Angkor off the beaten path

Since the construction of the Siem Reap airport and the paving of the national road leading into Siem Reap the number of tourists has skyrocketed. What used to once be a sleepy wooden town with dirt roads is now a small modern city full of bars, hostels, and five star hotels. This makes for some fun night life but makes it extremely difficult to get an “authentic” or quiet experience through the ruins. After trying on my own, getting horribly lost, and not really seeing anything I decided to get a guide and do it in style. I knew I was in for a good time when my tuk tuk looked like this. Notice the distinct lack of other tourists!

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As we pulled up to the first temple I saw some cute locals walking around. Still no tourists.

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The local kids are out to play and this one was curious about my camera. He slowly snuck up closer and closer to get a peek until i played a mini game of peekaboo with him before he popped his head up for this photo.

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A girl takes off her hat and comes over to practice her English.

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Apparently monks (even young ones) are allowed to smoke – I saw dozens of teenage monks smoking cigarettes. My guide says that it does not cloud the mind so it is OK, whereas alcohol is definitely bad.

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The more remote temples were in disrepair as much of the restoration money goes to the more centrally located and more prominent temples. As a result there are many doorways to nothing such as this one.

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This girl followed us around for a bit and seemed to want photos but would never smile except after seeing her photos on the back of my camera.

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Monks getting blessed with water as part of a morning ritual.

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A local girl chases her little brother around with scissors and was threatening to cut his hair. Thankfully they were safety scissors.

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One of the very few times I could visit a temple without any tourists in sight. Beautiful.

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Two sizes too large.

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Girls playing with random plastic bits acting like they were guns. They were going all Pulp Fiction on their friend out of the frame.

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My guide and driver.

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Thieves stole MOST of this statue hundreds of years ago but left this paw behind.

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If the land mines don’t get you the tarantula holes and spider webs will.

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After a jungle hike through the dusty spider infested jungle I saw this temple behind the trees. I felt like Indiana Jones… before that Crystal Skull business.

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The sun rise was done and the light was cresting over the tree lines.

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Almost at the top!

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I found this mysterious ladle attached to a tree in the jungle.

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The years (and the thieves) were not kind to many statues, including this painfully beheaded demon statue.

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After seeing a bunch of temples I walked along the top of the old city walls. There were no tourists and all you could hear were animals and leaves in the wind.

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Near the end of the city wall stroll I stumbled into this incredible face. These beautiful surprises were the highlight of my trip to Siem Reap and were far more interesting than the fully restored temples.

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If you have a few extra days in Angkor Wat I would definitely recommend going off the beaten path. The temples may not be in great shape but you’ll get to experience the Angkor temples as explorers did many decades before you were even born. Destroyed temples consumed by trees, Buddhist monks strolling and reading in peace, the occasional curious local children, and little surprises will all make your Angkor experience that much better.