Day 3: Angkor Heritage Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia

I don’t think I was able to get much sleep last night. It was one of those nights that you’re so certain you didn’t sleep a wink, yet cannot account for all hours you spent supposedly awake. Nevertheless, I was able to get enough rest to stay awake the whole day. I guess I was just too excited about exploring the Angkor temples that I couldn’t stay asleep. My alarm went off around 6am, and after a couple of snoozes, I finally got up to get ready.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia 24
The Angkor Wat


I’m not much of a breakfast person, so I made sure that I have something for breakfast handy in my room. Of course, that’s the main reason for my stop at the convenience store last night. I finish my two slices of banana loaf while watching Overhauled on the Discovery Channel, and headed down to meet my driver and guide to the temples.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia 05
The Hindu god Vishnu

Kim Soryar came highly recommended online. He was mentioned in the notes my sister-in-law’s officemate’s Cambodia trip research document. I googled his name, and found several forums that has members raving about his services. So I took a chance and e-mailed him, inquiring about his rates and itinerary. It turns out he’s available for the dates I needed a guide, and that his rates (and the tuktuk and driver’s) is within my budget, so I went ahead and booked for today.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia 18
Random part of the temple complex.

Though the sun was shining when I woke up, it was still pretty overcast. I was hopeful that the clouds would go so I’d have gorgeous blue sky in my photos, yet I’m glad for the clouds because it’s not as hot. Still, I dressed for the weather: my Columbia Titanium Omni-dry shirt and convertible pants, paired with my very comfortable Nike Free 7.0. Soon enough, the sky started clearing up and the temperature started rising. It’s definitely hot directly under the sun, but when you’re in the shade or inside the temples, it’s a notch cooler.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia 10
From this angle, you can see the five towers, instead of just three

I was so glad I hired a guide, because otherwise, I wouldn’t have understood what the temple’s history is or why it’s laid out the way it is. True, you can read these info in the guidebook, but it’s different coming from a local and getting answers to any questions you may have. Another great thing about getting a guide is that you don’t have to worry about holding anybody up, which means you can take your time taking photos and nobody would be bitching about it. Speaking of photography, Soryar really knows the temples — he knows where to position yourself to get the best photos. Then again, even if you get the best angles, if your exposure is off, you’re still at the mercy of Photoshop.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia 07
Obviously heavily photoshoped

When I went to the temple yesterday, I just went on a straight path. I followed the bridge over the moat, passed through the gates, walked up to the libraries, and walked back the same way to where the tuktuk was. We did walked up the bridge, but when we reached the gates, we turned right to where the statue of the Hindu god, Vishnu. Yup, you read that right, Hindu god. It turns out that the temple of Angkor was originally a Hindu temple. It was built in the 11th century by King Suryavaraman II. The temple is covered with elements of Hinduism. The carvings on the side of the temple walls dipicts stories from the Hindu mythology. The temple is Buddhist now, hence the name Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia 13
Whee, a Pinky picture

The temples of Angkor has a common formula. First, you have the moat as a protection, then a gate. Beyond the gate, you have the concourse that runs for a couple of hundred meters. About a third of the way in, you have libraries on both sides of the concourse, and further in, a pond on each side for cleansing. Then you reach the first gallery of the actual temple. The Angkor Wat is build with three galleries: the first is for the pilgrims, the second for the high court officials and the third for the king. It also follows the temple mountain style, which means that as you go further in, the higher the structure becomes. Another interesting thing about Ankor Wat is that though you commonly see pictures of it showing only three towers, there are actually five. There’s one in the middle, and two on each side. The two on the side are perfectly aligned to each other, that’s why you hardly see the one behind, unless you’re standing off the side.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia 26
One of my favorite temples, but I can’t remember its name

Another great thing about getting a guide is that he’d take you to routes within the temples you probably wouldn’t think to take. Also, there are elements of the temples that you probably wouldn’t know about, like the echo room (which was really really cool, and no I’m not going to tell you about it). Instead of exiting through the West gate — this is another interesting thing about the Angkor Wat: while all the other temples in Cambodia face East, it faces West — we exited through the lesser used East Gate. It was a pleasant walk down a path lined with trees on both sides.

