Traversing the Temples – Angkor Grand Circuit

The temples of Angkor. Almost voted as a wonder of the world and quite rightly so.

These temples are spread out across a large site and there are two main ‘routes’ you can take to see them. There’s the grand circuit/tour and the small/mini circuit/tour. There are temples further afield too but I didn’t go see them so I’m going to pretend they don’t exist. Please see this pilfered map:

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Before you get into planning which route to do first, you need a ticket.

Tickets are for one day, three days or seven days. The three and seven day tickets do not have to be used on consecutive days. You have seven days to get your three days in and a month to get your seven days in. The price is $20/$40/$60. The ticket counter is on the main road to the temples. You can’t miss it (please see pilfered map for location). I went for a three day ticket.

Next decision, how will you see the temples? Will you hire a tour guide? Will you buy a book? Will you hire a tuk tuk ($13/day max), get a minivan ($30/day max), walk (not advisable as the park is huge) or bicycle ($1-$2/day depending on how good the bike is)? My regular readers will already know how I chose to see the temples. By bicycle, of course.

I selected a 3 geared bicycle and paid $1.50/day. The bike had a basket, front (dynamo powered) light (which came in useful for my sunrise day) and a lock. There are tonnes of shops in Siem Reap with bicycles for hire. Just walk around a bit until you find a bike at a price you like. I could have rented one from my hostel but there’s were $2/day and I’m a tight arse. Here’s my ride. I named her Dory.

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I started with the grand circuit (which is the green line on the pilfered map). I decided to start at the small temples and work up to the big boys. This was the correct decision.

I left the hostel at about 7:30 am. It takes around 20 minutes to get from Siem Reap to the park entrance. The roads to, and inside, the park are good roads and easy peasy to cycle on. Once in the park, I headed to my first temple, Prasat Kravan. It’s not a biggy but it is a good place to start because it only gets more impressive from here on in.

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I also stopped at Bat Chum but it was rather heavily under renovation.

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After Bat Chum, theres a fork in the road. Left is mini circuit, right is grand circuit. I went right and saw Sras Srang, the huge lake surrounded by old walls.

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You’re next main stop on the grand circuit is Pre Rup. I liked Pre Rup a lot. It’s one of my favourites at Angkor. Health and safety has not arrived in Cambodia yet so there’s plenty of clambering and climbing to be done. I think that’s why I liked Pre Rup so much. Once you’ve gone up it, there’s a great view but the picture I’m showing you was taken from ground level.

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Once you get stopping and starting, it’s really very manageable to cycle around Angkor. It was really hot when I went. I’m talking 38 degrees celsius every day. Just resign yourself to sweating buckets, drink plenty of water and take food with you. These are the secrets of cycling Angkor.

The next stop for me was East Mebon. It was a little bigger than Pre Rup but not as much fun time climbing to do.

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From here on in, the temples get bigger. The next one is Neak Pean. It’s quite a walk from the road to get to this one and you also have to cross an impressive amount of water (notice no hand rails, I wasn’t joking about H&S).

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One you’re across the water, Neak Pean isn’t so impressive. The area is cordoned off so you only have access to one measly side and it’s not a good side either. Here’s the best shot I could get. Unfortunately a little anti climactic.

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I was a little disappointed after Neak Pean so decided to be nonchalant about the next temple, Preah Khan. I needn’t have been, it was lots of fun. I think this picture is from Preah Khan but I’m not 100% so no angry comments please.

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Preah Khan is a big temple. There’s four entrances that lead to a central hub. All the entrances are different so make sure you walk around all of them. I have a terrible sense of direction and think I only saw three of the four but my favourite was this one.

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First of all, there’s an extra building tucked away near this entrance. Secondly, it had this awseome tree tumour holding up/pulling down the wall. Very, very cool.

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Preah Khan really is big. It took me an hour to look around it (I did do a fair amount of pretending to be Lara Croft though). I did all the other temples in half to three quarters of an hour but not this one. I only didn’t stay longer because I had begun to bake in the sun.

On the way out of the park, I cycled past Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat but I did not stop to look. They were to be my final day adventure.

Day one concluded in a sweaty mess. I was back at the hostel for about 2pm. A 7:30 am to 2:00 pm day completed the grand circuit for me.

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