Angkor Wat and the Jungle Temples of Cambodia

The Kingdom of Cambodia is a special place full of beauty and wonder.  The people are warm, welcoming and working hard to rebuild their country after the last century’s horrific events. Exploring Angkor Wat and the jungle temples was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Before visiting I had only heard of Angkor Wat, but now I know that there is much more to see in the Siem Reap area.

Angkor Wat
Siem Reap International Airport

Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom 

I arrived in Siem Reap on a morning flight from Ho Chi Minh City. I  stayed at the Sojourn Villas just outside Siem Reap. The hotel was a lush, peaceful sanctuary with the sweetest staff you can imagine. Plus, they do a great deal for the environment and the local community.

Angkor Wat

Angkor WatI had booked a guide and driver for three days to show us the various temples.  Our guide, Mr. Sovandy, met us at the hotel with our driver, Mr. Saiya. We first went to Angkor Wat, the most well-known of the Angkor temple complex. I was giddy with excitement considering I had dreamt of seeing this place for over ten years.

Angkor Wat


I’m ready to star in the next Indian Jones movie

Needless to say, I was not disappointed. This amazing complex which covers 500 acres was built by King Suryavarman II  between 1113 and 1150. It was originally a Hindu Temple dedicated to Vishnu but later converted to Buddhist temple

Ta Prohm, The Jungle Temple

Angkor Wat

These coconuts are everywhere and a perfect fix to a hot sweaty day

Angkor Wat

The tree roots have taken over, just growing right into the buildings.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Thom

Literally meaning “great city”, this was built in late 12th century by King Jayavaram VII. There are many temples within this city including the one in the center, Bayon Temple.

angkor wat
Carvings of dancing “apsaras”

Angkor Wat

 Bayon Temple

We continued a visit of Bayon Temple since we were deluged the previous afternoon. The bridge with carved warriors on either side leading the entrance is ridiculously impressive.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat
the elephant terrace, where the army actually trained elephants

After the entrance and the elephant terrace I once again saw the magnificent structure of Bayon Temple.

Angkor Wat

There are 256 Buddha Faces at the temple. Some say the face resembles the King who built the temple.

Angkor Wat

Preah Khan

Next, a short drive to Preah Khan. Meaning “Royal Sword”,  this was built in the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII to honor his father. Like many temples, it is still largely unrestored.

Angkor Wat

A sweet holy woman sits in the temple giving blessings for a small donation.Angkor Wat

The doorways purposely designed to force people to bow in respect to the king. Even I couldn’t fit!

Angkor Wat

The variation in color on the sandstone is caused by aging and the elements and happen to be beautiful!

Angkor Wat

 Banteay Srei

Next, Banteay Srei, also called the Citadel of Women. Built in 967 by Yajnavaraha and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. This palace was made to house women of the army and the carvings here are especially elaborate.

I enjoyed hearing a story that women soldiers were the best because the opposition found them too beautiful to fight. Not sure about the historical facts here but good story huh?

Angkor Wat

This temple had avery beautiful jungle location next to a lake.

Angkor Wat

After this I needed some relaxation time. Walking around these temples in the hot sun, up and down stairs, is more exhausting than it seems.

Back at the hotel, I took advantage of  the tranquil spa and then had some pool time.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

I definitely needed this pool time today!

Angkor Wat
Who doesn’t love a pool bar??

Dinner was a unique experience at a restaurant in Siem Reap called Kroya. Located in the Shinta Mani Club hotel, it is a newer building and the restaurant features very fun swinging chairs for dining. I was blown away by the modern twists on traditional Khmer cuisine.


siem reap krona

Sunrise at Angkor Wat and Beng Mealea

I went to see Angkor Wat at sunrise. There are ponds on either side of the center walkway and depending on the time of year, the reflection is best viewed at a specific location. In our case, in November, it was the far left side of the left pond. Many other tourists have also figured this out so get there early! It’s a small miracle I was able to get this picture. I came dangerously close to knocking somebody’s selfie stick into the pond…on purpose of course!

angkor watAfter enjoying the sunrise I was driven to Beng Mealea, which is about 44 km east of the Angkor temples. Built by Suryavarman II in early 12th century, the name means “lotus pond”. This was one of my favorites.

Angkor Wat

The entrance is in ruins with a Nagas, or group of serpent deities, in front.

