Angkor Wat in the morning

After being on the road for almost 14 hours the day before, traveling to Siem Reap in Cambodia from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, flying from Manila two nights ago, we finally found ourselves standing in front of the main temple of Angkor by sunrise. I was happy and grateful just being there, looking at the silhouette of those five towers while the sky came alive in gorgeous shades of red, orange and pink.

slouching somewhere

slouching somewhere

With hundreds of other sunrise-over-Angkor ‘devotees’

For years, I’ve wanted to see Angkor Wat. Sure, it’s become one of the most touristy places on earth and watching the sunrise is one of the most touristy things you can do when you visit Angkor (another is the sunset at Phnom Bakheng, more on that in another post), and you’ll be among hundreds of others who made the trip, most of whom will likely be blocking your “perfect sunrise over Angkor shot”, but that doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t take away the fact that you’re right in front of something beautiful that has withstood centuries, including the decline of an ancient empire and genocide. I could only imagine how many sunrises this 12th-century temple has seen.

After the sun rises, most of the people right in front us disappear to have breakfast and we took the advice from this travel blogging couple: that the best time to explore the grounds of Angkor Wat in relative solitude was right about that time. We had water, crackers and nuts in case we got hungry, so explore we did.Β  You won’t find yourself alone in the temple, but there weren’t hundreds of people in there as well.

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Called a “library”, this freestanding building (placed in pairs on either side of the entrance) is a common feature of Khmer temple architecture… it’s also a favorite vantage point of many to watch the sunrise.

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From inside the temple–a look at the outer area. The other library is the structure in the middle.

Even before entering, you’ll see that there are areas closed off for restoration. Trips to the other temples later on would reveal that Angkor Wat is the best preserved temple within the Angkor Archaeological Park, primarily because it was never abandoned and it has remained to be a religious center. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple then served as a Buddhist temple when Buddhism became Cambodia’s dominant religion back in the 14th century.

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We begin our exploration in the Bas Relief Galleries that cover the exterior wall of the first level. The fine carvings highlight scenes from Hindu mythology. (If you think that’s still a lot of people, you can take your time and most will move on pretty quickly)

slouching somewhere

slouching somewhere

slouching somewhere

Some of the statues inside the temple have been defaced or beheaded, a result of looting in the past

slouching somewhere

slouching somewhere

slouching somewhere

A pathway at the side of the temple when you head out

slouching somewhere

The structures to the left of the temple is where you can find souvenir shops, food stalls, toilets and a lot of people trying to get your attention to buy something.

slouching somewhere

After almost two hours of going around Angkor Wat, we decided to head out to have the complimentary breakfast back in our inn before venturing to the other nearby temples for the day: the vast Angkor Thom, Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, Thommanon and Chau Say Thevoda. I didn’t get the perfect sunrise-over-Angkor or even the requisite Angkor-reflected-on-the-pool photos, but being there was perfect enough. πŸ™‚

Getting there:
* Before you see any of the temples, you have to get a ticket (day pass 20 USD, 3 days 40 USD, one week 60 USD) at the ticket booth, which is open from 5 am (right in time for sunrise) to 5:30 pm. Tickets purchased after 5 pm are still valid for the next day.
* To go to the different temples, you can hire a tuk-tuk for around 15 USD (for the small tour circuit, which can include Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and a few other smaller temples nearby) to 20 USD (for the grand tour circuit, which can include Banteay Srey, a temple 37 km away from Siem Reap). Just be sure to agree on the rate before you start the tour. Almost all hotels and guesthouses (preferably where you’re staying) can recommend a reliable tuk-tuk for you. You can also go around the Angkor Archaeological Park on a bike. Most guesthouses have bikes for rent for around 2 USD.


20 thoughts on “Angkor Wat in the morning

  1. These pictures are great! You’ve caught the details, grandeur and beauty of the place – and the large crowd πŸ˜‰

    It’s great that something so old looks to be in such great condition. I like the way the light changes from the initial sunrise picture and the bas-reliefs look like the type of thing you can pore over for hours trying to get all of the details.

    • Thanks Genki Jason! It’s hard not to capture the mass of people. They get into almost every shot πŸ˜‰

      Angkor Wat is really beautiful, especially because it’s so old but still RELATIVELY in good condition (compared to the other temples)… looking at the intricate details makes you think of all the work that was put into it centuries ago and all the history within the walls of the temple. Oh and it also made me think of the last scene of In the mood for Love. Oh, Tony Leung. πŸ™‚
      I wanted to include a link of the scene in this post but forgot.

