Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Wed March 16 2016

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  • Shannon Wolf | March 16, 2016 9:00 PM ET

    Adventure in the Mystical Sprawl of Angkor Wat

    Adventure in the Mystical Sprawl of Angkor Wat

    PHOTO: A striking sunrise over the Angkor Wat Temples is worth losing sleep for! (photos by Shannon Wolf)

    Before first light, we blearily rented our $1 bikes and headed off into the darkness to Angkor Wat for what we heard was a spectacular sunrise.

    Upon arrival, we walked though its gates seconds before the sun broke the horizon and instantly, you could feel its energy all around.

    An early morning fog filled the grounds, adding an extra layer of allure, and we stood watching as the newly arisen sun casted a beautiful golden hue over everything it touched, and the sky transformed into vibrant shades of purple, blue and yellow.

    We walked through the temple grounds, took in each intricate, detailed stone hand placed in 900AD and climbed steep steps hardly large enough for your feet to a spot overlooking all of the compound.

    READ MORE: Angkor Wat Cracking Down on Misbehaving Tourists

    You could see for miles and miles — the ruins, the people below and the gradation of forests and dirt paths. This bird’s eye view went down as an instrumental moment for me.

    We then walked through a mystical forest with trees as high as buildings, biked further down the road reaching a second viewpoint overlooking the grounds and hid in the shade of ruins from the midday sun eating apples and crackers as our lunch before heading on to Bayon Temple.

    Somewhere along the way, my friend Mirco and I got separated from our friends after walking out of the wrong exit point from Bayon Temple and in an effort to find anyone without Internet, we decided our best option was to try and locate our meeting point where we agreed to congregate again for sunset.

    We biked for hours on end and by the time we realized we went the completely wrong way, our legs were as wobbly as jelly and our crotches sore from brick-like seats. We stopped, contemplated our idiocy and decided we should try to hitchhike back out of pure exhaustion.

    Although experienced hitchers, we doubted it would work, but two cars into asking, we were picked up by a makeshift tractor flatbed by a farmer, his friend and two monks.

    Our ride only lasted a few kilometers and we ended up having to bike the rest of the way to the entrance but eventually, we made it back to Angkor Wat and celebrated our arrival by sitting in the grass and having a beer.

    We never managed to find the meeting point and ended up missing sunset due to taking an accidental two-hour power nap on the grass after our half finished beers but nonetheless, it was an adventure we’ll never forget.

    In total, we spent a whopping 13 hours biking and exploring the massive grounds, unaware of how large it actually was and only managed to see two temples, a stunning forest and a tucked away viewpoint but it was well worth the lack of sleep and exercise!

    PHOTO: We felt as though we were dropped into a mystical fairytale after wandering through the grounds.

    Best Hostel: Garden Village ($3.50 a dorm)

    Arriving here, you feel as though you're at a resort! They have great coffee for 50 cents, a swanky pool and plenty of fun people to hang out with! It's touristy but let's be honest, you come here to see Angkor Wat!


    • Individual beds in dorm

    • Fan

    • Outlets next to bed

    • Lukewarm showers

    • Lobby with plenty of seating

    • Pool

    • Wi-Fi

    • Close to all bars

    Fastest Wi-Fi: My Little Coffee

    Cheapest Food: Borey Stoeng Thmey

    • Great food for around $1, beer towers for $4.

    Angkor Wat 1 day pass: $20

    Bike Rental: $1

    Must Do's:

    • Get a week pass to visit Angkor Wat Temples.

    • Bike from Siem Reap to Ankor Wat for sunrise but pre-book your entrance tickets beforehand.

    • Get your drink on! Head to pub street for $1 tequila after a long day of sightseeing!

    • Visit the night market for great deals.

    READ MORE: Plain of Jars Seeking UNESCO World Heritage Site Status

    Money Saving Tips:

    • For any of you who would like to see all of the temples, I highly recommend for you to get at least a 2 day pass in order to see it all as one day is truly not enough — even if you hire a tuk-tuk.

    • Siem Reap is a lot cheaper than the rest of the country so have fun and enjoy the cheaper luxuries before you head further south!

    • You can and should barter everything. Meals costing $7 can be bartered to $2, Hostels $5 to $3 and so on. 

    PHOTO: Proof that Mirco and I actually caught a lift with monks on a makeshift vehicle.

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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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