The actual Angkor Wat temple complex itself (which is only one of many in the park,) is amazing.
Built early - mid 12th century C.E. by Srryavarman 11 as a Hindu temple.
This temple complex is breathtaking with it's three tiered pyramid, topped with 5 towers.
The Cambodian kids are shy. I see they want to give some kind of greeting but just we are in different languages. I took some photos of the children which always show the nature of childhood, just to share with VT members.
What can be said of Angkor that hasn't been already said. This was my 2nd trip and yes, I did notice changes, and not all for the better. There seems to far more selling inside the Temples than my previous visit when the Temples were treated as Temples. Also the toilet facilities inside Angkor Wat Temple complex, which is the main centre for visitors are nothing short of a disgrace. Having said this most of the other Temples visited have up to date, clean and tidy facilities. Despite the vast number of visitors to the main Temple there are still peaceful areas to be found around the back of the main Temple buildings where one can sit, think and take in the awe inspiring sites that are Angkor Wat.
Visited July 2012
We started our tour with Angkor Wat. This is just one of the many Angkor temples in Siem Reap. It took us more than one hour to see everything here. The tour guide vividly explained everything we need to know about this place. According to him, this place was built in 12th century. It was built around a moat, which is a large man-made lake which represents the ocean and is connected by a cosway from the dirt road going to the entrance. This Angkor Wat resembles Mount Meru which is believed to be the center of the universe or the home of the gods under Hindu literature. For the best view of this temple, be there during sunset.
We decided to extend our trip to Angkor Wat, Cambodia - also thought of celebrating my wife's birthday at Siem Reap after having a great trip in Vietnam. Sunny had a suggested itinerary to ensure we had the best of Siem Reap and Angkor Wat in our 4-day trip.
The 3 day itinerary was well planned. Our tour guide - Bourney and driver came on time. We had a relaxed but well covered itinerary. My wife is an avid photographer and Bourney was able to recommend good spots for photo shots. Also Bourney was very accommodating to make unplanned stops along the way to allow my wife to capture interesting sights along the way. The weather was extremely hot - there was always cold water and cold towers awaiting us when we got to the car.
Bourney speaks English very well and rich knowledgeable - also, he was able share insights on the current lives and issues faced by the people.
We were glad to have him as our tour guide, first timer to Siem Reap and without any planning before - he has done a great job introducing us to the jewels of Siem Reap and the history and culture of this country.
We just got back from our trip to Angkor Wat. Yes there is still a large green vapor and dust barrier sheeting in the same exact spot as seen in the 2010 comment. Though it was an eye sore, it is understandably the same sheeting that is used world wide for any type of restoration. So I don't see it changing anytime soon.
The cost to see the temples were $40(USD)/person for a three day pass. This includes seeing all the following temples in Angkor Wat along with Bantey Srei and the Rolus Group.
We would suggest using two day of the pass to see the small circuit and the grand circuit. Then the last day on Bantey Srei and Rolus Group.
FYI Women: You must wear shirts with sleeves and pants still to climb to the top of Angkor Wat.
My comment would be more about timing. We were there in late feb. The heat is astonding but we had a kind tuk tuk driver and he had no problems with taking us home to swim, shower and eat. He also provided water and coconuts from his own trees at home to help with the heat.
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We took a two to three hour break mid day and still had lots of time to see the temples. Though we did pay extra to start before sunrise and leave at sunset.
If you are hoping for the sun to rise hitting the temple called Angkor Wat in late february you will be disappointed. The smog and humidity don't allow for sunlight to break through till much later in the day. As some would say it was "anticlimatic" I would suggest going in dec or early january for the sunrise on Angkor Wat.
Though the sunset at this time of the year was amazing.
Our next trip will be much earlier just to see the sunrise on Angkor Wat and the Neak Pean oasis of reflection.
We would also like to go earlier cause I would like to explore the temples by bike. In late february it is way to hot. we were not the only one to think this, out of thousands of visitors there were about a total of 20 different bikers that I saw and 15 of them where with the laughing gekko tour.
Side note: biking in Cambodia is extremely safe and the drivers are extremely respectful of bikers.
We were lucky enough to be in Cambodia during the full moon and ended our three day pass at The Rolus Group at Bakong Temple for the full moon. There the monks started celebrating the full moon after the sunset. Which is just as beautiful as the sunset on Pre Rup but much less busy. This temple is extremely underrated. The walk way up to the temple was lined with beautiful flowered trees and the uptake of the temple was more spectacular due to the garden like entrance. The Rolus group also has the school for sandstone carvers. Though they are similar in what they produce at least they aren't machine replicates made in China and goes directly into supporting the students at the school.
Angkor Wat has 2000 dancing heavenly angels -apsaras- carved on almost every surface. A lot are generic, but many look like they are depictions of real women, giggling, grinning, looking down shyly, their characters leaping out from 800 years ago. All the guide books tell you that only one of all of these apsaras is showing her teeth in a smile. This has also been repeated in reviews here but is not true!
To prove it here's a picture of at least one other that I found on a visit two weeks ago, together with the supposedly unique one in all the books. Have a look when you visit and see if you can spot her too!
Angkor Wat was as easily as impressive as everyone says! Unfortunately the front cruciform terrace and other areas are being restored and whoever is in charge of restoration has allowed the workers to hang bright green plastic sheeting all over this world heritage temple! SO it's impossible when you visit to take your own nice photos of the exterior! Brown, tan or even black sheeting would be almost invisible but aesthetic considerations were obviously the last thing on the restorers minds! This thoughtlessness is such a pity! My tip: use that sepia setting on your camera or photo software that you've never seen the need for. Ugly green plastic disappears!
I suppose it's not technically correct to call this apsara dancing, since historically apsara was just one of the characters of a Khmer classical dance. But by now this is the name every visitor to Angkor Wat knows the dance by, so I suppose I may be forgiven for this :)
Dancing, in Angkor Wat?
Wasn't it a temple? It was, and still is, to all intents and purposes. However, in the upper levels of the temple one can regularly see young girls, dressed in traditional costumes, either rehearsing or performing for tourists. The photo is of one such girl - as I was told by the driver later, the fact that she was wearing a crown with a spire was a sign that the particular girl was playing a royal character in the dance drama
Was it just for tourists?
Well, no... During the heyday of the Khmer kingdom, dancing was quite common at the funerals, temples, the royal court, as well as most other locations. The temple dancers in particular came to be considered as apsaras, who served as entertainers and messengers to divinities - most of that tradition was, however, lost to Ayutthaya when the kingdom plundered Angkor in the Middle Ages.
What is the dance like?
Not being an expert, I could not understand the plot, but the dance looked very structured, with no accompanying singing or recital - it's very much like a ballet in that respect.
Angkor Wat is still used as a functioning Hindu temple and so you'll find a few Hindu images, particularly in the cruciform cloister which lies after entering through the gateway into the inner enclosure.