Getting a Glimpse of Angkor Wat

Since it was such a nice day today and I didn’t spend it exploring Angkor Wat, I thought I would use the evening to at least get a glimpse of it. I knew Angkor Wat is only some 6 kilometres from Siem Reap, so even though I didn’t have the entrance ticket for the day, I thought of taking my bike for a spin to at least see it and take pictures of it from the distance. Because it’s so close, it shouldn’t be an issue getting there within a few minutes of swift riding and even though they wouldn’t let me get close to it without a ticket, I was excited to at least get my first glimpse of it just before the sun sets for the day.

Without much hesitation, I rode off up the road that leads to Angkor Archaeological Park. I was expecting a nice day tomorrow so this would give me a better sense of how far it really is from Siem Reap.

This was the first time I rode in that direction and was surprised to see some of Siem Reap’s fines hotels along the way. I passed the Kantha Bopha children’s hospital (dedicated to Cambodia’s God King Jayavarman VII) in which cello concerts are held by Dr. Beat Richter for charitable purposes and shortly after, the buildings that lined the road disappeared and got replaced by big trees. The sense of leaving the town and entering the forest was only disturbed by a large number of locals on motorcycles and old cars driving in both directions.

I knew I couldn’t have been too far but I couldn’t see nothing for the trees were too tall. Riding was smooth because the road was well paved and there were no hills on the way. Then as I was keeping my speed I got yelled at and had to pull over. The man who was sitting on the side of the road pointed me in a direction of a building hidden in the bush of those high trees just off the main road.

Photo: Angkor Ticket Office
Photo: Angkor Ticket Office

I turned around and swirled off the road to approach that building only to find out that it was the entrance gateway for foreigners. The man on the road was there to halt all foreigners so only locals make it in without paying the steep entrance fee. As a foreigner, after you have paid the entrance fee, you will be let through and you will eventually get back on the same road, but you have to take a detour to go through the ticketing office first. Angkor Wat is a major Cambodian cash cow.

Sadly, no sight of any temple, any silhouette, any ruin or anything otherwise interesting can be had from riding up to that point. I don’t know what exactly I expected to see, but I didn’t get a glimpse of anything. I thought there would be a staple standing up high enough to protrude over the tops of the trees, but it wasn’t the case.

Photo: I Was This Close to Angkor Wat, But From Here You Can't See Any Temples, Only Lots of Locals Riding In and Out
Photo: I Was This Close to Angkor Wat, But From Here You Can't See Any Temples, Only Lots of Locals Riding In and Out

At the time I didn’t realize how vast Angkor Archaeological Park was. The place is massive and temples are spread across a truly huge area. There is about one more kilometre of riding after the ticket booths before you get to see the nearest temple. This of course I didn’t know but I just couldn’t wait until tomorrow and had try to get a glimpse of Angkor Wat. It didn’t work out, but it gave me a good sense of how far it is to get to Angkor Wat from my guesthouse and it wasn’t far at all. At this point I felt confident that even though I haven’t kept myself in any particularly awesome physical shape, I could do the Angkor Archaeological Area on a bike with ease.

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