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Fried mixed vegetable rice with beef

On the way to where we were having lunch, we stopped by a small temple with hardly any tourist in it. Like the Angkor Wat, it was also a Hindu temple. Though unlike Angkor, it is made with bricks, rather than sandstone. While Angkor Wat was impressive, this smaller temple (whose name I totally forgot) was more endearing to me. It wasn’t really impressive, it was really tiny, but there was hardly anybody there, so you pretty much have the temple all to yourself.

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The two of the four Buddha faces

We drove off to have lunch inside one of the restaurants inside the Angkor complex. After lunch, we were back on the road going towards Ta Prohm — the Tomb Raider temple. It was under major restoration, so some areas are blocked off for your own safety as the men worked. The temple was pretty much in ruin, due to the massive roots of the trees growing in and around the temple, as well as the elements. Nevertheless, it’s still a lovely place to explore. There hardly any arrows to guide you though, so it’s pretty easy to get lost. There’s also about a hundred meter or so walk from the main road to the temple, through a path among the trees. As we were walking back, the rain started pouring. The rain eases off as we drive towards Angkor Thom, the largest city during its time. This city is where the King used to live, so aside from the Bayon temple, this is also where his palace is.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia 47
The trees of Ta Phrom

The rain started pouring again, and it poured hard. There was no place to take shelter and our driver has driven off to where he was supposed to met us after the tour. Soryar walks to the vendors underneath the huge tree to borrow and umbrella, while I vainly tried to take shelter underneath a stone elephant. When the rain eased off a little, we made our way underneath the shelter of the tree, and it poured and poured even harder. Soryar continued his spiel, though there was no way we’re exploring the palace inside (there’s no way I’m heading in there with all the water and mud). As the rain eased up again, we walked towards Bayon, the biggest temple in the Angkor Thom city. What’s unique about this temple is that there’s about a hundre]ed faces of the Buddha all around the temple. There’s about 54 towers and on all towers, there are four faces of the Buddha facing the four directions (North, East, South and West), and representing the four elements (fire, water, air, earth) and the four virtues of Buddhism (charity, compassion, empathy and equanimity). Like the Angkor temple, it has intricate carvings on its walls, and it’s also built as a temple mountain. However, unlike Angkor, the carvings depict the daily life of the Khmer people.

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Little girl outside one of the Buddhist temples inside Angkor Thom

I was thoroughly exhausted, and the rain didn’t help any (though surprisingly, it did not totally dampen my mood). Luckily, Bayon was our last stop of the day. We drove out of the South Gate. The bridge beyond the south gate of the Angkor Thom is lined with 54 frowning demons on the left and 54 smiling gods on the right. Most of the statues have been looted or deteriorated in time, while some have seen restoration work from the French. However, most remain intact. As we drive out of the temple, I sat back on my seat, tired yet satisfied. This trip was well worth it, and hiring Soryar as a guide was US$25 well spent.

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Buddha profile

Thinking of visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site? Here are some tips for you: wear comfortable clothes and comfortable shoes. There is much walking to be done to and from the temples, as well as inside the temples themselves. The floors of the temples are mostly uneven and there are plenty of stairs. The thing about the temple stairs is that they’re tiny, uneven and quite steep. Bring an umbrella with you, if you don’t like being under direct sunlight, and as a precautionary measure against rain. There are vendors inside the temple complex (but not inside the temples) selling food and drinks. You can bring in your own, but just don’t eat them inside the temple. As I said in my previous post, you really need to hire a vehicle to get around the complex. A guide is optional, but it would greatly help you in getting a better understanding of the temple. Otherwise, it’s just a very pretty pile of rocks.

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Soryar walking inside the Angkor Wat’s 2nd gallery

After today’s tour, I am now one of the people putting forth a glowing recommendation for Soryar’s services. Soryar is very professional, and it’s obvious that he has really trained for this. He has five years of experience, and he really know how to take care of his clients. The tuktuk driver he assigned to me was actually his brother Soryean (not Prem as I wrote before). He was equally nice, and made sure the cooler was always full of bottled water — a great way to refresh after each foray into the temples. To book Soryar or Soryean’s services, you can view his website at www.kimsoryar.com. You can also e-mail him directly at kimsoryar@yahoo.com.

Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 24 Comments
  1. Ferdz says:

    Wow! Blogging on site Nina! Ang sipag! But it made me more excited to check everyday what’s next.

