1. November 2015. It was pitch black as we rumbled through the streets of Siem Reap in our hired tuk tuk. The time was a downright grisly 4:30 in the morning and we were a party of four: yours truly, my girlfriend Sophia, an old friend Chris visiting from London and Sophia’s sullen sister whose name I’ve forgotten. We were all more than a little groggy from lack of sleep but full of anticipation for our sunrise arrival at one of Planet Earth’s most stupendous temples. That tuk tuk ride was a long and bumpy one but finally we arrived at the entrance park and, with the sky already beginning to break, there was a collective wow moment as Angkor Wat came into view.
2. November 2015. I’d foolishly hoped that it might not be hellishly busy, what with the obnoxiously early time and all. But of course I was wrong… I mean come on, this is Angkor Wat! There were people everywhere and a large concentration of them had settled in at the edge of the moat directly in front of the entrance gates. This is the spot for photographs as the sun rises and the hulking shadow structure begins to bleed into its golden sandstone glow.
3. November 2015. Built in the 12thcentury by King Suryavarman II in tribute to the Hindu god Vishnu, Angkor Wat was later consecrated to Buddhism in the 14th century and became the centerpiece of the Khmer Empire. Described as the very “heart and soul of Cambodia”, today the temple stands as the world’s largest religious monument with extended grounds of over 500 acres.
4. November 2015. Inside there are stone courtyards, columns, alleyway, squares and crumbling balconies galore stuffed with religious images from Hinduism and Buddhism. If you want to make sense of some of the stories behind the imagery, a guide is reccomended as there isn’t much in the way of explanation. If you go down this route arrange a tour in advance from a reputable agency back in Siem Reap. DON’T accept an offer from any of the charlatans hanging around outside the temple itself.
5. November 2015. Angkor Wat roughly translates as ‘temple city” and indeed the sheer scale of the place was overwhelming. After a solid hour of wandering we eventually dropped down onto this giant balcony to take stock with views over a large grassy courtyard. An excited American dude offered to take this photo for us.
Angkor Wat is the chief attraction of Angkor Archeological Park, located roughly seven kilometers outside Siem Reap city centre. So 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. As a foreigner you’ll also need to set aside fifteen to twenty minutes for queuing up to get your Angkor Temples Permit. A one-day pass is $37, three days is $62, while a week’s permit is priced at $72. Our tuk tuk driver (who drove us from temple to temple and sat about smoking while we explored) was an additional $20, though my Khmer girlfriend negotiated this price so $25-30 might be a more realistic figure.
For more on this incredible area of Cambodia, check out more My 5s on The Temples of Angkor.
Or maybe delve further afield with my travel reports 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 My 5s from over 30 countries.