Angkor Wat (with a toddler)

From Sesame Street back to Cambodia, this blog is all about diversity!  While I wish every week could be spent exploring far flung locations of the world, I know my boys also appreciate the weekends spent close to home.  By traveling extensively and taking advantage of local offerings, we hope to give our kids a childhood rich in diverse experiences.  And it’s experiences, not things that really matter.

One of my favorite vacation photos yet is this one of Finnegan at Bayon Temple.

finnegan and buddha

Before we started planning our trip to Cambodia, I didn’t know much about Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious monument in the world.  I didn’t realize the vast area over which these Khmer structures have been found and the diversity of the architecture.  According to the UNESCO world heritage website, the Angkor temples are spread over 150 square miles.  These ancient cities served as the various capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th century to the 15th century.

While Angkor Wat is the namesake temple, there are hundreds of temples and it’s not possible to visit all of them.  We spent two days visiting various sites and temples, which was the perfect introduction for us especially since we were traveling with Finnegan (who was 20 months old at the time).


Our guide told us that it took 37 years to build Angkor Wat, which I think is actually pretty impressive speed given the intricate carvings that covered every square centimeter of the building.

carvings carvings2

It was originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu, but Buddhism became the more prominent religion towards the end of the Angkor period.  There are many examples in the various temples of images of the Hindu gods being destroyed or replaced with Buddhist images.

missing head

Here are some images of our favorite temples and structures, which provides a small glimpse of the diversity of the art and architecture:

Entrance to Angkor Thom

entrance entrance to angkor thom

Bayon Temple

bayon temple

Now look closer at those towers of Bayon Temple.  There were originally 54 towers of which 37 are still standing today.  Most are carved with four faces on each cardinal point.

many faces

Ta Prohm – left in largely the same condition as it was found with jungle trees growing out of the ruins.  Part of Tomb Raider was filmed at this temple.  As one of the most visited temples, it did feel a bit crowded at times, but I’m still glad we included it in our itinerary.

roots2 jungle4 jungle1

Banteay Srei – built of red sandstone so it has a different color than the other temples and the carvings are very intricate.  It was a longer drive from Siem Reap to reach this temple, but worth the effort.

Bantay_srei monkey temple 416px-Banteay_Srei_Kala monkey temple2entrance2

Besides admiring the temples, Finnegan kept busy by playing with rocks….

playing in the rocks

watching the monkeys…..

monkeys drinking water

meeting new friends….

museum friend

playing in the dirt (and generally attracting crowds)…..

making friends

drawing another crowd2

drawing another crowd

and when he got too hot, he managed to find strangers willing to fan him.

royal treatment

Guide and Logistics

You can wait and book a guide to show you the temples when you arrive, but as a relentless researcher and planner, I didn’t want to risk the luck of the draw.  We used the guide Eath (David) Sovann that came highly recommended from the Fodor’s travel forum.  His English was great and his car was well air conditioned.  He picked us at 8AM each morning and we toured for several hours.  He would then drop us off at the hotel to rest during the hottest part of the day before picking us back up again at 2:30.  This schedule works out perfectly for a napping toddler.  David’s email address is and we found him to be very responsive and his rates were very reasonable.

Which temple is your favorite?

Linked to on A Southern Gypsy:


11 thoughts on “Angkor Wat (with a toddler)

    • Thanks David! I am adding your website links here in case anyone would like more information on your tours and the best way to reach you:

      Thanks for being a great guide and for being patient with Finnegan since we moved pretty slowly.

  1. Hi Jennifer Curley,
    That was very nice and great pleasure to be your tour guide during your visit to Angkor Siem Reap !
    Thanks so much for recommendations ! I will make your friends’visit memorable and exciting when they are interested using my guiding services!
    Best regards

    • Hi Eleonora – I would definitely recommend that you talk to your doctor about the risks of dengue fever for the areas in Cambodia that you plan to visit. We didn’t worry too much, but every individual has a different risk tolerance in which they are comfortable. When we traveled to Honduras I was a bit nervous about dengue fever and always put a combined sunblock and bug spray on the boys when they were outside. I don’t remember the mosquitoes being an issue while we were in Cambodia and we can’t recall any bites. However, dengue fever is on the rise in many countries so it’s best to take as many precautions as possible to minimize the chance of your toddler getting bit in the first place. If you have separate sunblock and bug spray, make sure you apply the sunblock first and then the bug spray. Please come back and let us know the highlights from your trip! We would love to return to SEA with both of our boys.

  2. The detail work in all of these temples are mesmerizing. My favorite temple was Ta Prohm – I love how nature has reclaimed it. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

  3. We’re headed to Siem Reap in a month, and I am soooooo excited. I can’t wait to Ta Prohm. I figure that there must be a good reason why it’s so popular. It’s good to hear that you were able to see so much in 2 days with a toddler in tow. I also only have 2 days there, but my kids are much older (8-, 11-, and 14-years-old), so I should hopefully be able to see as much as you. Did you have to take malaria pills? Where I live is going through a horrible dengue epidemic (17 people have come down with it in my building of 140 units), so I am actually thinking that there may be less dengue in Angkor Wat.

    • Ta Prohm is amazing! It was so humid that our camera lens kept fogging up so our pictures from the temple are not great. With older kids, you should be able to cover more ground. Just make sure you have water to keep them hydrated! We didn’t take malaria pills or experience a problem with mosquitoes in general, but I would check with your doctor to see what he/she recommends in terms of preventatives. The risk for malaria and dengue fever can change over time (or even with the season).

      Have a great trip!!!

  4. Oh oh oh, I can’t wait to be here later this year!!! I wish I had experiences like this when i was young–good for you! Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler! 🙂

  5. Haha your boy is the star of the show! How cute and looks like you guys all had a great time. What a great experience for you all!


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