P.S. I will be away for a week on a holiday to a beautiful place – follow me on Instagram (@foodiebaker) to see where I’m going!
Sunrise at Angkor Wat
The day before, we told our tuk-tuk driver that we want to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat (which is a must!), so he gave us a timing that he will fetch us from our hotel, I think it was around 5 a.m.
After entering the Angkor Archaeological Park – purchasing the ticket the day before / multi-day ticket is the best because I don’t have to panic in line to get my photo ID taken – our tuk-tuk driver dropped us near Angkor Wat. We switched on our torch lights (i.e. mobile phones) and walked down the 200-metre long and 12-metre wide sandstone-paved causeway, past the West Gate to see 2 lily ponds right in front of Angkor Wat.
The pond on the left gives a better spot for photo-taking and by the time we reached the spot, the place was already swarmed with tourists, all armed with their handphones / digital cameras / DSLRs, getting ready to snap the moment the sky lit up. If we had known that it will be this crowded, perhaps we would have sacrificed 30 minutes of our sleep to reach here earlier.
The locals, not missing any opportunity to earn some quick bucks, have set up mobile coffee stores, selling coffee and some light snacks thought we gave them a miss.
The sunrise was nothing short of beautiful, but it was, to be honest, quite hard to enjoy it fully when you kept having people jostling you from all sides (some even without any apology!) so that they can snap a picture.
The sun rose quickly, and instead of grabbing a bite after the sunrise like most tourists do, we head in immediately towards Angkor Wat while the crowd was still thin. We bought some biscuits the day before so that we can eat them if our stomachs decide to grumble of hunger.
Angkor Wat, forming a rectangle of about 1,500 by 1,300 metres, covers an area, including its 190-metre wide moats – of nearly 200 hectares… it is the largest monument of the Angkor group.
This orientation to the west, in contrast to the other Angkor monuments which face the rising sun, initially gave cause for much confusion – some seeing a simple topographic necessity where others saw ritual organisation.
— The Angkor Guide, Page 57
The bas-reliefs in Angkor Wat are intricate and well-preserved. This is the only time I regret not getting a real tour guide who can explain to me what is the story behind all these bas-reliefs.
Angkor Wat… is also the most impressive in the character of its grand architectural composition… By means of its perfectly ordered and balanced plan, by the harmony of its proportions and the purity of its lines… and by the very particular care taken in its construction, it merits being placed at the apogee of an art that can occasionally surprise in its complexity and poor craftsmanship.
— The Angkor Guide, Page 59
Headless Buddha statues are very common, not only in Cambodia, but also in Thailand, due to heavy looting in the past.
There was significantly fewer people here early in the morning, definitely worth skipping breakfast for (or eating breakfast on the go). We then left Angkor Wat and head for Angkor Thom.
The Bayon best presents itself in the morning, when the sunlight is the most favourable. One should not fail, however, to return by the light of the moon, when the lines and shadows become softened and the stone and its verdant background composed in a perfect unity of hue and tone – when the faces, mellow and subdued, take on an emotive expression from which radiates a sort of lyrical charm – where each becomes exaggerated in over-scale, doubled in profile and infinitely multiplied.
— The Angkor Park, Page 85
It’s a pity, however, that the temple is closed after 6 p.m. hence we will never get to find out the beauty of Bayon in moonlight.
The confusion in the plan of the Bayon and the intricacy of its buildings results no doubt from the successive alterations to which the monument was subjected, that are evident just about everywhere. These changes could well have been made either during the course of construction or at other times…
— The Angkor Guide, Page 87
The upper terrace is what attracts tourists the most – the famous “face towers”. It is estimated that there are 200 Lokesvara faces sculpted into the towers.
On the upper terrace, mystery reigns. Wherever one wanders, the faces of Lokesvara follow and dominate with their multiple presence, always countered by the overwhelming mass of the central core.
— The Angkor Guide, Page 89
Baphuon is built in the mid-11th century during the reign of Udayadityavarman II, dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.
…a standstone causeway – about 200 metres long – formed as a sort of bridge with long paving stones laid on three lines of short columns, followed by a 5.5 metre wide dike, formed as an embankment between two lateral walls.
— The Angkor Guide, Page 118
The view from on top of Baphuon is phenomenal – it’s just that it’s a bit tiring to climb up those steep steps again after those in Angkor Wat, so I took a break and enjoyed the ever so slight breeze.
