I couldn’t believe that at $57 per night, the hotel offered the most extensive breakfast that I ever had! Tropical fruits: papaya, pineapple, dragon fruit, watermelon, you name it!
Western selection included sausage, grilled tomato, and even a crepe station!
Asian selection including make your own noodle bowl and mix your own congee!!! The thin rice noodle was so chewy that we never have rice noodle like that before. The soup base was absolutely refreshing plus the yummy handmade fishballs, I couldn’t help but went back for a second bowl! If not worried about finding restrooms in the archeological site, I would’ve more bowls of noodle and congee!!! I highly recommend Lotus Blanc Hotel because its food was awesome!!!
After having a very satisfying breakfast, we walked back to the lobby to wait for our tour guide. Like I said since two lobbies, the tour guide was waiting for us in the other lobby. But since it was over 8 am, the time we agreed to meet, he walked to the second lobby to check and sure enough, we were there. Our English tour guide was Sok Chea booked through Happy Angkor Tour and he spoke good English. The price for the two days private tour with driver and English speaking tour guide was only $190 for 8 of us. There is cheaper full day tour by tuk-tuk (like $15) but I highly recommend that you pay a little extra for a car with air conditioner ($35 per day) and most importantly, the roads are dirt roads so you don’t want to be covered and inhaled all those dust on the road!
Sok had our driver to stop by the admission office for Brian to purchase the Angkor Wat pass; Sokunna and her family can access the site for free as they are Cambodians! Sok disclosed to us that 70% of the entrance fee revenue actually goes to Vietnam and not benefitting their own people. We were quite shocked that Vietnam own 70% of Angkor Wat! He told us the hard life that the local people struggling through and told us he made only $100 USD per month plus the tips from tours to a total of $400 USD. Hum….he was the second one told us their salary, we told Brian that our driver from yesterday also disclosed his salary to us…we found it odd!
The tour started off with Angkor Wat, the most famous complex!!! The driver dropped us off at the East entrance because Sok said it’s less crowded. We walked on this dirt road passed through a temple and saw lots of monkeys waiting there for tourists to give them food.
The back of the temple was much more photogenic.
Continued walking and saw Angkor Wat!!! It looked different than I thought due to at the East entrance without the two big reflection ponds that seen in postcard photos. Here it is, bucket list checked!!!
Not so fast yet….Sok pulled us over and gave us a history of the temple. It was built by 1 million volunteers (yes, you heard that right, volunteers, not paid workers) and 4000 elephants which took them only 37 years (from 1130-1167) to build! Angkor Wat is the largest sandstone temple in the world! The facts were fascinating!
Time to walk into the temple! The structure was amazing!
Not only Sok provided the history of the temples, he also pointed out the best photo spots and helped us with group photos 🙂
The details were mindblowing that those were built almost a thousand years ago!
Wall art from craving and still visible today:
Every single columns have details on them.
The temple was undergoing restoration but luckily did not obstruct the magnificent towers.
Being the most famous temple complex in Cambodia, I noticed much more tourists here than the temples we visited yesterday including Angkor Thom even though we started early. It was near impossible to wait for a second of no other tourists for this photo 🙁
Jason was mesmerizing on the architecture.
I was too 😀
The complex is huge that tourists were scattered out so we were able to have photos with no other tourists in it like those:
Once again, the details were incredible, I love the “3-D” craving, they really “pop out”!
Sok bought us to the line to walk up the temple, the most sacred part – Bakan, that is closed every Sunday and on Buddhist holidays (the following day was a Buddhist holiday so good planning by Sok). We waited more than 30 minutes and it was hot!
Finally, our turn! They limited the number of visitors to 100 at a time up at the Bakan so they handed out those passes and when you are finished with the visit, you’ll return the pass and they’ll let another visitor to climb up.
A red flower grew out from the wall, the color contrasted the monotone of the temple.
At the Bakan, it offered a closer look at the beautiful towers.
It was unbelievable that this whole complex is built of sandstone!
A Buddha statue inside one of the towers:
Scrolling through the thousands of photos, I realized the cravings are in groups of threes, hum…any significance or just the space permitted three figures?
So lucky to have this area all to myself for a few seconds!
More Buddha statue and offerings from worshippers.
Hum…a section of the face is missing…restoration work or stolen?
Another example of the details on the walls!
Climbing the steep stairs to get down; I tried not to look down xD
The mini figures on this doorway, it was mindblowing on how they were able to crave those details!
Once we got down, there was a group of people dressed in traditional Khmer costumes for tourists to take photos with them, it cost $1 USD per person, great souvenir 😀 They were posting our hands lol!
We were just up there!!!
More details that I will never get bored taking photos of! I was well prepared with extra batteries and a spare 128 GB memory card!
