Traveling to Cambodia or Siem Reap is almost always associated with visiting the Angkor Wat temple. It's like visiting Paris and going to the Eiffel Tower. It is a given because it is the attraction the makes the city iconic.
The Angkor Wat Temple is probably the most visited temple in the whole of Siem Reap, Cambodia (or maybe its Ta Prohm - the temple tomb raider was filmed).
Every time we hear "Angkor Wat Temple" we envision a huge temple, interesting details, unique relics, or we think Tomb raider and Angelina Jolie. Needless to say, every tourist who visits Siem Reap has the same expectation, or the same plans i.e. VISIT THE ANGKOR WAT TEMPLE.
I've previously mentioned the 3 Famous Temples in Siem Reap, and today i'm going to flip the switch and talk about why visiting smaller temples within the Angkor Complex might be the way to go.
Note:Telling your tuk-tuk/driver to bring you through the small circuit will take you to the FAMOUS temples, but going not the Grand Tour, or the bigger circuit, takes you to the smaller less famous ones. The irony.
All these temples mentioned (in both blog posts) are all part of the Angkor Complex. You just need to purchase 1 ticket (for 1/3/5 days duration) and you have access to all the temples.
If you're not a massive fan of temples and are thinking of choosing between one or the other, I did both during my stay in Siem Reap, and here are some reasons why you should choose to visit the smaller temples.
It Is WAY Less Crowded
I'm not a fan of crowds, I don't think any one is when they are traveling. Who wants to be shoved around or have to squeeze through people - especially sweaty bodies in Cambodia's tropical heat. Not me. Visiting the smaller temples would mean you get to actually see things, and you don't have to fight other humans. Sometimes, you might even get the whole temple to yourself!
You See The Details
In the bigger temples like Angkor Wat or Bayan, its difficult to go near to the carvings or walls as they are usually cordoned off to prevent damage by tourists. For the parts of the temple you can actually go close and touch, you'd be waiting in line behind others before you get your turn. This does not happen with smaller temples.
Smaller temples e.g. Ta Som, are similar to their large famous counter parts (Ta Prohm). They have the same beautiful tall trees, the same intricate carvings, the same unique rocks and walls. So, if you're interested in temple architecture, visiting the smaller temples makes so much more sense because you actually get to SEE it.
You Remember What You See
After walking around the Angkor temple for 2 hours, things get a bit blurry. I can't quite remember everything because the temple is just SO HUGE. The smaller temples take about 20 to 30 minutes to get through, and you get to see everything!
If you're a bit like me, and don't know the difference between one hindu temple from another, then going to the smaller will be so much easier on your brain. The details of my 2nd day temple visits are more deeply etched into my memory because of this!
I had my dad with me and he knows more about temples and history, so on the first day, he was like my real life audio guide, explaining why temples are built a certain way. If not for him, trust me, i'd just be lost and i'd forget what I any of the carvings mean.
You Can ACTUALLY Photograph Something
You can tell from the crazy number of pictures on this blog that i'm a fan of photography (or at least i enjoy clicking the shutter!) I'm not the best, or remotely great at photography or videography, but I enjoy encapsulating my travels in pixels.
Most of us 21st century travellers are probably the same. After paying so much for an experience/for a ticket, we'd want something to remember it by, and nothing is better than a snapshot of a moment in time. Well, until you have half of another human's head covering the gorgeous carving you wanted to capture.
NO SUCH PROBLEMS In the smaller temples, because: point 1!
It's Less "Boring"
Temples get repetitive after a while. I have heard people go on about how visiting Western Europe is boring because its church after church, or how temples are "all the same".
I appreciate the architecture, and intricacies of the carvings and the stories and history of the temples, but after a while, things start looking the same. Visiting smaller temples in the grand circuit, you get to alternate between buddhist and hindu temples, so it actually is less boring because you notice the subtle differences, unlike when you're in 1 huge temple and it's built by the same king, with the same influences.
Of course, if you have the time and would like to, do visit as many temples to make your money's worth. But if you don't i'd recommend going on the grand tour/big circuit, and just watching the sunrise at the Angkor Wat Temple.
But, If you're not an avid fan of visiting temples, or you get bored easily when visiting the same type of places, consider going to the smaller temples when you find yourself in Cambodia. I know, it's like visiting paris and not going to the Eiffel Tower.
I've lived in Paris, trust me the Eiffel Tower isn't all that impressive (there are much better places!), and when it comes to temple visiting, you could totally just photograph the exterior of the Angkor Wat to show you were there and then head on to explore the smaller temples! After all, the same ticket (for the same cost) gives you access to every single temple in the whole Angkor Complex, you would not lose out!
The 5 temples I visited in the grand circuit are, Banteay Sri, Banteay Samre, Preah Khan, Ta Som, and Neak Pean, all very different from each other, and just as impressive as the famous temples.