One of over 100 stone temples in total, Angkor Wat is the #1 reason that people visit Cambodia, and after exploring many of the architectural masterpieces it’s easy to understand why.
Angkor used to be a huge city with many other buildings and houses, but because everything else was made of wood, only the stone temples remain. It’s mind-blowing regardless.
We arrived at Angkor Wat the first day at 5pm for sunset, because if you buy a ticket after 5pm it actually counts for that evening plus the following day, maximizing the value for your money. Since we had some time before sunset, we explored the inside of the temple first, amazed at its size and splendor. After all, it is the largest religious monument in the world…
We made it out to the lake just in time to watch the sunset. Though the sun was actually behind us, the serene setting (and lack of tourists) made it an incredible experience.
The only thing we could’ve done without was the kids trying to sell us postcards afterwards, but I guess you can’t really avoid that when a location gets as touristy at Angkor Wat.
Either way, it beat the crowd that appeared for sunrise the next morning…
Luckily, we were some of the first to arrive and were able to snag a prime spot on the left side in the front. It was a bit cloudy, so we didn’t actually see the sun come up, but the rainbow colors behind a silhouetted temple was a beautiful sight.
We later headed over to the right side just in time to see the sun peak out.
Then, while everyone else set off to explore Angkor Wat, we were able to move on since we’d already seen it the day before. This allowed us to be the first at all the next temples, and we were luckily able to get through them before the mobs of tourists started swarming in.
While not as large as Angkor Wat, the Bayon temple was impressive because of all the faces carved into the ancient ruins.
And when you look closely, you’ll notice the amount of work that went in to building such a masterpiece… not just in building the temple itself, but even putting perfectly detailed bas-reliefs into each stone.
On the way to the next temple, we enjoyed the scenery from the back of our tuk-tuk.
Our driver explained that many of the statues were headless because they couldn’t withstand time, but that our admission fees helped to preserve the ruins that were still intact.
Next we arrived at Ta Prohm, which is most people’s favorite since they recognize it from the films Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom. Ta Prohm is cool because it’s the one temple that hasn’t been preserved or altered, and it’s a great example of what nature can do when people don’t intervene. Large roots and trees strangle the stones, and it really makes for a pretty surreal place to explore.
After exploring temples until around midday, we’d seen everything on our list and decided to head back to our hostel. When our tuk-tuk driver wasn’t waiting at the exit, we walked around to find him… Sure enough, we spotted him asleep in his hammock! We’d always wondered what they did in their spare time!
Overall, it was clear why the temples of Angkor are so touristy… they really are spectacular architectural achievements that are a great reason to visit Cambodia. Of course, if you get bored of temple-hopping, you can always go play with the monkeys…
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida ✌