Celebrating a major milestone birthday at the end of January, 2016 had to be a memorable one, so I booked a two day private tour with David Angkor Tour company in Siem Reap, with Mr Sophat as my private guide and Mr Kenny my driver.
Over the course of two days, I explored 11 different temples within Angkor Archaeological Park with a three day visit pass for $40 USD.
The first day began with sunrise at Angkor Wat, with a 5am pick up at my fantastic accommodation Billina Boutique Hotel. Sunrise is stunning (see my sunrise blog post Here ) but do bring a warm jacket as you will be standing outside for 60-90 minutes and it was cold at the end of January.
Mr Sophat knew the perfect place to watch sunrise, with a clear view of Angkor Wat temples from across the moat, away from most of the tourists. The other temples I explored on Day 1 included Ta Prohm, Takeo, Angkor Thom and Bayon, with a return back to Angkor at noon when most of the crowds had dissipated. Day 2 temples included Pre Up, Mebon, Tasom, NeakPean, Preah Khan and Banteay Srei. Below is a list of my favourite six temples;
This was the first temple I asked Mr Sophat and Mr Kenny to take me to after sunrise at Angkor Wat. It’s quite small with a designated route to walk through to control the crowds, so seeing this Ta Prohm first with as little tourists as possible was a priority.
Arriving just after it opened at 07.30am, I fell in love with this temple. Ta Prohm featured in the Angelina Jolie movie Tombraider and it’s definitely my favourite amongst the 11 I saw across two days. I just loved the remoteness of its location, set amongst the towering trees that have become part of the ancient walls.
I saw this Preah Khan on day 2. I’m definitely into temples overgrown with trees! This temple reminded me of Ta Promh but on a much larger scale. The tree that had overgrown the front wall is so enormous and magnificent, it’s as if she is the ancient guardian of the temple.
This is a Buddhist temple that we visited on day 2. Again set amongst forest, the trees had also overgrown part of the structures. I loved some of the low lying walls that forced me to crouch and stoop at times to pass through.
This temple was supposed to be our first stop after sunrise at Angkor but I wanted to prioritise Ta Promh. Bayon does get very busy with people hence why it was supposed to be our first visit. By the time we arrived, it certainly was full with other tour groups so patience is needed when exploring within. There are some great Buddhist statues hidden inside, but what is most impressive are all the carved Buddhist faces. The arrival of some Buddhist monks made the whole experience even more surreal, especially with their orange robes contrasting against the grey walls of Bayon.
Angkor Wat is a Sanskrit word that means holy city. Built originally as one of the greatest monuments to Hinduism, it was converted to a Buddhist monastery post Angkorian (14-18th centuries). It stands as a replica of the universe in stone, representing an earthly model of the cosmic world. The main tower in the middle of the monument symbolises the mythical Mount Meru, the centre of the universe. The five towers around the central one correspond to the five peaks of Mount Meru.The outer gallery of monuments represents mountains at the edge of the world, with the the surrounding moats representing the oceans beyond.
Angkor Wat has always been a bucket list destination. And to explore it on a milestone birthday is very special indeed!
This was the last temple I saw on day 2. The smallest of all the temples in terms of the size of the structures, Mr Sophat brought me here at the right time of the day, with the least amount of tourists and when the sun cast a perfect colour on the sandstone walls. Banteay Srei translates to woman temple, and with its delicate and precise carvings and small size, it definitely had a female energy to it.
I would highly recommend a two day private tour with David Angkor Tours. Mr Sophat is a walking encyclopaedia of information about Angkor and all the temples. He knows how to avoid the crowds, the best places to take photos and is happy to take your photo as well.
Thank you Mr Sophat and Mr Kenny for a memorable milestone birthday and two days exploring the temples of Angkor Archaeological Park.
For more information, please contact David Angkor Tours
And for a great place to stay while in Siem Reap, check out Billina Boutique Hotel