When we finally made it to Siem Reap to visit the Temples of Angkor in Cambodia, I had no idea where to start. Should we do what most people do and just head straight to Angkor Wat? Should we visit Ta Phrom, Banteay Srei or some of the lesser visited temples first? I spent a while tossing up between the options, and in the end decided that we should start where Angkor itself started. We decided to visit the Roluos Group of Temples – some of the oldest in the region, dating back to the 9th century.
The three temples that make up the Roluos Group are all that remains of Hariharalaya – the first capital city of the Khmer Empire in the Angkor region. We started with Preah Ko – the first temple to be built in the city.
Next we visited Bakong, which is by far the most impressive of the temples in the Roluos Group. It was built not long after Preah Ko and was the Temple Mountain of the city.
The final temple in the Roluos Group is Lolei, which is small in comparison to the other two temples. It really only has one tower in decent condition, which was under restoration when we visited, but the surrounding modern Buddhist temple and monastery are interesting to check out.
The monks at the monastery run a school for orphans and those families who can’t afford to send their children to school. The monks are happy to show you around and explain what they do, and I have to say that I was impressed. Obviously you can also help with donations etc.
We made the right choice in visiting the Roluos Group first. They are certainly not as impressive as the more popular and grander temples that we saw over the next couple of days, but they were a great introduction to the magnificence of Angkor.
How to see the Roluos Group of Temples
A Tuk Tuk tour of the Roluos Group cost us $12 and obviously the entrance fees are included in the Temples of Angkor ticket. The temples are located about 13km to the east of Siem Reap, so you could certainly ride a bicycle if you really wanted to. The ride is mostly on the busy and dusty highway though, and it can get very hot, so I wouldn’t recommend it.
You only need a few hours or no more than half a day to see the three temples, so you could easily combine the trip with a visit to the stilt villages on Lake Tonle Sap, or head to the remote jungle temple of Beng Mealea.