- Nature, Adventure & Sport
- Place or Religious Monument
- Archaeological Site
- Place or Historical Monument
- Unesco World Heritage
Its reputation as the most beautiful temple of all is well deserved: I experienced a truly magical feeling when I entered inside it.
Angkor Wat is the largest temple of the ancient city of Angkor, which for several centuries was the capital of the Khmer Empire. When I visited, I took the time to examine and admire every one of the bas-reliefs and sculptures that decorate the temple, even if it did mean spending four or five hours there! I chose to tour Angkor Wat with a guide, as there is a wealth of historical facts to learn about the place. You can tour Angkor on your own if you like, though I personally enjoyed having a guide with me on one of the three days I spent here. It enabled me to gain a better understanding of this highly symbolic place!
Something else you should know is that even if there are few rules in operation at the site itself, it really is preferable to wear modest clothing when visiting: no shorts or sleeveless tops. Because even though the Buddhists won't actually say anything to you, it could still create an uncomfortable situation.
In addition to the temples, it's nice to find out that Angkor is still inhabited today, and after visiting the main temple you can go for a walk through the villages and meet the local people. This is why I personally chose to visit the site by bicycle: it's a very practical way to see Angkor, even if it does mean your legs will be aching a bit by the end of the day, such is the size and extent of this complex!
Unsurprisingly, I really adored Angkor's most famous and most visited temples, namely Angkor Wat, the Bayon and Ta Prohm. However, I also took the time to head off the beaten track and visit the less well-known temples, which are equally if not even more beautiful.
I really enjoyed the temple at Koh Ker for example, which is constructed in the form of a pyramid: something that has provoked much debate, due to the fact it bears a resemblance to both Mayan temples and Egyptian pyramids. This is one of the things I like most about the Angkor complex: that mystical, unexplained aspect of the buildings. The temple of Beng Mealea is also worth a trip to see in my opinion.
In fact, after spending several days visiting these sites, I'm now of the opinion that it is indeed preferable to visit the outlying temples first, e.g. Banteay Srea, Koh Ker, Beng Mealea and Banteay Samré, then finish off at the very emblem of Cambodia itself: the temple of Angkor Wat.
I was fascinated by the magnitude of Angkor Wat, the biggest of Angkor's temples, and by the beauty of its bas reliefs, especially those which represent the celestial dancers known as apsara. You will need at least 3 hours to visit it. I am sorry I didn't use a guide so that I could have more detailed explanations during my visit.
Angkor Wat, is also THE place to see the sun rise. If you want to see it, you need to prepare yourself to be surrounded by thousands of visitors who have had the same idea! Even though I arrived in place a good hour before sun rise there were already troops of tourists around the pool. It was impossible to be in the front row so I could admire the reflection of the temple in the water. Nonetheless, the sun rise is still beautiful, even if it is a bit spoiled by the hordes of people.
Although Angkor Wat is a very beautiful and not to be missed site, I preferred the incredible stone faces on the towers of Bayon , or exploring Ta Prohm, where gigantic trees have become completely entwined with the stone.
When organising my trip to Angkor, I was worried that visiting temples might become a bit repetitive after three days. However, I was very surprised to discover just how diverse the temples I visited actually were. The Angkor site is a breathtakingly beautiful place!
When it comes to visiting the temples, you have the options of hiring a bicycle or the services of a tuk-tuk driver It's actually very enjoyable to do the small temple circuit by bicycle; but one piece of advice however: return before the sun goes down! I came back after nightfall and didn't feel at all confident threading my way through the very dense traffic, with scooters and tuk-tuks passing extremely close to me.
I was especially amazed by two temples in particular at Angkor: The Bayon and Ta Phrom. At Ta Phram, I felt as if I was playing at being an adventurer, getting myself lost inside a temple Indian Jones style. I was impressed by the huge trees that have taken over these places and seem to have become one with the stones themselves. And it's all wonderfully coloured too. In short, this is somewhere I really loved visiting.
If you can, get there early (before 7:00 am) so that you can have the temple all to yourself. The Bayon, with its towers carved with faces, was something else I was stunned by. This is an exceptional site, and one that I already want to visit again.
It's difficult to remain completely unmoved when faced with the splendour of Angkor's temples. There is no end to the superlatives used to describe this historic site, which stands as testimony to the reign of the Khmers, many centuries ago.
I was, of course, completely able to appreciate the beauty of Angkor Wat, which is the site's iconic temple and a veritable symbol of Khmer architecture. In fact it's for these reasons that Angkor Wat is the most visited temple here, especially first thing in the morning, when the light from the rising sun gradually begins to illuminate the temples.
I'm not sure whether the hordes of tourists who turn up en masse every day are something you should hate or not; I reminded myself that Cambodia has just as much right to earn money from tourism as we and many other countries in the world do.
Though Angkor Wat did impress me, it didn't make me feel as if I was visiting somewhere particularly exotic and otherworldly. What I mean by this is that the Angkor site has many other temples which are quite remotely located and which offer both greater peace and tranquillity and a stronger feeling of getting into close contact with the ancient history of the Khmers.