Sunrise at Angkor Wat

If you book Bros as your Tuk Tuk driver, he can of course pick you up and take you to Angkor Wat to watch sun rise – I’d highly recommend this.  It does mean an early start, I was picked up by Bros on his Tuk Tuk at my hotel in Siem Reap at 5am.

I watched the sun rise (with a few hundred other tourists) from the water front in front of Angkor Wat.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat - November 2015
Sunrise at Angkor Wat – November 2015
Tourists at 5:30am outside Angkor Wat to watch the sun rise
Tourists at 5:30am outside Angkor Wat to watch the sun rise

Once the sun had almost fully risen I was inside looking around Angkor Wat enjoying it without the heat of the blazing sun.  Another great spot was once inside the complex in front of the water nearer the main temple entrance.

The sun almost fully risen inside the main complex before the temple entrance at Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The sun almost fully risen inside the main complex before the temple entrance at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

It was also a great opportunity to get to near the front of the queue for the opening of the steps (at 7:40am) to third level.  Opening hours run until 5pm and it’s closed on Holy Days.

Waiting until 7:40am for the stairs to the top level of Angkor Wat to open.
Waiting until 7:40am for the stairs to the top level of Angkor Wat to open.
For some the wait until 7:40am for the queue to the top level of Angkor Wat is just too much!  A tourist catches some much needed sleep before hand!
For some the wait until 7:40am for the queue to the top level of Angkor Wat is just too much! A tourist catches some much needed sleep before hand!

At around 7:15am it’s worth getting inside the ropes of the waiting area to be near the front.  I saw a guide recommend this to the couple he was showing around, I promptly joined them…..and then sure enough a few hundred others had soon formed a massive queue behind us.

Oh and once at the top, if you don’t like heights…don’t look down!  You’ll also probably want to clean your hands after holding onto the metal handrail, seems to turn your palms brown!

I was one of the first, in fact the third, up the stairs at just gone 7:40am.  You can see the length of the queue that had already built even at that time to view the top level of Angkor Wat.
I was one of the first, in fact the third, up the stairs at just gone 7:40am. You can see the length of the queue that had already built even at that time to view the top level of Angkor Wat.

Remember, if you need to arrange  a friendly, English speaking Tuk Tuk driver to get you to Ankor Wat for sun rise or any other time, contact Bros via this site.

 

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What to Pack for Visiting the Angkor Temples Near Siem Reap, Cambodia

The Tomb Raider Tree at Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor, Siem Reap. Certain scenes from the first Tomb Raider movie were shot at this temple spot - you'll see why when you visit!

After recently visiting a whole host of the Angkor temples near Siem Reap in Cambodia in November 2015, with Bros as my TukTuk driver, here’s my recommendation for what to pack:

What to Pack for a Stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia

  • Modest clothing.  For some temples including areas of Angkor Wat, gents will need to have their shoulders covered, so pack t-shirts or light shirts, and for your knees I’d recommend long shorts.  Ladies long skirts, shoulder covering top.
  • Sandals – let those feet breath, but support your ankles and have decent grip.  You’ll want it on some of the rocks and steps.
  • Swimming gear – hopefully your hotel or hostel has a pool to cool off in after long days visiting the Angkor temples!

 

