As we’ve blogged about before, the ticket prices at Angkor Wat have increased this year, to ensure that Cambodia has the funds to preserve and protect the Angkor Complex.
Along with the new prices, comes a new (and much larger) ticketing office to accommodate the ever-increasing numbers of visitors that Angkor Wat receives each year. All foreigners are required to purchase a pass to visit the Angkor Temple Complex (or drive through on your way to something else). Khmer people are free to come and go from the Complex as they please.
On a Journeys Within tour, your guide will take you to the Angkor Temples Ticket Booth before beginning your touring.
You’ll pull up and park, and your guide will escort you to the ticket counter, where you’ll join the queue. Be sure to read the information about the Angkor Complex Code of Conduct to make sure that you understand the regulations and expectations at these sacred monuments.
When it is your turn, you’ll need to pose for a photo. Hats are ok, but you’ll need to remove your sunglasses.
After you guide pays for your tickets, he’ll hand it over to you. Be sure not to lose it as you tour as you’ll have to show it at various checkpoints!
From here you’ll head out for an exciting day at the temples!
Angkor Park has some of the most spectacular views in the world, none more enjoyable than when the sun starts to set…
Watching the sunset in Southeast Asia is a favoured pastime. Whether enjoying the views from the shores of a pristine beach or in the shadow of ancient ruins, watching the sky’s colours change as the sun dips beyond the horizon can be the perfect way to conclude any day.
A new website, angkorsunsets.com, aims to help those seeking the perfect sunset experience get off the beaten path. By choosing the atmosphere, accessibility and distance from Angkor’s front entrance, guests are offered a number of different location option to watch sundown.
According to the website:
“By promoting the diverse and wonderful sunset experiences at Angkor, this project aims to spread visitor load across the park, provide benefits to local communities and offer new attractive opportunities for visitors.”
By spreading tourists out, beyond the overcrowded hotspots and helping travelers find the perfect place to end their day, this new site offers a whole new way to enjoy the ancient site.
Covering 400 square kilometres, Cambodia’s Angkor park has more to offer than the thousand-year-old temples that attract the visitors by the millions.While the likes of Angkor Wat and Tomb Raider’s Ta Phrom may get all the attention, the 1200 year old site has much more to offer those who are interested in delving a little deeper.
The well known archeological site is located in a stunning geographical area that houses ancient forests, swamps and an impressive array of man-made waterways, not to mention the 114 villages that still inhabit the park.
Two of those villages — Phlong and Leang Dai — have now teamed up to offer a new perspective on their ancient home. The Baray Reach Dak Community Tour is a village-run social enterprise that gives a glimpse of the park’s newly flooded north reservoir and the rural life this baray supports.
Dry for centuries, enough so that nearby villages were able to farm rice there, the North (or Reach Dak) Baray was re-flooded in 2007 after heavy rainfall put pressure on Siem Reap’s hydrological system.
For the past year, two nearby villages have been working to develop a project that would provide training to locals and invite tourists to see lesser known areas while helping supplement the income that was lost when the water was returned to the baray.
Narla, our Cambodian direct0r, operations manager Anna, and I decided to head into the Angkor park to check out this new attraction.
Arriving at the South East entrance of Preah Khan, to the tours newly constructed visitors centre, we were greeted by the new venture’s proud and eager-to-please staff.
Starting at the welcome centre, the new enterprise offers guests the opportunity to take a guided walk through the forest to a nursery where you can learn about rural Cambodian life and the use of their surroundings. The real gem of the tour however, is a boat ride through the North Baray that takes visitors to the Neak Poan temple by boat — the same way the ancient Khmers would have arrived hundreds of years ago.
Guided by Nam, a 25-year-old from the Leang Dai village, Narla, Anna and I headed through the mangroves, boarded our boat and set out on the baray.
Despite losing some farm land to the reflooding of the baray, Nam told us that the villages were still able to grow crops on the fields around the waterway. A part-time rice farmer himself, Nam was over joyed to get to show off the beauty of his hometown. As our boatman paddled us through the serene waters, Nam shared stories of playing football, goofing off with his friends and bringing his buffalo to graze on the once-dry reservoir.
As we passed by fishing nets hung in the water, he explained that since the reservoir was refilled, many locals now supplement their diet with fish they catch.
Initially shy, Nam shared more about his life in the village as the afternoon wore on. While he farmed to grow food for his family, he explained that this wasn’t what he wanted to be doing full time.
Recognizing the beauty around him, Nam said he was happy to get the opportunity to guide for his community; it gave him an opportunity to share his amazing surroundings with others while still providing a way for him to take care of his family.
Gliding by a mix low growing shrubs and tall trees, through still waters with enough bird species around to keep all three of the Journeys Within staff pointing into the distance, it was easy to see what made Nam so proud.
After the calming boat trip we arrived at the Temple of the Entwined Serpent, or Neak Poan. The walkway towards the temple was unexpectedly beautiful, with the mid-day light filtering onto our path, through the tree’s canopy.
There were no other signs of life until we approached the temple and while Anna did raise shrills concerns over the possibility of man-eating spiders, the only critters we crossed were the buzzing cicadas.
Neak Poan can be visited through the park by tuk-tuk or bike, but there we certainly felt like VIPs arriving out of the woods and getting to skip the main entrance. Once at the temple Nam gave us time to look around, while he spoke about the meaning of the four pools and the animals they represent.
If the weather remained dry in the rainy season, this is the temple his village would come to pray at, he noted.
Not only a unique and relaxing way to see some of the natural elements within the Angkor Park, the Reach Dak Baray Tour also helps spread the wealth generated by the tourist site to some of the more remote villages. By consulting with and providing education and training for the Phlong and Leang Dai villages, the new venture also works to protect the areas heritage, culture and natural environment.
As we made our way back through the calm waters, I reflected on what a pleasure it was to be part of this local solution, not to mention the splendor of leaving the Angkor crowds behind. While I got to enjoy an unforgettable afternoon, our guide and boatman got to practice the new-found skills that allowed them to leave the fields and pursue work they quite clearly enjoyed.
All of the money generated by the tour stays within the two villages involved; it is split between employees of the project, tour maintenance costs and a community fund used to benefit local families. This makes the Baray Reach Dak tour perfect for those travelers looking to give back or get off the beaten track.
Not to mention, it was the perfect way to get a glimpse at little seen part of one of the world’s most visited tourist sites.
Tips and info:
This half-day adventure can be combined with a half day of temple viewing. It can be a great way to decompress after view Angkor among the crowds.
The staff is new, so ask questions. Nam was more comfortable chatting once he warmed up to us, and hearing his stories was almost as enjoyable as the boat ride itself. If you have your Journeys Within guide with you, the tour presents a great opportunity for cross cultural exchange.
Feel free to contribute. Know the English name of a bird you see or a tree the guide points out? Let your guide know! They are always looking for ways to improve.
1-3 people per boat.
Feel free to bring water or snacks on the boat – just remember to dispose of your liter responsibly.