On day two of my exploration I took on the main sights Angkor Wat and the ‘city’ of Angkor Thom .
Its literally covered in tourists, thousands of them, after seeing some of the quieter temples my first impressions of Angkor Wat were not good, I was in a massive car park negotiating my way towards large signs indicating ‘entrance’ whilst fending off offers of photocopied guidebooks for $2o and trying to avoid becoming recruited into one of the many large herds of tourists with matching hats and selfie sticks . However, as I walked across the moat and across the causeway, I got my first glimpse of the temple complex and I realised why it was so popular….. its huge and beautiful and there is so much to see.
To avoid the worst of the crowds arrive in the morning after the rush to see the sunrise and before the large coach parties arrive. By getting there at 8am, I arrived when most of the other guests were actually leaving.
You could easily spend a whole day wandering in the ‘City’ of Angkor Thom, it is a popular site, but it’s big enough to swallow up a lot of the crowds. It contains a number of important temples as well as lots of path ways and trails where you can find hidden doorways, statues and pools.
- The Bayon temple, with numerous faces carved into the towers.
- Terrace of the Elephants, a 300m long causeway decorated with carvings of elephants.
- Bauphon Temple, with the reclining Buddha moulded into the west wall.
- The Bathing ponds, a cool quiet place to sit for a while.
The Bayon is unique and you can’t really appreciate the architecture of the temple or its many carved faces without going inside. A very busy temple, it’s hard to avoid the crowds and its a tight squeeze, so you just have to go with the flow.
Other sights in Angkor Thom
Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda.
Outside Angkor Thom the Sister temples of Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda offer a bit of relief from the crowds. The Two small temples give a good idea of the standard temple layout on a scale small enough for your brain to assimilate. Thommanon is in better condition and has more detailed carvings remaining on the walls of the inner sanctuary.
The jungle temple, it is easy to see why this temple has been used as a film set, it has to be seen to be believed, which is why so many people are there ‘seeing it’. Inside the temple itself is crowded and at times it gets quite pushy, especially approaching the ‘ultimate selfie’ spots made famous by Hollywood movies…
Most visitors do a whistle stop tour of the inner enclosures, cameras at the ready, try entering from the East gate and walking the outside of the temple through the jungle. Despite the crowds it is a magical place with a unique atmosphere and plenty to see within the tumbledown ruins.
See also: Day 1 – Banteay Srei & The Grand Circuit
How I did it..
My base for exploring the Archaeological park was the Green Leaf Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, they helped me arrange my itinerary and organised a Tuk-Tuk driver for me. An amazing hotel run ‘not for profit’ to support local charities including a local orphanage.