Angkor Wat is a formidable site to visit, with its stones filled with history and strife that for some reason, tourists may wander over and through and around with little restriction. Sounds crazy to me too. There is one downside to the temple experience, however, and that is the inescapable heat of the Cambodian jungle. The struggle is to stay cool to make it through the day and still enjoy every temple on the docket. Spoiler alert: staying cool isn’t exactly possible.
Now I don’t mean stay cool as in, “Stay cool, brah.” Although it’s always good to do that too. I mean it in the “keep from dying a fiery death at the hands of Cambodian jungle heat and humidity.” I will be the first to admit that I have a problem with heat. Winter is my favorite season. I love the snow, I live for a nice cool breeze. So in spite of all its other allures, Cambodia was a little warmer than I usually go for.
While there may not be a cool enough temperature on record in the fine nation of Cambodia to make me feel truly comfortable, there *are* plenty of steps I took to keep my heat-fatigue to a minimum. You can find them below, and please pirate them all at will.
Side note: to anyone who has ever said “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity,” you are WRONG. It’s both. It’s definitely both.
And coconut milk, and smoothies and more water and more water. Don’t stop. A day at the temples of Angkor Wat means unceasing, streaming sweat. It’s worth it, I promise, but you will get dehydrated within ten minutes if you don’t constantly replenish fluids. If you are so overheated that you can’t quite muster the energy to lift the bottle of water effectively (like I was) then you will spill some down your front. Nature’s air conditioning!
Tiger Balm and Mint Oil
Ah, the soothing powers of peppermint. This is actually nature’s A/C. I discovered this trick when I was driving around arid bits of Montana and Eastern Washington during summer in a car without air conditioning (so…my entire adult life). Basically, slather minty salve or essential oil over your body, and any breath of air that touches your skin becomes chilly. This also helps with the inevitable body odor concerns that come from constant sweating.
Take a Tuk Tuk
I am very impressed with the people who walk or bike from the city to the temples. Autonomy is wonderful, and experiencing the physicality of the distance and layout of the temples while saving some money is also a delightful thing. I will never be one of those people. The reason I only had one heat-spurred panic attack during my visit was because of our tuk tuk. The breeze from the open sides of the and the break from exertion make all the difference. Plus, our brilliant driver kept us well-hydrated with an icy cooler filled with water bottles.
Pick the Right Clothing
I wrote an entire post on this very subject, which you find here. In essence, light colors, light fabrics, and pants instead of skirts (for chafing reasons). Keep modesty standards for temples in mind, obviously. Aside from that, the more of your body that stays protected from the sun means the less sunscreen you will sweat off during the day.
Sit in the Shade and Enjoy the View
I felt pressure to explore every nook and cranny of each temple, especially because climbing and crawling and wandering was permitted in most of them. After a while, the constant motion in the heat was too much. I actually had a panic attack at the end of the first day because I felt so claustrophobic in the oppressive temperatures and became convinced that I would never be cold again. What I should have done well before I reached that point was sat in a shady spot and just looked around me. From most of the temples in the complex, you can find a vantage with a view of the jungle or an interesting perspective of towering spires. Take a load off and take your time.
Leave the Big Bags at Home
I brought too much stuff with me to the temples. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have tried to bring my big camera. I did use it some, but reaching for my iPhone seemed much more natural. I think the extended exposure to the humidity may have damaged the screen on my camera as well. Just remember to bring a bag with a zipper and/or a cross-body strap—there’s no need to tempt the monkeys to steal your things. Keep in mind, for every minute spent carrying a bag through a curtain of humidity, the weight of the bag increases by 20 pounds. Trust me, it’s science.
Hi! This is part four in my month of March daily blogging. Click here to see yesterday’s post, a quick survey of my fashion mistakes at Angkor Wat. For tomorrow’s deep dive into my favorite Cambodian temples that *aren’t* Angkor Wat, click here. To join the betting pool on how long it will take me to miss a day of posting this month click here! Just kidding. That’s my Instagram account, which you should absolutely follow if you enjoy travel porn.