Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap is one of the places you must go before you die and so I did, back on 2006. The place is absolutely amazing if you ask me and this was before the upgrade. If you think you have traveled and not been here, then you have not traveled 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.

Checkpoint before entering

On this amazing trip here, Lilian and me spent a good 5 nights and 6 days just exploring Siem Reap but this was back in 2006. You can find a range of Cambodia hotels and accommodation deals at Asia Web Direct which will help you plan your Cambodia experience. This was 3 years ago but it is still a great place to visit and talk about. Given the chance to go again, I will do it but this time with a complete set of lenses and my trusty Nikon to photograph everything again. So, what is the big hype about this place? Read on.

Me at the famous reflective pond

There are more than 1,000 temples scattered throughout the forest of Siem Reap and Angkor Wat is the largest city ruins there. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, this temple was to honor the Hindu God, Vishnu. Today, the main temple complex of Angkor remains as one of the official Seven Wonders of the world according to UNESCO's World Heritage claim.

Angkor Wat Sunrise 6.30am

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, first thing is that you need to book a tuk tuk for your daily traveling around Siem Reap. So, what we did was we hired a tuk tuk for the entire duration of our stay. Meaning we paid the rider daily a sum of USD$10.00 per day. He would pick up up at any time we liked and send us anywhere we want to go and then send us back to the hotel or guesthouse.

Angkor Wat Sunrise reflection on the pond

So for that sunrise, our tuk tuk rider and guide told us the best time to reach there would be around 5.30 am. Yes, that early so we got him to pick us about 4.45am for the 15 minute journey here.

Angkor Wat Sunrise 7.00am

The other thing that is very important is the Angkor Wat Pass. You can buy this only from the checkpoint before entering the main area. 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 there is a single day pass, a 3 days pass and a 1 week pass. We took the 3 days pass which costs us US$40.00 each. Trust me, it is well worth it and part of the money goes back to restoring this ancient temple.

So with pass in hand bought the day before, we ride in the cold Cambodian morning to our destination. On arrival, I was totally stunned in awe with the amount of people already there. It was like a festival when the tuk tuk stopped to park. There was at least 200 people already moving around the entrance here.

The crowd in the foreground

Anyway, we made out way in and headed straight to the pond in front of the main temple as our tuk tuk guide told us so. There were at least a hundred or more tourist all armed with cameras, tripods, mono pods and the complete works. There was also a number of them armed with video cameras to document this amazing 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.

Crowd by the hundreds

Well, what didn't help during this amazing moment was the fact that there were tons of China tourist around the area making so much noise and talking as if they were in a wet market. Oh well, such is travel life. Eventually I got my pictures of the sunrise and was quite happy with the outcome.

View from the north west

For the rest of the day, we just ventured to other parts of the Angkor area visiting temples like Bayon and Ta Prohm. I must say it again, this has been one of the most amazing trips I have ever made in my life to visit such and interesting place. 

Angkor Wat Temple

Beautiful areas in the temple

Do not be surprised if you see guards around the temple grounds or the area holding machine guns. I asked my guide why was that and he told me that there are still a number of looters around, stealing temple artifacts 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 it in your bag. If you are caught, there is no excuse.

The temple grounds are really large so one can easily spend a good 2-3 hours just exploring the grounds, climbing steps and admitting the impressive work done here. I think we spent a good 5 hours in 2 days just checking out the ruins.

Another unique feature here would be the automatic head bowing whenever you enter one of the temples. The temples of Angkor Wat were made in such a way where at the entrance to each temple, the door way had a large step where a person entering would have to stoop and bow their head on entering which is a sign of respect.

Inside the compound

I would also advise for you to start the journey early as the crowds here can get really large with tourist everywhere. Hard to take a nice picture when there are inconsiderate tourist just walking around. Trust me, at some places, I had to wait it out for 20 minutes just to get one shot.

One of the pagodas

If you bring children along, please be extra careful of them as some of the places in the temple are not child friendly. They can easily slip and fall down over 30-40 feet. Not a good thing. Also, bring lots of drinking water because of the long walks and climbs. If you are a photographer, stock up those memory cards!

Climbing up the stairs at Angkor Wat, sideways too.

Climbing the stairs up the temple is no joke too. You basically have to step sideways to get up the stairs. For the elder people, I would recommend you either pass or take your own sweet time to do this. 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. UPDATE 2010: There are now metal railings and staircases leading you up to the main temple. This was installed in the last 2 years so the thrill of climbing is no more.

One of the things you should look out for is the three Apsaras. Apsaras are the angles that guards 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.

Me taking some time to pose

Finally when everything is done, there are some stalls in the vicinity selling all sorts of souvenirs for you to buy. They are not cheap but averagely priced. Then again, some of the items found here cannot be found in other places. Just a note as you may want to get some of the souvenirs. A couple of dollars extra won't hurt since you came all the way here. I suggest you get the t-shirts (for guys/gals) as they are quite nice.

Souvenirs sold at the stalls in the vicinity

Angkor Wat Temples and attractions;
After all, this place remains a majestic sacred place in Cambodia and they will keep the tourist coming for a long long time. Even me, I plan to make another trip to conclude my pictorial journey of the Indochina. On this trip, we flew AirAsia and booked our own guest house in Siem Reap. Back then GoHolidays (now AirAsiaGo) were only promoting the nicer hotels so we wanted to experience what a 'real' traveler would do when visiting Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia Reviewed by Malaysia Asia on Thursday, July 23, 2009 Rating: 5


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! :)


YULI said...

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

David Jr 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.


Benedict 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

Zhiqiang said...

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


David Jr 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.

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