What to Pack in your Day Bag for Cambodia’s Angkor Temples

  • Day Bag – take a sensible day bag or handbag that you feel happy and safe storing all the bits in below.  Something you can easily hold on to would not be easy for a thief to grab or walk off with.  For this reason I’m not that much of a fan of a massive ‘bum bag’ AKA ‘fanny pack’ that you see many tourists wearing (still).
  • Angkor Temple Ticket – It may sound obvious,  but don’t forget this.  On your first day if you book Bros as your Tuk Tuk driver he’ll drop you off at the point to buy your ticket (book him here).  It’s $40 USD for a three day pass, single day passes also available but will work out at a higher cost if you visit three days.  By Default they will set your pass to three consecutive days, I understand you can ask for separate set dates.  Keep your ticket somewhere safe to hand to show as you enter each temple.  A bonus if this isn’t your wallet, the less times you have to take it out the lower the chance of losing something or the potential for an impulsive pickpocket to see where you’re keeping it.
Angkor World Heritage ticket - you'll need this to get into the temples such as Angkor Wat.  A three day pass cost $40 USD in 2015.  Oh and dont forget to smile for the camera when buying your ticket?!
Angkor World Heritage ticket – you’ll need this to get into the temples such as Angkor Wat. A three day pass cost $40 USD in 2015. Oh and don’t forget to smile for the camera when buying your ticket?!
  • Camera and/or phone – Something to capture your snaps on.  For the pro’s you may wish to consider a tripod.  Selfie sticks seem to also be order of the day!
  • Hand sanitiser and/or wet wipes – Pretty much a must for the hygiene concious traveller.  After you’ve climbed to the top third level of Angkor Wat in particular, holding onto the metal rail, you’ll definitely want something to clean your hands with, your palms will be looking orange!
  • Food and (optional) water – If you’re starting early before your hotel’s breakfast time, ask them to prepare you a breakfast box of food you can pick-up and take with you.  If you’re hiring Bros as your Tuk Tuk driver he can keep this cool, if necessary, in the tuk tuk’s coolbox.  Chances are you’ll eat if before the sun is up.  If you hire Bros, no need to pack your own water, as he’ll supply cold water for you all day long as part of your tuk tuk hire.  Book him here.
  • Wallet and/or money – Take the little money you do need for the day to perhaps buy some food or extra drinks, or maybe souvenirs when out.  Don’t carry around your credit cards and all of your cash unnecessarily, best keep that in your hotel’s safe box.
  • Hat – To keep the sun off you during the day.
  • Sunglasses
  • Insect Repellent – Keep the bugs and mosquitoes at bay.
  • Sun cream – Sun protection is obviously a big theme here.
  • Guidebook – Personal choice, but if you have one and intend to take it, don’t forget it.  Please don’t get scammed into buying the $1 guidebook, the one they’ll show you is too good to be true, it’s not what the seller (scammer in my mind) will hand over for $1, instead you’ll get a thinner pamphlet and they’ll want you to pay more for the book.

I hope these lists help.  Think I’ve missed something?  Add your comments or questions below.

A Motorbike Tour of the Phnom Kulen National Park, Outside Siem Reap

The waterfall at Kulen Mountain, Phnom Kulen National Park, Siem Reap.

During my time in Siem Reap I had three full days, but after the big tour and small tour I was feeling slightly ‘templed out‘.  Another traveller I’d met whilst on Koh Rong Island had shown me a photo of him pretty much under an amazing looking waterfall, I learnt this was at Kulen Mountain, Phnom Kulen National Park, about 47km (29 miles) from Siem Reap.

Siem Reap to Kulen Mountain, Phnom Kulen National Park - about 47km (29 miles).
Siem Reap to Kulen Mountain, Phnom Kulen National Park – about 47km (29 miles).

Bros was able to take me using just his motorbike, of course the power behind his tuk tuk.  I was slightly apprehensive at first, but Bros was able to supply a helmet and suggest an itinerary that meant taking in some more temples (and culture!) enroute as well as stopping for food and drink.  He even kept the cold water coming without his coolbox, with fellow friends (other Siem Reap Tuk Tuk drivers) supplying the chilled water, or Bros buying from local sellers or stopping off at road side breaks to recline in a hammock and enjoy an ice cold drink.

Bros, my tuk tuk driver at Kulen national park on his motorbike that he can offer such tours on.  See the 'Book' and 'Tours' pages of this site for more info,
Bros, my tuk tuk driver at Kulen national park on his motorbike that he can offer such tours on. See the ‘Book’ and ‘Tours’ pages of this site for more info,

Pickup from my hotel was prompt as ever at 5am, with Bros emailing me around 10 minutes before to let me know he was outside ready when I was.  First stop was back to a temple I’d visited the previous afternoon, as had hundreds of other tourists – Ta Prohm temple.  This was a chance to get in early in the cooler weather and take some scenery photos that just weren’t possible the busy afternoon before.  Ta Prohm is home of the ‘Tomb Raider Tree‘ – you’ll want to watch the movie again after (or before) visiting!

The Tomb Raider Tree at Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor, Siem Reap. Certain scenes from the first Tomb Raider movie were shot at this temple spot - you'll see why when you visit!
The Tomb Raider Tree at Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor, Siem Reap. Certain scenes from the first Tomb Raider movie were shot at this temple spot – you’ll see why when you visit!

We were then back on the road, headed to Kulen Mountain, but with another temple stop on the way, Banteay Srei temple (also known as “Ladies’ Temple”.  Bros was always kind enough to stop at any other point of interest on both his tuk tuk and motorbike tours in Angkor and Siem Reap.  During this next leg of the journey he stopped as we passed a traditional Cambodian wedding.  My impression is that these are bright, fun, loud(!) celebrations that start early and can typically last a day and a half or two days.  I took a few snaps of the wedding procession lined up in the morning.

