Happy to greet 2013 crossing one more thing off my bucket list and that is seeing the historic, majestic Angkor Wat.There are many ways to see this ancient site: if you’ve got the extra budget, ride a helicopter (about $95) or a balloon (see photo). You can also go around the Bayon temple astride an elephant.
A first-timer like me was better off hiring a tuk-tuk for $15. This was better than joining a group or opting for a tourist bus, in my opinion. At least you can explore the temples at your own leisure without waiting for other people. You can also tell the driver to stop whenever you need to, like what we did when we saw these amazing life-size sculptures along the road.
Looking at my vacation pictures, I am still in awe at how the structures came to be built and how they give a fascinating glimpse of the Angkor culture and civilization dating back to the 8th Century AD.If you look closely enough, the intricate carvings and bas-reliefs on the walls are really impressive. They portray battle scenes and everyday market scenes, among others.
Local guides only recommend seeing three temples if you only got one day or a few hours to spare. These are Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm. Bayon, with its huge smiling faces carved on stone, was my favorite.
Close-up. You have to go to the topmost part of the temple to get this view.
Ta Prohm is characterized by large trees growing out of the ruins and is popularly known as a location for the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie starring Angelina Jolie.
Some tips for exploring the Angkor temples:
– Wear light, comfortable clothing and protection from the sun. Comfy shoes are most important as you’re going to do a lot of walking and some climbing
– Bring water to drink, although you can easily buy these from the vendors along with hats and other stuff. They are well-organized in designated areas of the major temples and there are also toilets that could be found.