Angkor Wat complex, which means ‘City of Temples’ is a UNESCO Heritage site that is considered the largest religious structures in the world covering over 400 acres of land. With over 50 temples to see, the site can get overwhelming really quick especially in the mid-day heat. Angkor Wat provides 1, 3 and 7 day tickets at $20, $40 & $60 respectively, so that you don’t feel the need to see it all in one day. I only bought the 1-day ticket, but winded up going for a second day. I had done my research and already knew which temples I wanted to see. My top three were Angkor Wat at sunrise, Bayon and Tomb Raider’s Ta Prohm. As I usually do, I picked up a pack of postcards to see what other temples would look cool to photograph and added Preah Khan and Ta Som to my list. There are 2 ways to see the temples. You can ride a bicycle or hire a tuk-tuk. I hired a private tuk-tuk for $20 for the day and they usually provide cold water for you during the day and will take you through the temples as a private guide. We went to a few more that weren’t on my list, but the 5 I choose to see winded up being my 5 favorite temples at Angkor Wat.
I was picked up bright and early by my driver at 4:40am to head to get my entrance ticket with swarms of other people. I couldn’t believe how many people were at the ticket office at 5:00am! Literally hundreds! I waited in line for 15 minutes to get my one-day pass then I was off with my driver to get a spot to watch the sunrise. We picked a place outside the temple as there were droves of people going inside to get a view my the inside lake. Unfortunately the day I went, there was no sunrise, just clouds in the sky (that’s what I get for going during monsoon season). I was still pretty pleased with what I got but after seeing other peoples pictures from better days, I wish I had forced myself up early for one more try. The temple itself is impressive and huge! There are monks that can be seen doing daily chores at Angkor Wat first thing in the morning. Well worth making the effort to get up early to see it.
Home of the smiling Buddha’s! Ok, so the first day I went it was one of the last temples I visited and I was tired from the heat. My guide gave me a tour of the bottom of the temple which has a story carved out in stone all the way around the temple. After an hour of seeing the carvings and hearing the story, I wasn’t keen on hiking to the top of the temple. We winded up going a second day where I was able to enjoy all the huge smiling Buddha’s up top! This is definitely a hot spot with the tourists so I would suggest doing this early as in, be there soon as gates open at 7:30am to see it before the crowds.
Home of Tomb Raider! Made famous by the movie, I was obsessed with the trees! They’re called Spung trees and they’re known for their roots which have grown over and around the temple. It felt like being in a fantasy film walking around there. I winded up going two separate days. The first day I got there a few hours after sunrise and it was jam-packed with people. I went a second day right at opening to beat the crowds. I also brought my GoPro for the second visit. The roots were so massive my 14-50mm lens couldn’t fit it all in, you definitely need to bring a wide-angle lens (12-24mm) for this temple to get it all in! Luckily my GoPro had a wide setting and am really pleased how all the pictures from the second day turned out!
This is a temple I saw on a postcard and decided to visit. Like Ta Prohm, it has Spung Trees that overtake the temple. To get to the trees you walk through a series of doors that get smaller and smaller as you walk through each and once out the other end is a huge tree overtaking the temple with it’s massive roots and other trees with branches hanging down like the trees you’d see Tarzan swinging on.
Ta Som, although not as impressive as Preah Khan and Ta Prohm also has a Spung Tree that covers a door opening where there is a Buddha face on the other side.
The temples aren’t the only main attraction. I loved each of the gates we went through that welcomed you into the temple complexes. Some were lined by demons and gods, others were just a huge gate with hidden smiling buddha’s. One’s of note were Victory Gate, North Gate, and South Gate.