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Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap is one of the places you must go before you die, so I did back in 2006. The place is absolutely amazing if you ask me, and this was before the upgrade.

If you think you have travelled and not been here, then you have not travelled until you visit this world heritage site.

This place is the epitome of the high classical style of Khmer architecture, and it has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag.

Angkor is also a vernacular form of the word nokor, which comes from the Sanskrit word nagara (capital), while Wat is the Khmer word for temple.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Checkpoint before entering.

On this amazing trip here, I spent a good 5 nights and 6 days just exploring Siem Reap, which was back in 2006.

Personally, for this adventure, I searched online and found a range of Cambodia hotels and accommodation deals which really helped plan my Cambodia experience.

If I was given a chance to go again, I would do it, but this time with a complete set of lenses and my trusty camera to photograph everything again. So, what is the big hype about this place? Read on.

Cambodia Trip DavidMe at the famous reflective pond at Angkor Wat.

There are more than 1,000 temples scattered throughout the forest of Siem Reap, and Angkor Wat is the largest city ruins here.

Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II; this temple honoured the Hindu God, Vishnu.

Today, according to UNESCO's World Heritage claim, the main temple complex of Angkor remains one of the official Seven Wonders of the world.

Angkor Wat Sunrise 6.30am.

Exploring Angkor Wat

One of the things that you must do is participate in the Angkor Wat Sunrise and Sunset tour. So, how do you do this?

Well, the first thing is that you need to book a tuk-tuk for your daily travelling around Siem Reap. So, what we did was we hired a tuk-tuk for the entire duration of our stay.

This simply meant that I paid the rider daily a sum of USD 10.00 per day. He would pick us up at any time I liked and send us anywhere I wanted to go, and then send me back to the hotel or guesthouse.

Angkor Wat Sunrise reflection on the pond.

So for that sunrise, my tuk-tuk rider and guide told me that the best time to reach there would be around 5.30 am.

Yes, it was so early that I got him to pick me up from the hotel at about 4.45 am for the 15-minute journey here.

Angkor Wat Sunrise 7.00am.

Buying The Angkor Wat Pass

The other very important thing is the Angkor Wat Pass, and you can buy this only from the checkpoint before entering the main area. Note that everyone and all traffic must go through this checkpoint.

Once you reach the checkpoint, you go to the pass counter to buy your pass. There are a few types of passes where a single day pass, a 3 days pass, and a 1-week pass.

I took the 3 days pass, which costs US$40.00 each (2009 price). Trust me, it is well worth it, and part of the money goes back to restoring this ancient temple.

So with a pass in hand bought the day before, I rode in the cold Cambodian morning to my destination of the day.

On arrival, I was totally stunned in awe by the number of people that were already there. It looked like there was a festival when the tuk-tuk stopped to park.

I couldn't believe that there were at least 200 people already moving around the entrance here.

The crowd in the foreground.

Anyway, I made out way in and headed straight to the pond in front of the main temple as my tuk-tuk guide told me that it was the best spot for sunrise photography here.

Looking around, there were at least a hundred or more tourists, all armed with cameras, tripods, monopods, and the complete works.

There were also a number of them armed with video cameras to document this amazing sunrise show. I managed to get a nice spot just at the tip of the lake and positioned myself there, ready for the sun to come up.

The crowd by the hundreds waiting for the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

Well, what didn't help during this amazing moment was the fact that there were tons of China tourists around the area, making so much noise and talking as if they were in a wet market.

Oh well, such is travel life, and eventually, I got my pictures of the Angkor Wat sunrise and was quite happy with the outcome, as you can see in the earlier photos.

View from the northwest.

For the rest of the day, I just ventured to other parts of the Angkor area, visiting temples like Bayon and Ta Prohm, all in the same vicinity of the complex grounds. 

I will say again that this has been one of the most amazing trips I have ever made in my life and the thought of visiting such and interesting place made it a memorable one.

Main Angkor Wat TempleAngkor Wat Temple.

Angkor Wat Temple Window ViewBeautiful areas in the temple.

When you are here, do not be surprised if you see military guards walking around the temple grounds or the common areas armed with machine guns.

I asked my guide why it was that, and he told me that there are still several looters around, stealing temple artefacts and selling them for a huge sum of money.

Who would not want to own a piece of Angkor Wat? By the way, inside here, you will see loose pieces of the temple around, so please do not try to put them in your bag.

If you are caught taking pieces of the temple rocks, there is no excuse, and you can go to jail for this.

Angkor Wat Temple Photo
A view of the Angkor Wat temple stupa.

The temple grounds are extensive, so one can easily spend a good 2 to 3 hours just exploring the grounds, climbing steps and admitting the impressive work done here.

I think I must have spent a good five to six hours in just two days of checking out the ruins back-to-back.

Another unique feature here would be the automatic head bowing whenever you enter one of the temples. What is this, you may be asking?

The reason is that the temples of Angkor Wat were made so that at the entrance to each temple, the doorway had a large step where a person entering would have to stoop and bow their head on entering is a sign of respect.

Angkor Wat Temple Inside
Inside the main temple compound.

