Angkor Wat, world famous to be the best, most beautiful, most interesting, most whatever temple of Angkor. I think there's a lot of exaggeration involved. Of course, Angkor Wat is a stunningly beautiful temple and it's really impressive to be there, climb the towers, explore the carvings, or marvel at the apsaras. But in my opinion, it's not the best of Angkor's temples. First of all, it's full of tourists. Second, it's really massive - this makes it impressive, but on the other hand it does not have these little hidden corners where you are surprised to discover yet another wall full of apsaras or carvings. Even if you find some, there'll be a hell lot of tourists.
Nonetheless, you shouldn't miss it. If you are into Hindu mythology, this temple is a must as its carvings depict some of the myths in detail. You should as well climb the central tower with its enormously steep stairs and look at the surroundings. Angkor Wat may be the most interesting to art history buffs, true, but there are several other temples that are more beautiful - and less crowded.
Angkor Wat has so much to offer. You can practically spend your entire day around the temple area. The pond to the left of Angkor is great for sunrise/sunset, Angkor looks diffrent throughout the day. (Click here to see what I mean.) Sunrise is kewl but I prefer sunset. You wouldn't want to miss it. Angkor is an interesting and a fun place to be in the rain too. See my General Tips for pictures and stories.
If you time your visit to the temples of Angkor well, you will first come upon the magnificent Angkor Wat at sunset. This is so for two reasons: first, the red hues of the sun add to the dramatic effect the already enthralling temple emanates and second, if you purchase your ticket to the ruins very late in the afternoon, they allow you to enter that day for free and start the pass the following day. Of course, the drawback is everyone else in that small universe is doing the exact same thing. That said, I was surprised that once you got into the compound itself, it was far less of a zoo than I had anticipated. Even at the reflective pool where everyone goes to get the classic Angkor Wat photo, there were no more than forty well-spaced people angling for their shots. That’s not too bad for a mid-12th century architecturally stunning masterpiece with five beehive-like towers of sixty-five meters standing sentry. Though the first view is perhaps the most awe-inspiring, it is only after closer inspection that the full impact of its many intricacies sets in. I would imagine an awful feeling of regret sets in for those that chose to buy a mere one day pass as it is readily apparent that you need a few hours to even scratch the surface of the investigation possible.
Normally, people always recommend that sunrise and sunset are muse-see activities by visiting Angkor Wat. By comparing with two, sunrise absolutely can't be missed. Rays of light raised behind of Angkor Watt make the whole temple covering with a spectacular and mysterious atmosphere.
However we are late for 30 mins so that we only catch the last thread of light. It is highly suggested you should arrive no later than 5am during the rainy reason in order to completely experience this astonishing moment.
If you are planning on visiting Angkor Wat while you are in Siem Reap, and face it, why else would you be here, be sure to come prepared. In order to visit the temples you will need to purchase a pass. There are three types of passes to Angkor Wat available: 1 day for $20 US, 3 consecutive days for $40 US or 7 consecutive days for $60 US. You will need to purchase this pass if you are planning to visit any of the temples. They are diligent about checking people’s passes at the major temples and will charge a fine if you are caught without a pass.
You will also need to provide a passport photo for the Angkor pass so make sure you bring one with you to avoid any troubles. The process is simple and takes very little time. The ticket booths are easily accessed on the main road into Angkor. Join the que, pay your fee, hand over your passport photo and your Angkor pass should be read in a matter of minutes. If you forget your passport photo they will take a Polaroid of you on site. Ticket booths are open from 5 am to 6 pm daily.
We visited in the off-season (as if there is an off season here!) so the lines in the morning were a breeze. If you are concerned about lines you can purchase tickets for the following day after 5 pm but the lines at 5 am weren’t bad at all. And if you hire your own driver for the day he will wait for you through the process.
Many people think this place consists of one monument, Angkor Wat, which is the most photographed and written about. The complex covers an area of almost 200 square kms, and many of the sites have disintegrated, and are not safe to explore, due to remaining mines and impenetrable jungle. There are more than 40 sites available for inspection today, divided into 10 groups of temples and buildings. The nearest to Siem Reap is roughly 6klms, and transport is essential for getting there and moving around within the complex - some sort of guide is also necessary, to ensure that an organised approach is taken, and you see the maximum amount in the time allowed, and get reasonable information about what you are seeing. Visiting the different groups in stages is also a bit of a historical journey, as there were a number of kings who ruled during the evolution of the Angkor empire - and subtle changes in the architecture and art along this time line, starting from the all-powerful "universal monarch" JayavarmanII.
If you are a speed reader, buy one of the cheap books available at the site, or, if you are a control freak who needs a firm itinerary, study up before you leave home.
Be assured, you want to see Angkor from the break of day to the sunset - as the sights and memories of these majestic structures changes with the sun and changing light, and you will never forget any of them.
Besides sunrise and sunset views, one of the must-do that most tourists like myself do is to jostle for a shot at the reflection of the three towers symmetry of Angkor Wat with the reflection in the pond.
You will not be alone, there will be a "million other tourists".
Take you time to try different angles. The light changes very quickly. Of course, you want a picture with yourself with the background as evidence you were there. So do not be shy to ask your tour guide or fellow tour group members to take as many until you get it perfect.
If you are travelling alone, there are many others too. So you can help another couple take their photos in return for yours.
Angkor Wat is built according to the Hindu cosmology borrowed from India sometime in the 3rd century AD. The concept as expressed in the unique Khmer manner involved concentric islands with the inner most island mount Meru being the center of the universe. As the procession of priests proceeded across one causeway after another leading eventually up the steps where the God King of the Khmer People resided. The outer moat is huge: some 570 feet wide by 4 miles long, in a huge square. Dug by hand, perhaps with the help of elephants, the removed laterite was dried to hardness and served to provide the base material for construction of temples. At the time we visited in 1997, Pol Pot was still alive, hiding out along the Cambodian border and using the thick rainforest as his defense. Few tourists visited at that time, but there was an upbeat mood as Cambodians worshiped at their temple. The main causeway, shown here was not yet restored.
The Central Tower Complex is larger than any of the Egyptian Pyramids at Giza, and obviously an enormous amount of earth and laterite stone was used to build it. There is a tower on each corner, and a central grand tower in a westward facing orientation. In addition to size, the complexity of the raised water pools, staircases, and extremely ornate stonework makes Angkor Wat at first glance a world wonder. There are actually, three galleries of the type shown in the previous tip, each raised above the other. Statue fragments and other art not looted during the Khmer Rouge period were also evident in our climb and hike through on our way to the top.
A warm welcome to my Angkor Wat Page. Before you plunge right in , let me ask you if you've read my Siem Reap page? Not yet, why you'd better click on this link and find out a bit more before you plunge right in. For starters, there is more than one temple over here. Yes, siree, more than the small (and sometimes fake ) selection that you saw on Tomb Raider. If you have read, good! Plunge right in and let me take you on an amazing journey.