This cruciform terrace, of about 30 metres in length and 8.5 metres in width on its upper level, is in a remarkable state of preservation, constituting one of the finest specimens of this kind of work from the classic period…
— The Angkor Guide, Page 109
We broke for lunch after our visit to Preah Palilay. Our tuk tuk driver – knowing that we did not want anything to do with restaurants after yesterday’s experience – exited via the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom and drove slightly further down until we are at Chau Say Thevada. Opposite Chau Say Thevada, locals have set up stalls selling food and drinks, where we had our lunch and a refreshing coconut drink.
During our visit in the Park, we noticed that there are quite a lot of child vendors – selling key chains, small gifts, travel guides and postcards to tourists. Most of them can converse in simple English, and some of them know Mandarin and other foreign languages as well. They were adorable and can be extremely persuasive – we almost succumb but in the end stood firm and did not purchase anything. Some will say that they are simply helping to supplement their family income, and that we should help if we can, but I felt we shouldn’t be encouraging this behaviour. It was such a huge dilemma – to buy or not to buy, that is seriously the question. What would you have done?
Chau Say Tevoda
After lunch, we head to Chau Say Tevoda, a 12th century Hindu temple opposite where we had lunch. It was pretty small and there was not much to see / explore, after being awed by what we had seen earlier at Angkor Wat and Bayon. I was glad we visited the smaller temples on the first day – if we had visited these popular and bigger temples right from the start, those smaller temples may not interest us as much.
Ta Prohm is perhaps by far, my favourite temple in the Park. It was built in the late 12th century and completed in the early 13th century. The whole place is like a piece of art – Man vs. Nature.
…[trees] are like lonely persons… like great, solitary men… In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves.
— Hermann Hesse
Our work here was first limited to clearing in order to gain access, and then to preventing further ruin by seeking to reconcile the creepers and the roots with the survival of the structure and the architecture. In return, we ask the visitor to submit to the charm of Ta Prohm, to give it longer than just a few minutes and to thrill to it as the mood dictates.
— The Angkor Guide, Page 141
Do you find it eerie or beautiful?
This temple is especially crowded with tourists. Be patient if you want to take photos with the giants!
Angkor Wat… again!
We headed back to Angkor Wat again after our visit to Ta Prohm. It was already late afternoon, so the lighting condition was a lot more favourable to photograph Angkor Wat (as the front of Angkor Wat faces the West). It was a totally different feel to the slightly mysterious Angkor Wat in the morning.
Whatever one may think, Angkor Wat merits a number of visits… monuments… and bas-rliefs. If these can be seen in the morning, when the light is clear, then the rest should best be seen at the end of the day as the towers become increasingly golden with the sun sinking to the horizon.
— The Angkor Guide, Page 72
And that’s the end of our 2-day visit to Angkor Wat! Here are some information / tips and our itinerary for your reference (:
If I did not remember wrongly, we paid USD 50 to our tuk tuk driver after the end of our visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park.
Appropriate attire is needed to visit the temples – long pants (covering the knees) and shirts that covered the shoulders. I wore pants and a tank top, bringing my a thin scarf (I would have opted for a cardigan but I didn’t have one) to cover the shoulders when needed. There are guards at the temples who will remind you if you fail to meet the attire requirements.
I highly recommend wearing sports shoes or proper sandals as it can get pretty tiring, climbing up and down these temples – those steep steps are no joke!
Things to Bring
- Torchlight (sunrise) – the path to the sunrise spot is not lit, so you can bring a torch, use your handphone or follow those who brought one.
- Tripod (sunrise) – a tripod will help to stabilise the camera so you can get sharp and clear shots throughout the whole sunrise!
- Sunblock and insect repellent – you won’t want to return home burnt and bitten, do you?
- Water, and more water – under the unforgiving hot weather, keeping one well-hydrated is extremely important. It’s more expensive to buy water within the Park, so buy them outside and bring it in.
Rest of the trip / Itinerary
To maximise the 3-day Angkor Pass, our tuk-tuk driver did suggest a visit to Banteay Srey, which he will have to cut through Angkor Archaeological Park to reach there (hence requires the Angkor Pass) and is 37-km away from Siem Reap. It will be expensive (I remembered USD 50 for the trip to-and-fro) and we were kind of worn out from seeing all the temples / ruins / structures (they are starting to look very, very similar to me), so we rejected the idea.
As luck would have it, I was unfortunately down with food poisoning after day 5’s dinner (after our visit to Angkor Wat, caused most probably by the fast food at a popular fast food chain) and was practically immobilised for the whole of day 6. We explored the Siem Reap city a little at night and on day 7 but there was nothing much to see/do, hence marking the end of our Cambodia trip!
To see our itinerary for the whole trip and our budget, click here!