A young monk conducting the blessing and a box for donation:
Once we visited Bakan, we thought that was it but noooo, this complex is HUGE!
It was so unreal that it looked like a movie set…Jason versus Lisa, who will win?
Details, details, can’t get enough of the details!
Sok showed us the “chamber” that when you put your back against the wall and hit on your heart, you’ll hear the echos….Jason tried, yep echos!
With the wait, we spent more than 3 hours in Angkor Wat alone!
The temple we passed by previously and now no tourists there!
Sok took us to a restaurant nearby for lunch and we passed tuk-tuk drivers taking a nap in their tuk-tuks…very creative way to use the hammock!
Sok took us to Palmboo Restaurant within the park, it has an AC room and okay clean flushing toilets but the food was so-so at touristic prices!
The coconut was huge but it tasted weird; not sweet at all and even a bit sour!
We ordered fish amok and it was nothing like the dish we had at the hotel restaurant.
Curry with egg plant just okay.
The bill for 8 of us, expensive by the Cambodian standards!!!
Next, we were off to another famous temple – Ta Prohm, also known as the Tomb Raider Temple. The entrance was this old tree that looked cool to photograph with.
The site was very dusty as there was restoration work adjacent to the temple:
Remember the scene in Tomb Raider of the huge tree wrapped around a temple ruin? Yep, that was it!!!!
There was a line to take photos with this famous temple and glad they did it that way, otherwise, would be impossible to have photos without other tourists in them! The line moved quickly and soon our turn 😀
Look at the line….
Now it was clear on how they joint the sandstones:
Another temple attacked by the huge tree!
I love the little temples, smaller but nested inside the “jungle” feel. It has this mysterious atmosphere to it, don’t you think?
Even smaller in scale but no shortage of details!
We followed Sok and went through multiple temples, can you spot the Buddha hidden inside the tree roots?
I didn’t realize at first and Jason pointed to me:
He took a photo with his phone and it looked more obvious:
More temples buried by tree roots:
After the crowded Ta Prohm, Sok brought us to a much quieter temple that has not been fully restored yet.
Then, we went to Bayon again since it was along the way and Brian haven’t seen it. It’s Jason & my favorite temple!
With Sok as a guide, he brought us to those photo spots that we probably won’t be able to find by ourselves….at least not with our limited time there:
One of the famous spot with the nose to nose photo; I am not a fan of it lol!
To have the three faces:
After Bayon, we were deciding where to go for sunset as Angkor Wat closed before it. One of the famous spot Phnom Bakheng but Sokunna heard that the place is crowded and high up that you couldn’t see much of the sun setting with the temples. Instead, the sun setting behind the forest. That doesn’t sound interesting so we asked Sok for his recommendation. He said the floating village, Sokunna has never visited it so it sounded like a good choice. Thus, our driver dropped Sokunna’s family back at the hotel while we continued to the floating village. It is half an hour from our hotel and then a boat ride.
Our small boat….
And everytime a big boat passed by, our boat was rocking and tilting like crazy that Sokunna and I were super scared! Brian, on the other hand, was enjoying the ride.
The so call the floating village was a slum! It was such a big disappointment and a waste of money (at like $12 per person), we all wished that we did something else instead!
The boat took us to a floating crocodile farm. When our boat was approaching the platform, this girl in a bucket paddling toward us to ask for money! Yikes!
We walked upstairs to see the crocodiles and it was scary to see those huge crocodiles!
On the other side of this farm, more beggar kids 🙁
Sok said we’ll wait here for sunset….we were like urg….we have seen sunset on beaches before so it is nothing special to us. We asked if we can head back instead!
Then, we headed back; the boat ride was much calmer this time.
We went back to the hotel to pick up Sokunna’s family and then to the dinner show which Sok helped us to book. The show was $12 per person excluding drinks (drinks were like $3-$5 each). This buffet restaurant is huge with rows of tables and tons of food stations.
Their soup noodle wasn’t as great as the ones we had in the hotel for breakfast though. Food quality-wise was okay better than the tourist-trap restaurant we had during lunch.
The show consisted of like 5-6 traditional Khmer dances about different stories. One characteristic of Khmer dancers – ability to bend your fingers backward! Their dance moves were very slow like slow-motion…
This one portraited a monkey attempting to catch a fish LOL!
Fishing village dance, I like the blue costumes.
The last dance and I was glad it was almost over as I was about to fall asleep with the slow moves and music haha!
After the show, we took the tuk-tuk back to our hotel and took a good rest to get ready to wake up extra early for tomorrow’s Angkor Wat sunrise!
2 thoughts on “Angkor Wat, Tomb Raider Temple Ta Prohm, and More Temples of the Khmer Empire”
Amazing pictures and trip report!