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"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Sunrise Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

November 2015. It was pitch black as we rumbled through the streets of Siem Reap in our tuk tuk. The time was a downright grisly 4:30 in the morning, way too early for me and my three zombified companions. Nevertheless, we were full of anticipation. After all, we were about to arrive at one of Planet Earth’s most stupendous temples.

That tuk-tuk ride from the city centre was a bumpy one. Hence I was delighted when we finally arrived, the morning sky already beginning to break. Disembarking, and turning a corner on foot, there was a collective wow moment as Angkor Wat came into view.

Sunrise crowds at Angkor Wat Cambodia

Sunrise crowds at Angkor Wat.

Due to our obnoxiously early start, I had wondered if… just maybe… the place wasn’t going to be as crowded as I first thought. But of course I was wrong… after all this was Angkor Wat, where dealing with crazy crowds is simply part of the package.

The Sunrise Crowds.

Dawn at Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia

The sunrise crowds.

A large concentration of the masses had settled at the edge of the moat, directly in front of the entrance gates. This is the spot for photographs as the sun rises. It really is an amazing moment as the temple’s black, shadowy form begins to bleed into its signature golden glow.

Crow at sunset Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II in tribute to the Hindu god Vishnu. This was an unusual move at the time, because most temples of the era stood dedicated to Shiva, the destroyer of Evil. Gradually, in the decades that followed, it morphed into a Buddhist temple.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Visit Angkor Wat Cambodia.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

King Suryavarman became obsessed with expanding Angkor Wat, adding more and more residential wings, gardens and strategic military posts. Eventually, it became the centrepiece of the Khmer Empire! Described as the very “heart and soul of Cambodia”, today the temple stands as the world’s largest religious monument. If you’re wondering just how big that is, I’m talking 500 acres!

Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia

Some essential column posing.

Inside, there are stone courtyards, column arcades, dusty alleyways, vast open squares and crumbling balconies aplenty. Moreover, just about everything is stuffed with Buddhist and Hindu images. It is so beautiful and intricate in its design, especially when you read one historian’s theory that the original ground plan aimed to replicate the position of the stars in the Draco constellation.

Inside Angkor Wat Cambodia.

The Staircase to nowhere.

Parts of the complex remain wonderfully wild and unfinished. Some historians say construction was ongoing even at the time of King Suryavarman’s death, somewhere between 1145-1150.

Visit Angkor Wat Cambodia.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

The cause of the temple’s actual abandonment has a pleasing air of mystery about it. Generally, historians agree that the city of Angkor collapsed at some point in the 15th century. The culprit? A prolonged period of drought followed by devastating monsoon rains.

Inside Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia

A much-needed time out.

Angkor Wat roughly translates as temple city. Right enough, the sheer scale of the place was overwhelming. After a solid hour of wandering we eventually sought respite on this giant balcony, with views over a large grassy courtyard.

Stone carvings Angkor Wat Cambodia.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Tickets.

Angkor Wat is the chief attraction of Angkor Archeological Park, located roughly seven kilometres outside Siem Reap city centre. Thus you’re looking at about twenty minutes in a private car, forty minutes or so in a rickety old tuk-tuk like the one we took that day. If you want to see more Angkor temples (and you definitely do), hire a tuk tuk driver for the day from $30 upwards…

Angkor Archaeological Park Ticket Office Siem Reap.

Angkor Archaeological Park Ticket Office.

You can visit Angkor Wat with The Angkor Pass, purchased both online and in person at The Angkor Archaeological Park Ticket office. At the time of writing, foreign tourists have been virtually wiped out due to COVID-19. As a result, those lucky enough to be in Cambodia have an unprecedented opportunity to see the temple free from the usual crowds. If you can, don’t even hesitate!

Angkor Wat Cambodia.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Planning to visit? You might want to check out the excellent visitangkor.org.

For more on this incredible region of Cambodia, check out my other travel reports on The Temples of Angkor.

You can also check out my exhaustive guide to the sights, cafes, restaurants and hotels of Siem Reap.

Or maybe delve further afield with my articles from across Cambodia.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.

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8 Comments

  • chalkandcheesetravels

    Great experience I’d say its certainly impressive to see always somewhere I have wanted to see and definitely on the bucket list.

    July 7, 2020 - 12:30 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks, appreciate that. Lots more equally impressive temples to come throughout the rest of the month starting from today. Stay safe and healthy!

      July 7, 2020 - 12:34 pm Reply
  • Adam's Apple: The World

    I’ve always wanted to visit Angkor wat!

    August 5, 2020 - 12:53 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Now would be the time, with around 90% less visitors. However, navigating Cambodia’s entry restrictions at this time would be tricky. Here’s hoping the situation becomes relaxed by the end of the year. Thanks for reading!

      August 5, 2020 - 12:55 pm Reply
      • Adam's Apple: The World

        I am going back to Asia for a couple of weeks next May, so we’ll see what I can fit in the schedule.

        August 5, 2020 - 12:59 pm
      • Leighton

        Hope you get to do it. The Angkor Temples are amazing, but I think the isolated Koh Ker to the north of Siem Reap eclipses them in terms of atmosphere and authenticity. You can catch some of my articles from Koh Ker via my homepage. Stay healthy and safe!

        August 5, 2020 - 1:01 pm
      • Adam's Apple: The World

        Awesome, will do!

        August 5, 2020 - 1:03 pm

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