Angkor Wat and its surroundings are a unique experience. You can sense the beauty of the Khmer kingdom, that used to have its capitals here in these areas near Siem Reap (the biggest city near Angkor Wat today). You will have wounded fingers, because you can't stop making photos to cope with all the historical beauty presented to you here.
Angkor Wat just before sunrise
Most of the temples and buildings were constructed in the 12th century. They first were Buddhist, then Hindu and finally again Buddhist temples.
Angkor Wat: The best preserved temple of the area surrounded by a still intact moat south of Angkor Thom.
Angkor Thom: Quadratic city that used to be surrounded by a wall and a moat (both can still partly be seen) containing many temples, palaces and buildings.
Bayon: Main temple in the centre of Angkor Thom.
Ta Prohm: Temple east of Angkor Thom famous for its walls with trees grown into them.
West Baray: Huge artificial rectangular lake. It's unclear if it was a water reservoir to enable several rice harvests per year or just for religious purposes. On most tours it is not included, because it is a bit further away from temples and perhaps also, because the sight is not so spectacular.
Many many other temples, palaces and buildings are to be seen in the area.
If you want to know everything about these places buy a 200 page book in Siem Reap.
Time to use
If you don't have three days at least – don't go there. One day is just not enough to see the minimum of sights you should see and with two days it can still be a rush. For a thorough understanding I recommend one week.
How to experience it
If you're there three days book a one or two day tour taking you to the most important sights.
- Experience the sunrise at Angkor Wat (e.g. on day two before breakfast,
you will have to get up at 4:30 am.) and enjoy the special light and
atmosphere of an early morning.
- See the Ta Prohm temple with trees grown into the temple walls.
How to get there
You can either take a plane from Bangkok to Siem Reap or if you are more adventurous take an overland bus or from Bangkok. If you take the bus, you get a much better feeling for this county and its people. So you will notice that the area from the airport to Siem Reap and on to Angkor wat is “made up” for the tourists, whereas the rest further west from the Thai border looks more authentic.
The right front side of Angkor Wat. The bullet holes are from fights of the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese in 1978/79.
Inner court of Angkor Wat
The Khmer empire has disappeared centuries ago. Buddhism is still alive and practised inside Angkor Wat.
Ta Prohm temple
Bayon temple in Angkor Thom
Temple in Angkor Thom
Bayon temple in Angkor Thom
After a hard day of visiting the temples you can enjoy a Siem Reap night show of traditional Khmer dance.
If you choose to travel from Siem Reap to Phom Penh by bus you will stop here. The bucket on the left contains fried tarantula, a speciality that only exists in that area in Cambodia. I did not dare to try. Would you?
This stop is also famous for local girls and boys scaring tourists with live tarantulas and snakes. So watch out there behind your back! :-)
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