    It’s great you found Soryar! I was looking through your flickr images and found some other details that I think we miised 😀 and also when we were there, we were just eavesdropping on some guides to get some information out of the place. SO cheap of us. Hehe

    Love the photos as well. Awaiting your next installment 😀

  2. dementedchris says:

    Ang ganda, Nina. I can’t pick which picture or piece of info I enjoyed most in this post — I think it just speaks of how organized and detail-oriented you are to think of investing in your own guide. Gandang foresight! I loved the shot of the five towers, the detail about how the temples are organized, the huge tree roots… galing.

  3. carlo says:

    hi nina! wow. will be in cambodia next week so i’m so excited reading your blog entry. you mean it’s raining in cambodia now? it’s still humid though right? anyway enjoy your trip. am really enjoying your blog now…it’s like you’re returning to your roots (the non-sponsored backpack traveling, no offense 🙂 enjoy cambodia. by the way did you purchase travel insurance. if yes, where from?
    thanks and good luck.

  4. nina says:

    Ferdz: That’s a lot coming from you! Thanks naman 😀 Grabe, nakakapagod mag blog everyday. Well not really, I just end up spending a lot of times indoors editing photos and writing up my entry. Re: Soryar you miss a lot talaga if you don’t go with a guide. These guys know their way in and out of the temple and in most places that we go to, madalang kami makakita ng other tourists. If you ever do come back, definitely hire Soryar!

    Chris: Haha, ang daming details, pero that’s just the half of it. Medyo tinamad na ako isama yung iba sa sobrang pagod. When you go here, get a guide! You’ll enjoy the history lesson 🙂

    Carlo: It’s good to be back in the non-sponsored traveling thing 😉

  5. cayce says:

    Hi Nina!

    I agree, hiring a guide is worth the money. I tried it out without a guide (was trying to save on costs), and even though I had a (pirated) guidebook, it was not the same as having a guide. Although sometimes, a guard from one of the temples, would show me around, and acted like an impromptu guide. The echo chamber was very cool – the guard showed me that. 🙂

    Next time around (and I hope to return!), I will invest in a good guide.

  6. Joyceee says:

    weeeeh… I’m so inggit nins! Possible ba to tour Cambodia in one day? 🙂

    Nice photos, btw.

    Where are you going next? 🙂

  7. nina says:

    Joycee: The whole country in one day? Definitely not! If you’re just interested in touring the Angkor complex, doable in a day, but you need to be in Seam Reap for at least 2 or 3 days.

  8. jen laceda says:

    I’ve been dreaming of Angkor Wat since we missed our chance while in a 2002 Asian backpacking trip!

  9. Yen says:

    Hi Nina.

    May I ask if I can request a copy of this:

    “notes my sister-in-law’s officemate’s Cambodia trip research document”

    We are also currently researching for our Cambodia-Vietnam trip and would like to get as much info as we can.

    Thanks,
    Yen

  10. mikoy yap says:

    hey nina!

    i’m still in siem reap now. i had an awesmazing time today. hahaha!! at first i thought the photo of your favorite temple was bandaey srea but apparently not.. i don’t think i visited that. the photo looks nice with the manicured grass.

    btw, i love khmer food, don’t you? i bet you have so much stuff to say in your foodie blog. and i know about the echo room.. hehe. that was cool. 🙂

  11. mikoy yap says:

    prasat kravan!! that’s the name of your favorite temple. 🙂

  12. […] Nina wanders her way into Angkor with some beautiful shots of Angkor Wat. […]

  13. […] to do it all over again. It doesn’t matter if it rained on me, I was still able explored the temples of Angkor and enjoyed the laid back lifestyle of Luang Prabang. I’ve savored the best dishes Thailand […]

  14. jeezvive says:

    Hi Nina, i have been following ur travels and u really do provide helpful and updated information. I am wondering if you have info re overland or land travel between Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) to Siem Reap (REP)? I know of the bus services which regularly travels between the 2 cities. Unfortunately the travel time is to much for my very short trip. Also some popular airlines are very expensive costing between Php5-8K, more expensive than my promo ticket to Vietnam! 🙂

    Hope you can provide info. tnx much in advance

  15. freeze says:

    hi nin! i’m planning a visit to angkor wat and i’m trying to get in touch with kim. Was he also the guide inside angkor wat, you paid for $25?

