Angkor Wat

Wow. I’ll let the pictures do the talking — but Angkor Wat was amazing. The park is just outside of Siem Reap and is a UNESCO world heritage site -comprised of a large region of numerous temples from the 12th century. Angkor Wat is the largest and most famous. Our group of 6 hired 2 tuk tuk drivers (who we thought was also a guide, whoops!) to take us around since there is a bit of distance between each one. While it is often recommended to spend 3 days at Angkor Wat, we divided the major sites between 2 days and definitely felt satisfied. I think if we had more time in Siem Reap it would be nice to take a day off and return for a third day, but the theme that keeps coming up is there is so much to do and not enough time!

Day 1:

Our first day we did the inner loop of the park, taking in some of the major temples. We didn’t arrive until about 8:30 am and it was already getting hot and crowded.

Having just arrived in Cambodia the night before, we weren’t sure what to expect, and within 5 minutes on the road to Angkor Wat, our tuk tuk driver was getting flagged down by a whistle-blowing police man standing in the street. Our driver looked slightly worried/annoyed when he was motioned over to a plastic table/chair setup where they were checking drivers license and collecting money. Fortunately it was a just minor problem, but he was fined for not having his motorcycle helmet fastened. A few minutes later, we were back on the road!

Along the drive at the entrance to the park. You can see a mix of the reconstructed faces as well as the some originals. For some reason, between the anticipation, the crowds, and riding along through the jungle-y forest in our tuk tuks we felt like it was part Jurrasic Park and part Disney world. Not a fair comparison, I know, but it crossed our minds!
Our first stop, Bayon. I call it the temple of the faces. It was by far the most crowded, but so ornate with the varying levels of design and so many faces!
Walking up to Baphuon, neighboring Bayon. We were imagining how full the ponds that framed the walkway might be during rainy season.
Backside of Baphuon
Looking back from up on Baphuon
Looking back from up on Baphuon. It was so peaceful to sit up in the temples, listening to the cicadas and birds chirping.
Part of our group, discussing the plan with our driver
At the top of one of my favorite spots, after climbing many steep (and big) steps you reached this small space which is still very well maintained and with delicious incense burning.
Ta Prohm — Our last stop by for the day as we were all hot, hungry and tired! This is the filming location of “Tomb Raider”
We loved the trees that have grown over some of the ruins.
So many spectacular window and door frames.
Back entrance to Ta Prohm

Day 2:

Our second day started with a 4:30 am wake up call, as we wanted to arrive at the park before dawn to catch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. It was kind of magical to bump along in the pitch black in our tuk tuk; when we got to the park entrance, there was a long line of others doing the same!

I realize there are very few instances where I have sat just watching and waiting for a sunrise, and something worth doing more often! It required more patience than I expected. We knew the time of sunrise, but still didn’t know exactly when the sun would crest over the building. One member of our group was suggesting that we wouldn’t see it because of the haze, but sure enough it just needed more time. The sun will rise! :)

Waiting outside the entrance
Hurrying to get inside the walls, once we saw the sun starting to rise behind the building we decided we’d rather be closer!
Inside the walls of Angkor Wat
Considering it looked like thousands of people arriving in the dark with their flashlights, it actually was not that crowded once inside.
After the sunrise, we went inside to explore
Some paint on the walls still remaining
Way way way back, Matt in the doorway
From up in the middle temple of Angkor Wat
Looking down from Angkor Wat towards the entrance
We found a few wild monkeys inside

Although we were tired from the early wake-up, exploring Angkor Wat was energizing and we decided to see a few more things. We did the “Grand Circuit” to see some of the other temples further away. It actually was nice to get started earlier in the day to avoid a some of the heat.

On the road between temples
Deads Gate, Angkor Thom
Entering Prah Khan — this one was huge in a horizontal rather than vertical way; comprised of 4 long walkways which met in the middle with a stupa
Resting on a vine
Walkway to our last stop for the day — Neak Pean
Neak Pean

It was so worthwhile take in the details and the magnitude, and the ruins and restoration. We spent a bit of time imagining what it would have been like to transport the stones and create these massive structures and carvingwithout modern day machines. It definitely would have been helpful to have a tour guide to get into more of the stories and history of each location, but still had a great time.

Matt took some great photospheres of Angkor Wat, check them out!
 (move your mouse while clicking on the photo to navigate)

We would have liked to spend more time in Cambodia - especially after talking with other travelers about their plans (I hear the beaches are incredible), but we hadn’t built it into our timeline and already had a flight booked to hop over to Vietnam. Perhaps we’ll be back someday!

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