Again, for anyone reading this, and it will be your first time here, I would advise you to start the journey early as the crowds can get enormous with tourists just about everywhere.

It is also hard to take a nice picture when there are inconsiderate tourists just walking around. Trust me, I had to wait it out for 20 minutes just to get one shot at some places.

The best way to overcome this is by beating the general tourist that come in large tour buses. These group travellers usually arrive around eight or nine in the morning, after their hotel breakfast.

The only people you see before are the independent travellers who arrange their own bookings and get here.

Pagoda at Angkor Wat Temple
One of the tall pagodas of Angkor Wat Temple.

If you bring children along, please be extra careful as some of the temple places are not child-friendly.

They can easily slip and fall down over 30 to 40 feet. Not a good thing. Also, bring lots of drinking water because of the long walks and climbs. If you are a photographer, be sure to go as early as possible.

Original Stairs at Angkor Wat TempleClimbing up the stairs at Angkor Wat, sideways too.

Climbing the stairs up the temple is no joke, and you basically have to step sideways to get up the stairs. Those with weak knees should not attempt to climb up these stirs.

I would recommend you either pass or take your own sweet time to do this for elderly people. Some of the stairs have rails for you to hold on too, but some do not.

And ladies, please do not come in your high heels for this, and trust me, I have personally seen several women who dress in heels coming here.

UPDATE 2010: There are now metal railings and staircases, leading you up to the main temple. This was installed around 2008; therefore, the thrill of climbing up the main temple is no more there.

Photography at Angkor Wat
Attempting to do some creative photography.

One of the things you should look out for is the three Apsaras. Apsaras are the angels that guard the Angkor Wat, and carvings depicting them are found throughout the temple.

There are also three different Apsaras; one is a smiling Apsara who shows her teeth, another has a bare chest, and the third Apsara has a snake's tongue.

These Apsara can be spotted throughout the temple structures in Angkor Wat and at many other temples in Siem Reap.

Selfie at Angkor Wat
A compulsory pose at the world-famous Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap.

Finally, when everything is done, there are some stalls in the temple's vicinity that are selling all sorts of souvenirs for you to buy. They are not cheap but averagely priced, and you can bargain.

Some of the items found here cannot be found in other places; therefore, you may want to get some of the souvenirs sold here.

A couple of dollars extra won't hurt since you came all the way here. I suggest you get the t-shirts as they are quite nice and decently priced.

Some of the miniature statues are also worth getting, and again, make sure you bargain with the vendors there.

Souvenirs at Angkor Wat
Souvenirs sold around Angkor Wat Temple.

Exploring Outside The Angkor Wat Area
During my adventure at Angkor Wat, I also visited the beautiful Bayon Temple, which I would recommend for anyone travelling to Siem Reap.

And if you have watched Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, you should know that part of the movie was actually shot at the Ta Prohm Temple here. Without fail, this place was also on my list of places to visit in Siem Reap.

Finally, one of the highly debatable places is no other than Tonle Sap Lake, which is ridden with poverty but is one of the recommended places to make a half-day trip.

Final Thoughts

I believe that Angkor Wat remains a majestic and sacred place in Cambodia, and they will keep the tourist coming for a long, long time.

Even for me, I plan to make another trip to conclude my pictorial journey on this part of Indochina. On this trip, I flew with AirAsia and booked my own guest house in Siem Reap.

Back then, GoHolidays (now AirAsiaGo) was only promoting the nicer hotels, so I wanted to experience what a 'real' traveller would do when visiting Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.


Borneo Falcon said...

Looks like a tough place to get a decent photos with all the crowds. I hate crowded place

Mirebella said...

I am actually very pleased to read this write up since I'm going there soon. Thanks David! :)


youngcampbell said...

i love the place. i became interested of the place because of geo challenge. a very educational application in facebook :)

Malaysia Asia said...

Hi all,

B.Falcon, tell me about it. Best is to go there on weekdays.

Mirebella, awesome! I will b posting a few more blogs about Siem Reap these few days so more for you to look out for.

Yuli, Thanks for dropping by! I will check out this Geo Challenge.


Ben said...

David, Pretty nice shoot of the sunrise @ Angkor Watt ;) Haven't try on the sunrise shoot yet cos I hardly wake up such early in the morning except for work purpose :P

ZQ Travels said...

Wow.. your pictures are good. interesting sight of all the photographers waiting to take a pic of the sunrise with angkor wat :-)


Malaysia Asia said...

Hi Ben and ZQ,

Ben, haha you must have been drinking the nights eh?

ZQ, It sure is.. Imagine coming late and having to fight with tourist over a spot Then you get them walking in front of your camera.. lol


superwilson said...

I hope I can climb up the temple. Wish me luck

eDmUNdLOu said...

Did You Know?

That Angkor Wat is actually a graveyard with the main temple as the tombstone. fact is, the main gate of Angkor Wat faces West, where in Buddhism beliefs, it is the direction of Death.

Cambodge said...

Le Cambodge est une pays magnifique, je veux y retourner le plus tôt possible.
Cambodia is a great destination, I want come back soon as possible when I look your picture.

bijuterii argint said...

The stairs are so steep, they look dangerous to climb.