  16. freeze says:

    oh i guess your blog answered it, sorry. Kim Soryar was the driver and guide at the same time… 🙂

  17. Malueng Sruanh says:

    jag vill visa en sak om historia Cambodia där tidigare inte heter Cambodia i denna regionen. i denna regionen är geografi tillhör Bunong/Funan de betyder samma sak namnet av Bunong just nu, Funan det är gammal namn av Bunong be utreda bilderna inne Angkor wat här de alla bilderna här är traditioner av Bunong/Funan som använda höftkläde för alla män tidigare som kvar inne Angkor wat just nu

  18. Malueng Sruanh says:

    A jêng p?ng geh nau nkoch t? b?h had?ch Srimara to?m nto?l 3 krissakorach nou nau a? Thai jêng n?m sa? p?ng nkoch to?m ban do?ng nou nau a? ri to?m nto?l 5 krissakorach p?ng geh lah nau t?m l?h Funan=Bunong a? ma ?ah Champa mhe a?. To?m mông nai Jayavarman ri Funan=Bunong a? p?ng nchih s?mbu?t nguai njuo?l ?n Chân d?n Kina k?l p?ng. to?m Roth a?
    P?ng geh nau hao toyh Quo?ng o?k rhi?ng n?m. Chân p?ng ng?i lah geh b? ri p?ng geh jan had?ch jê? ta no?m Funan a? ta n?m nto?l 7 krissakorach Funan=Bunong p?ng geh lah roh nau d?i p?ng a? jêng lah yor ma nau to?m rngl?p kan ndrel ma drôn a? jêh nai bu moh p?ng Bunong Funan a? Kambu (Kambodja) jêh moh Kambu a? rgâ?l moh Kambu-Svayambhuva. jan t??ng n?m ABO a? to?m n?m nto?l 6: e-krissakorach, ri ha??ch B??havarman=Bhavavarman p?ng ndo?k njêng rn?ksa ha??ch mhe nguai. to?m rngl?p kan ndrel Quo?n to?m Roth Kambuja ma ?ah Funan=Bunong a? jêng nguai. Rnôk nai p?ng geh nau to?m thoi b?l jan n?m leo bôk jo? mông ?o?ng. b?h k?i nai nou nau a? p?ng geh nau l? n,gar jâ?t moh roth Kambu a?, p?ng geh rlao ma pr?m rhi?ng n?m. KAMBU: drôn a? p?ng geh du huê bunuyh jan ha??ch jê? groi ta no?m Funan=Bunong a?. bi? lah ta n?m nto?l 6 rhi?ng a? p?ng geh lah hôm E Roth Funan=Bunong n?m mo?t u?nh. bri dak nai hôm quo?ng hvui ng?n. Ri nou nau Bunong=Funan a? p?ng geh nau ma Cham yuan a?, yor lah Cham a? p?ng l?p gu? ntu?ng ta kêng k?h dak mbu?t nglao Jr?ng. jêh nai ha??ch Che indravarman Bunong a? p?ng geh nau yô?, so?k bon land Cham i gu? ta k?h dak nai an gu? ta bon p?ng n?m. b?h k?i nai kon bu ur Che indravarman i moh Pa a? p?ng so?k bu klou Cham a? jan sai p?ng b?h k?i nai Cham a? p?ng lah ha??ch a? jêng ha??ch Cham p?ng, p?ng so?k nau d?i t? b?h Pa, kon Che indravarman a?. ri Kheth dak mbu?t nglao Jr?ng a? p?ng moh Kheth Champa. nt?m b?h nai phung Cham a? p?ng u?ch b? rl?ng hô ng?n ma Bunong i t?m bri ta nai. yor lah bri dak Funan/Bunong a? rnôk nai p?ng geh lah p?k nau d?i an bu gu? nde moh nau bu u?ch jan d?i an dadê mô geh buai ôh. bi? lah mpôl i l?p gu? nde ta bri nai ri khân p?ng mô wât ôh. sa? jêh nau bu an nau d?i k?t nai ri khân p?ng ndâ?k nau politik, beng ma khân p?ng t?m rdâ?ng ma Bunong Funan n?m i t?m bri dak a? Chrao. Ri Champa a? p?ng t?m l?p ?ah yuan
