In true hasty fashion, I attempted to plan a quick day trip to Angkor Wat in Cambodia while visiting Thailand. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean, a one day trip wouldn’t leave that much time to spare to see the temples, but how much time do you really need at Angkor Wat anyways? Our full trip to Thailand consisted of 2 weeks, which was almost all of our allotted vacation days for the year. Squeezing a trip in to Angkor Wat seemed like a good way to tick the experience off our bucket list. However, between visiting my family, and the transit time that it takes to get to Thailand from North America, that didn’t leave too much time for us to independently explore.
Planning the Trip
I started toying with the idea while building our itinerary for our trip. My relatives live in Pattaya Thailand, and while doing research on Google Maps, I realized it’s only about 4 hours to the Cambodian border town of Poi Pet. If we had 5 days in Pattaya to visit family, then surely the family would like to join us on a one day trip to Angkor Wat. I decided to do some research on logistics and came across a tour company that was willing to accommodate, Why yes, they said a one day, private trip was possible, and they were able to provide me with a sample itinerary. The agenda was pretty hellacious, with a 2:30 AM pick up, driving about 6 hours to get to Angkor Wat. However, adventure got the best of me and I thought this was a small price to pay to see one of the man made wonders of the world. The example itinerary provided to us by Cambodia Travel Trails Day Tours was very well organized, and they had a number of 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor, so I was comfortable providing a deposit to confirm our trip.
We embarked at 3:00 AM from Pattaya (there was a 30 minute delay to our original schedule) to the border crossing of Poi Pet. Since it was 3 AM, we mostly napped on the way there, with one stop at a gas station to load up on snacks. Thailand’s highways are quite impressive, with large, well stocked gas stations catering to truck drivers and commuters at all times of the night. At the border, the sun was finally meeting the horizon. We awoke to the sights and sounds of a typical rural Thai town, with hawkers setting up at market, and school children dressed in their uniform blues setting off to school. There was a liaison to meet with us at the border to guide us through the visa process. Residents of the province adjacent to Thailand have a special visa that allows them to travel freely through the border without going through immigration, and this was the case with our liason. Upon passing through the Thai border, we then had to pay $30 USD for a visa on the Cambodia side, which is easily done.
With our visas and passports in hand, we met another car and driver on the Cambodia side, and settled in for the ride to Siem Reap. With the sun brightening up the day, we enjoyed looking out the window at the scenes of agricultural life; miles of rice paddies punctured by small towns, convenient stores and petrol stations. We finally arrived to Angkor Wat around 10 am, where we met our guide for the day. Since we had been driving all night, we started with breakfast at one of the many cafes lining the entrance to Angkor Wat, where we also tried the local Angkor beer. 🙂
Angkor Wat Complex
The weather was hot and humid, but we hardly noticed as we were in awe of the landscape before us. Angkor Wat is a Unesco Heritage site, and one of the 7 man made wonders of the world. The scenery is awe inspiring. Red and dark brown brick statues, surrounded by old walls with young green vines tangling through the brick. The generations that have built these monuments are long gone, but their legacy stands. Walking through the buildings, you see scenes of secular and non secular life; deities from Hindu and then Buddhist worship and images of rice farmers working the paddies that built the wealth of the kingdom.
The tour company was kind enough to provide an air conditioned minivan to take us to the most picturesque areas. Our guide was friendly and easy going, always attentive to our questions. He enjoyed explaining to us the history of the area and the significance of each structure. He even relayed to us his time as a child during the Khmer Rouge. What a an experience to have to go through as a child!
There are so many temples at the Angkor Wat complex it would be impossible to visit them all in one day. Each temple is an archaeological masterpiece, a work of art, and each has its own story. But after so many hours, I have to admit, each temple starts to look the same.
After a full day of touring the complex, we ended at about 4:00 pm. We would have liked to have more time to enjoy the city of Siem Reap, but with another 6-7 hours for the drive home, our schedule didn’t allow for any leeway. We opted for a quick, take out dinner of KFC, and ate on the drive home. We followed the same path on the ride home, with a stop at the border. And that’s where things got a little interesting with immigration…
I’ll have to write another post about day tripping to Cambodia and visa issues you might run into. But ultimately we met the same guide in Poi Pet who helped us with immigration, and he guided us through the exit process. We met our Thai driver, and then finished in Pattaya at about 11:30 PM.
If I had to do it all over again, I would stay at least one to two nights in the area. While one day was ample time to explore the temple complex, I would have liked more time to explore the city of Siem Reap. I very much enjoyed the scenic car route, and all of the drivers, liaisons and tour guides were friendly and helpful. The tour company, Cambodia Travel Trails Day Tours especially was very organized and accommodating, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again.
- 3:00 AM Pickup Time from Pattaya, travel by car to the border
- 6:30 AM Arrival to Poi Pet for immigration, about a 20-30 minute process
- 7:00 AM Met the Cambodian driver for the ride to Angkor Wat
- 10:00 AM Arrive at Angkor Wat and met our guide for breakfast
- 11:30 AM Tour the complex with our knowledgeable guide
- 4:00 PM Conclusion, dinner at KFC 😁 , and begin the drive home
- 7:00 PM Arrive in Poi Pet for immigration, meet the Thai driver for the ride to Pattaya
- 11:00 PM Arrive in Pattaya
Have you ever planned a rushed day trip just for the experience? I’d like to hear from you in the comments, tell me how it went!
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