Siem Reap & Angkor Wat Travel guide (Part 3)
Visiting the Temples of Angkor
The tourist trade has split the temple routes into three so-called circuits: The Petit Circuit, the Grand Circuit, and the Rolous Group Circuit.
The Petit Circuit is the quickie, one-day trip around the highlights of Angkor. If you are on an excursion from Phnom Penh this is probably the trip you will make. Unfortunately you miss many of the most interesting and unique sites, but you do see the three main temples and the Terrace of the Elephants.
The Grand Circuit is more involved, including many of the smaller temples – the little gems of Angkor.
The Rolous Group Circuit goes to outlying temples.By combining the Rolous and Grand Circuit routes you will see the vast majority of the popular temples in two days. Having the third day on your pass allows you to go back and revisit your favorite temples (or the ones that were too crowded the first two days) and visit at least one temple at sunset or sunrise.
The MainTemples & Sights:
Angkor Wat – Petit and Grand Circuit
Bayon – Petit and Grand Circuit
Baphoun – Petit and Grand Circuit
Terrace of the Elephants – Petit Circuit
Ta Prohm – Grand Circuit
East Mebon – Grand Circuit
Neak Pean – Grand Circuit
Lolei – Rolous Group Circuit
Preah Ko – Rolous Group Circuit
Bakong – Rolous Group Circuit
You must have a visa-sized photo for your photo ID entry pass. Bring two photos in case the ticket office needs to keep one. It is not currently possible to get on-site photos. You can usually go into the complex for free after –great for viewing some of the temples at sunset. The fee for admission may seem steep, but once you have seen how much needs to be restored and kept up you may think the fee is too low.
Make sure to buy your ticket from the official station outside the main complex, and don’t give away your pass when you are done. Too many places in Siem Reap sell recycled passes. That leads to problems. First, it is illegal and you could get into trouble. Second, the money doesn’t go to the upkeep of the sites.
The royal capital city, built by Jayavarman VII (12th century), is called Angkor Thom. The entire city was walled and surrounded by a moat that was several hundred yards wide. It may have been populated with alligators to help discourage marauding invaders. Much of the complex was destroyed by invading Chams, and the site was rebuilt. A few temples in the area (Baphoun and Phimeanakas) survived the destruction and became part of the new city.
There are five gateways into the city – one facing each compass point and one (the Victory Gate) that leads from the Royal Palace to the East Baray (a baray is an artificial lake or reservoir). As you stand there, try to imagine parades of elephants with their howdahs passing through, bearing the royal family and their cortege. Elephants were highly venerated and valued in a culture with no other way to do the heavy work or get from place to place.
There are five causeways that pass over the former moat. They are lined on one side with demons and on the other side with gods.