    p?ng roh ta n?m 14: e rhi?ng n?m. ri nou nau Bunong a? b?h k?i nai p?ng geh o?k n?m ma nau geh t?m l?h ma yuan a? ri Cham a? b? b? nai p?ng l?p ?ah yuan jêh nai p?ng h?n l?h Bunong/Funan jâ?t a?. p?ng mi?n lah l?p ndrel ma yuan b?t gai ma geh nau d?i h?n l?h Bunong jâ?t a?. ri to?m mông nai bri dak Bunong a? p?ng geh nau to?m nkhah b?l ri nau roh bri dak Bunong a? yor ma Cham yuan a? y?h b?. rnôk nai p?ng nkhâ?t ntu?ng ha??ch Che Varman nto?l 7 a? du huê p?ng gai so?k bri dak Bunong a? jan bri p?ng ri nau p?ng b? rl?ng ma Bunong rnôk nai. ri bri dak kon Bunong a? p?ng geh lah Quo?ng ng?n rnôk Che Varman nto?l 7 a? p?ng nkoch ma nou nau to?m rplai neh a? p?ng moh lah Funan. Jêh khâ?t Che Varman nto?l 7 a? bri dak a? p?ng geh lah Chah Chêng hêng hang le? ro dah ma bu b? ro mông nai le? rngôch bunuyh i gu? ta neh Bunong a?. jêh nai phung i gu? nde ta bri Bunong a? khâ?n p?ng t??ng yuan dadê, jêh b?h t??ng yuan nai to?t n?m 1885 to?t Pr?ng h?n tu?n ta bri nai at khâ?n p?ng k?l yuan h?n b? rl?ng ma Bunong a? ?o?ng. Jêh nai to?t n?m 1950 1964 a? p?ng geh lah Phung Rade, Jarai, Cham kh??n p?ng u?ch b? rl?ng ma Bunong ?o?ng, aba? a? t?m ban ?o?ng geh o?k mplôl êng êng nau ng?i u?ch b? roh rplai neh ?m Bunong b?h dâ?ng a?. Rade Jarai t?m ban ma Cham khâ?n so?k moh Dêga tê? to?m rplai neh Bunong a?. b?h n?p a? mbu n?m i gu? ta rplai neh Funan/Bunong a?, an p?ng gâ?t n?l ma bu n?m i t?m bri dak rup rplai neh Funan/Bunong a?. mô ?n Rade Jarai Cham a? dah ma b? ôh ta rplai neh Bunong a?, p?ng tih ma nau wai brah U Che huêng kon Bunong a?. a? jêng bri dak Bunong neh ntu Bunong mô ?n bu b? roh ôh rplai neh ?m Bunong a? t?m ban ma nchih jêh moh Funan a? Funan a? jêng lah Bunong a? h?i. Ri gâ?p u?ch ôp to?m pl?ng ntu?k yuan to?m pl?ng ntu?k Rade Jarai Cham p?ng gu? aba? a?, an he ko?p mêt u?nh to?m rup rplai neh b?h dâ?ng a? khân p?ng gu? ta nqu?l rplai neh Bunong a? mô lah ntu?k êng khân p?ng gu?? ph?m b? mô n?l bu n?m i t?m neh a?! a?! Jêng rngol Angkor So?m ??ch U Che Bunong k?l e jêng rplai neh rnôk Bunong/Funan (nto?l nguai bu moh ha??ch Bunong Cambodia a? Nokor Phnom Che indravarman Bunong) (jêh Nokor Phnom a? Angkorreas Che Varman ndrel ma Yasovarman kon indravarman)
    (Che Varman ma ?ah Che indravarman a? oh nô)

  19. karlodl says:

    waaaah! i missed prasat kravan. sa january babalikan kita! hahaha

  20. freeze says:

    thanks for the tip, i was able to contact kim soryar during our trip last December. unfortunately, he said he isn’t allowed to go inside Angkor, so i had to hire another guide, while kim only served as a driver.

  21. […] Who was my guide at Angkor Wat? Answer: Kim Soryar Source: Day 3: Angkor Heritage Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia Kim Soryar came highly recommended online. He was mentioned in the notes my sister-in-law’s […]

  22. Paz says:

    Hi! It is my dream to visit Cambodia. Hopefully this year. Can I ask how much u paid Soryar. I checked his site & it’s a package…with hotel etc…. Pls. enlighten me. Thanks.

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