Traditional wedding, on the way to Kulen National Park
Traditional wedding, on the way to Kulen National Park

Soon enough we were at Banteay Srei temple – there’s a fairly large entrance area, I sat in the shade to eat the breakfast my hotel had packed for me, requested the evening before due to the early start.  Your ticket for the main Angkor temples covers your entrance to Banteay Srei.  Expect to see some wildlife as you approach the temple site, including pigs and water buffalo!  The temple itself is of course impressive, with highly detailed engravings.  I’d recommend allowing up to an hour and a half to visit the site.

Water Buffalo at Banteay Srei temple
Water Buffalo at Banteay Srei temple
Banteay Srei temple on the way to Kulen Mountain. Impressive carvings!
Banteay Srei temple on the way to Kulen Mountain. Impressive carvings!

As we approached the Phnom Kulen National Park, Bros stopped so I could show my ticket.  I’d given him the $20 to purchase this for me the day before in Siem Reap, which just led to a more efficient and smoother visit.

Ticket for Phnom Kulen National Park, $20 in November 2015

Phnom Kulen National Park itself is massive – you get some impression by the map on the board at the entrance.  Our planned visit to the waterfall, Buddha on the mountain and River of 1000 Lingas would only scratch the surface, but was plenty to do!

Map of Phnom Kulen National Park at the entrance.  A massive site!

There’s a long dirt track to follow once into the park, Bros manoeuvred any pot holes with expert care.  First stop was then the main attraction for me – the waterfall!

The waterfall at Kulen Mountain has two levels.  On the first you can easily wade into the water and take some photos.  Do take care, needless to say it’s slippery!  On the second you can pay a small fee (I paid $2 for my bag and shoes as well as Bros’ to be kept safe) and use a wooden shack as a changing room.  You can then get in and swim at the bottom of the waterfall.  Don’t be surprised to feel the fish harmlessly nibbling at your feet!  Take care with your camera too, your lens won’t thank you for any water.  Thankfully I took my poor man’s Go Pro, a Kitivision Splash to test out in the water.  It was an amazing experience.

Tourists and locals at the top level of the waterfall at Kulen Mountain in the national park
Tourists and locals at the top level of the waterfall at Kulen Mountain in the national park
Beautiful view approaching the bottom level of the waterfall at Kulen Mountain in the national park.
Beautiful view approaching the bottom level of the waterfall at Kulen Mountain in the national park.
Bros my tuk tuk driver, available for you to book via this site, sat on a rock at the bottom level of the waterfall at Kulen Mountain in the national park.
Bros my tuk tuk driver, available for you to book via this site, sat on a rock at the bottom level of the waterfall at Kulen Mountain in the national park.
Me at the second level of the waterfall at Phnom Kulen National Park. Photo taken on my poor man's Go Pro - the Kitvision Splash camera. Oh and yes, I didn't meant to leave the date and time stamp on - showing UK time still too!
Me at the second level of the waterfall at Phnom Kulen National Park. Photo taken on my poor man’s Go Pro – the Kitvision Splash camera. Oh and yes, I didn’t meant to leave the date and time stamp on – showing UK time still too!

After enjoying the waterfall it was time for a spot of lunch.  There are various sellers of gifts and snacks, and it seemed one main restaurant.  Prices were still reasonable and I offered to buy Bros and I lunch.

Following lunch we visited the giant reclining Buddha, which is on top of a mountain that has been impressively built around, as well as The River of 1000 Lingas.  The latter is a fairly brief spot, but intriguing to see for yourself.

The giant reclining Buddha statue on top of the mountain that has been built around at Phnom Kulen National Park.

The River of 1000 Lingas at Phnom Kulen National Park. Figures of Yoni and Linga as well as other figures are carved into the rocks of the riverbed.
The River of 1000 Lingas at Phnom Kulen National Park. Figures of Yoni and Linga as well as other figures are carved into the rocks of the riverbed.

On the way back to Siem Reap we were able to still take in more, including a visit to the impressive Banteay Somre temple.

Banteay Somre temple, I included this stop with Bros my tuk tuk (and motorbike!) driver on the way back from the waterfall and other sites at Kulen mountain.
Banteay Somre temple, I included this stop with Bros my tuk tuk (and motorbike!) driver on the way back from the waterfall and other sites at Kulen mountain.

All in all an amazing day trip!  As you can probably tell, the waterfall was the highlight for me and the main reason of going, well worth it.  The trip with Bros cost $30 USD, see the ‘Book’ page for more info and to book your own trip to Kulen Mountain.  Feel free to add comments and questions below.