      • It’s one of my favorite WKW movies πŸ™‚

        The bas reliefs in the galleries were extensive as they depicted epic tales and series of historical events related to the Khmer empire. Didn’t find them strange…what I did find odd were rocks balanced on top of one another to form little towers of stone on the grassy areas of the temple. I never found out if they served a purpose or who’s behind them. Monks trying to concentrate?

    • Hi Jay! I hope you do get to go someday πŸ™‚ It’s crawling with tourists but there’s a reason for it.
      Btw, I look forward to more vegetarian resto posts… Cafe Vegis sounds interesting and it’s just in QC!

  2. Are you talking about rock totems? I love making them.
    I enjoy making rock totems.
    Also did one on my way down from the summit of Mt Kinabalu, and my Malaysian guide looked at me strangely. He probably wanted to say, Lady, it’s freezing and you want to stack stones???

  3. Pingback: Where to next? « slouching somewhere

  4. thanks for the info. My husband and I are finally go there this week and I am soaking up as much info as I can. Your blog is the best.

  5. I finally got around to doing Siem Reap and Angkor. Was there for almost a week. Amazing, amazing time! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Took note of a lot of your suggestions, even had cooking lessons at Le Tigre de Papier. πŸ™‚

    Flew to Danang, too. Absolutely stunning! Where we stayed was postcard perfect. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    Keep writing about your travels; I always read even if I don’t always comment!

    • Hi Mariella! Thanks for reading πŸ™‚
      Happy that you finally got to see Angkor and Siem Reap. It’s such a lovely place isn’t it πŸ™‚ How did you find the Le Tigre de Papier cooking lesson?
      I’m curious about Danang, I heard they have beautiful beaches.

  6. A truly outstanding time!! We were there a good while and kept a leisurely pace which suited us perfectly. Siem Reap is such a good mix of the exotic and the familiar, don’t you think? We also had a Khmer sampling dinner. That was lovely.

    The cooking lesson was fun! You choose pretty much whatever you may fancy from the menu; go to the market to buy what you need, and spend the next few hours learning from the assigned chef. I was able to muster a more than passable fish amok from scratch. πŸ˜‰

    I love Danang. We stayed somewhere in the Son Tra peninsula (unfortunately, we were unable to visit the China Beach/Da Nang strip), and it was just pretty from all angles! Such surprisingly pristine waters, too. I’m as big a fan of Philippine beaches (better sand) as anyone, but we sure can take a cue from the Vietnamese on keeping them clean. We asked to be taught to row those round basket boats (thuyen thung)… And failed dismally. πŸ˜‰ Haha.

    Where are you off to, next? πŸ™‚

    • “A good mix of the exotic and the familiar”–you hit the nail on the head! πŸ™‚ Totally loved the atmosphere in Siem Reap even though our pace was not so leisurely back then. I don’t mind going back there to try and make my own fish amok and see more sunrises and sunsets over Angkor.

      Your experience of Danang makes me want to go there–not just for the beaches but for a chance to learn how to row those round basket boats! Lucky you! I’ll also probably fail at it but I’ve always been curious about it. But Danang has to wait… I’ll be going to Hong Kong next… I have never gone there before and I’ve always been curious about how big the city is and the energy it has. It won’t be till early next yr though (when it’s nice and cool) so I have many months to plan it, especially taking notes on the places to eat (Tim Ho Wan, Butao Ramen, Ippudo, Sang Kee Congee Shop…hmm, I’m getting hungry). Have you been? Any recommendations? πŸ™‚

  7. Our instructor was frantically bailing in no time at all, haha! And we were no more than 30 meters from shore. Yikes. πŸ™‚

    January in HK (with the wind chill factor) would be c-c-c-oooollllldddd! Bring some gloves; that would make the mandatory (and they are mandatory) nighttime strolls manageable. πŸ˜‰ HK is pretty in the evenings all lit up and sparkly.

    I must admit I did not research HK much; but found the good ole’ rule of eating where the locals throng worked! Oddly, this meant that were unceremoniously ushered out the second we put our chopsticks down so that the next patrons could be served. I thought it rude in the extreme, but it happened lot. πŸ˜‰

    I do remember that we had a reasonably-priced dinner at Macau Restaurant somewhere in Nathan Road; the fried rice was excellent, possibly the best I have had ever. Are you staying Kowloon-side? If you could, go for a seaview room. I always pay through the nose to have a view of the water when off anywhere; but didn’t in HK and realized that the adjoining building’s concrete wall is no fun to stare at while having your morning coffee. πŸ˜•

    • Thanks for the tips on HK travel–gloves, nighttime strolls, Kowloon accommodations (no concrete walls as view, fingers crossed)… and I will particularly try not to take it personally when we get ushered out of eateries. πŸ˜‰

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