the temple made famous by the film Tomb Raider. The fascinating thing about these temples is that they are in a state of ruin and decay. There are metal beams holding up the stone structures.
Ta Phrohm Temple
Massive strangler fig trees entwine their branches and appear to merge into the temple and moss and lichen cover surfaces. Even with the number of tourists Ta Prohm still fascinating and a joy to look at and photograph.
By our third temple I was very tired (and note: we passed several smaller temples on the way to seeing these three so it's conceivable to hit 6-7 in a day although I wouldn't advise it). Bayon temple is known for the faces and elaborate elephant carvings on every surface and this too is packed with crowds so I can't even conceive what it would be like in peak season.
But this doesn't detract from the beauty of the many face towers in the temple. The serene, benevolent faces are said to resemble king Jayavarman VII and estimates say that there are about 200 faces in total.