Angor Wat

This temple is farther away than some others and therefore less touristed. In the am we basically had it all to ourselves. Beautiful and tranquil and more shady than others as well.   Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat
Having a “tomb raider” moment imagining swinging on this vine

Rice Rice Baby

This temple was an hour from Siem Reap. We enjoyed the drive because it took us through small villages and the lush scenery was beautiful. Every now and then we would see workers in the rice fields. We stopped at one hoping to get a closer look at a lily pond we had spotted, but then Mr. Sovandy spontaneously took us to the workers to talk to them about rice harvesting.

Angkor Wat
Mr. Saiya demonstrating how the rice is bundled
Angkor Wat
Oh hey there, just hanging out with a sickle in a rice field


2015-11-25 21.30.24

Interacting with the locals was really a highlight for me. I was sad to hear how difficult their jobs were. Bending over in that heat sickling the shafts of rice is grueling work. Once again, I realized that I should never complain about anything!

That afternoon I had to head to the airport but managed to squeeze in one last fantastic lunch at the Sojourn Villas.

sojourn hotel siem reap
Banana Flower Salad
sojourn villas siem reap
Scallops with bok choy and peppercorns

Visa Probs

This is where things get hairy. It turns out that I had the wrong visa and the airline would not let me check in for my flight to Hanoi. I had a 30 day visa but it was not a multiple entry visa. I had used an online visa company called DO NOT USE THIS COMPANY! More details on this in my Vietnam blog post but essentially I paid them a lot of money for extra services, didn’t receive those services, then they refused to return our money. They also refused to help us with the visa situation in Cambodia.

The airport officials in Siem Reap were extremely nice and helpful, allowing use of their office and computer but he visa company was extremely unhelpful. Eventually, desperation set in and I agreed to an offer that originally had seemed insane. An airport official took $220 USD and my passport then drove to meet an embassy contact to get the visa. He returned just in time for me to board the last plane out of Siem Reap. I think this may have been the closet I’ve come to having a heart attack!

Read More:  Things To Do in Hanoi

Despite the drama, I have only the fondest memories. I can’t wait to return to Cambodia and see more of the wonders this kingdom has to offer.

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 Angkor Wat

About The Author

Cherene Saradar

Cherene is a travel expert with 30 years of experience in over 100 countries and 7 continents. She has traveled solo to over 50 countries. She is also a nurse anesthesiologist with over 20 years of healthcare experience. Her passions include wildlife travel and visiting wine regions of the world.


  1. AlicevstheWorld | 5th Jan 17

    These temples all look so incredible! What an amazing place to explore.

    • csaradar | 5th Jan 17

      Thanks Alice. It was mind blowing!

  2. nycgingeronthego | 28th Nov 16

    These temples are so beautiful. I am glad you finally made it and hope I can visit one day as well!

    • csaradar | 29th Nov 16

      I’m sure you will one day!

  3. Shasha | 28th Nov 16

    Such an awesome post! I’ve always been interested in Cambodia but have never had the opportunity to visit. It’s nice to get an inside look from your blog.

    • csaradar | 29th Nov 16

      Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed the post?

  4. G. (@glennymah) | 28th Nov 16

    Photos of cambodia looks so beautiful! My best friend is from there and is going to visit next year 🙂 so jelly

    • csaradar | 29th Nov 16

      You will have to go with her sometime!

  5. Style & Life by Susana | 28th Nov 16

    Those temples are just so beautiful! I love the serenity and peacefulness that comes through on the photos. Such a great post! X

    • csaradar | 29th Nov 16

      I love that you saw that in the pics. It’s exactly what I felt in person ?

  6. thetravelpockets | 28th Nov 16

    I’ve always heard so many great things about Cambodia. That tree in one of your photos is amazing! And the food looks delicious. I love any dish that comes with rice 🙂

    • csaradar | 28th Nov 16

      Those trees are so cool. The food was amazing!

  7. Lei | 28th Nov 16

    What a beautiful place! I’d love to visit Cambodia someday❤?

    • csaradar | 28th Nov 16

      It is a special place for sure!

  8. Vanessa Kromer | 28th Nov 16

    Beautiful post! I really enjoyed it!

    • csaradar | 28th Nov 16

      Thanks Vanessa!

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  11. Mark | 16th Jan 16

    Awesome post Cherene! Very much enjoyed reading and seeing the photos. I would love to see Angkor someday.

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