There’s only one reason to be waking up at 4am in Siem Reap. It’s a seriously good reason though. No visit to Siem Reap would be complete without visiting Angkor Wat. Over 900 years ago, this huge complex was once the capital city of the Khmer Empire and it’s just awesome to think that so much of it is still here today. No matter what you do, you have to spend at least 1 day at Angkor Wat.
I’d previously visited Angkor Wat when I was last in Cambodia, but I can say for sure, it’s no less incredible seeing it a second time around. Looking around was still a non-stop string of “woahs” and “can you imagine”. Woah I can’t believe this is still standing and can you imagine all this detail being carved out by hand?. No matter how many times you visit here, there’s no way you could see it all. So yes, while this handful of my favourite photos may not even begin to scratch the Angkor Wat surface, I hope you enjoy them and you get inspired to add a trip to your bucket list!
Angkor Wat for sunrise
Does this really require an introduction? I opted for an early sunrise trip (you can also do a sunset trip) and although it wasn’t exactly a banger, it’s still darn magical. Despite its size, finding your way to watch it in the dark was kind of tricky. It’s definitely worth the early morning stumbling around though.
After sunrise, I went inside to get a close up look at the temple. This was originally a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu and then transitioned into a Buddhist temple later on. There are lots of hallways inside and huge dropped areas inside. Be sure to go up the Bakan (tall tower) at 7 am when it opens to get a beautiful view across the grounds. You’ll finally be able to see where you walked in from, from up there.
For a 1 day trip to Angkor Wat, the standard route to take is the small circuit which covers some of the best known temples. Bayon is my favourite on this circuit and after eaves dropping on a tour guide, I know now that it is made up of 54 towers, 1 to each represent the 54 states in Cambodia and 216 faces. I was surprised to find it so empty!
Just across from Bayon is the pyramid temple of Baphuon. It’s got a beautiful long walkway up to it. I like to think of it as an ancient version of a sweeping driveway that leads up to a fancy house! As with Angkor Wat and Bayon, you can walk all around the bottom level and then make your way up to the top if you want. I was too hot by this point so settled for just sitting on the steps, which is far more me haha!
After thinking I’d somehow landed myself the best tuk tuk driver in Cambodia who was helping us avoid the crowds, I soon realised that everyone had been hiding out at Ta Prohm. Yes, this is the temple made famous by the Tomb Raider films. Yes, I think I was the only person there to not have seen the film(s) (is there more than one?) but it’s still a fascinating temple. The trees entwined with the buildings are incredible. This was my final stop on the small circuit around Angkor Wat, and after 7 hours of temple hopping, it was a great one to finish on.
And just for a little cuteness…
No matter where you go in Asia, if you’re at an ancient temple site, there will nearly always be dogs and monkeys.