On day two we had a 4:45 AM wake-up call so we could witness one of the major highlights of the entire trip, seeing sunrise over Angkor Wat. It was definitely nice, but as expected with all the tourists it isn’t as magical as you may think. I decided not to set-up my tripod since there were so many people around, so my sunrise pictures aren’t the best quality (for my standards), but they were good enough and give a glimpse of what to expect…
The pictures you see on social media with no one around are definitely not reality. I wasn’t surprised because seeing sunrise at Angkor Wat is always one of the top highlights listed for any trip to Southeast Asia. So everyone does it, it’s just one of those things.
The reality is you’ll be waiting around in a very large crowd of people with everyone holding up their phone/camera simultaneously to get the perfect shot. This will last for about an hour as the sun rises and the colors in the sky change. It was a little cloudy the morning we were there, but we still got to witness the sky light up in some beautiful shades of pink and orange. If you want a front row spot you’ll probably have to arrive way before 5:00 AM.
I took a picture looking back at the crowd once the sun rose to document. Apparently this crowd was small according to our guide PK. We were visiting during peak season, but with the Coronavirus pandemic looming in the near future the crowds were smaller than usual for this time of year.
After sunrise we took one last stroll through the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat to take it all in. It was actually really nice walking through at this time of day in the early hours of the morning. Many people just come for sunrise and leave, so we had the interior of the temple complex to ourselves for a few minutes.
Some of the corridors were completely empty which made for some really nice photos.
Group picture! Feb 14, 2020. Happy Valentines day to us.
After sunrise at Angkor Wat we got back in the bus and headed to Ta Prohm Temple so we could be one of the first groups to arrive. Unlike Angkor Wat this temple doesn’t open to the public until 7:30 AM. Definitely get there early if you can! It’s a much smaller temple, so with more people it quickly starts to feel a little claustrophobic moving through the tight corridors.
This temple was made famous by the movie Tomb Raider, and this was the temple I was most looking forward to seeing. As you can see it did not disappoint! It was built in the late 12th/early 13th centuries and the surrounding jungle has completely taken over giving it such a cool vibe.
It was really incredible, one of those places where pictures do not do it justice. (Go! What are you waiting for?!) Wandering the temple grounds alone and listening to the sounds of the surrounding jungle was a really unique experience. Actually meditative in a way, so if you can split from your group for a few minutes of alone time definitely do it.
I mean just look at these tree roots! This is natures way of showing it will not be tamed by humans.
The temple is currently under restoration by an Indian team of archeologists along with a counterpart Cambodian team. It used to be possible to climb onto the galleries, but this is no longer safe due to the fragile nature of the ruins and the need to keep the temple well preserved.
You should expect to spend about two hours at this temple. We were really lucky and there were hardly any other tourists around on the day we visited.
The last temple we visited on day two was Preah Khan. Our guide PK asked if we wanted to go somewhere off the beaten path again and we all agreed. I’d not read about this temple in my research, but as expected PK knows his stuff and his recommendation did not disappoint.
This temple is one of the largest temple complexes at Angkor and has actually been pretty well preserved thanks to the World Monuments Fund (WMF). This is a fusion temple with dedication to both Buddhism and Hindu gods.
Since there weren’t many people around we started to have some fun with pictures and boomerangs.
Nature showing off again with some massive tree roots taking over the temple! Pretty impressive.
One of the cool things about this temple was that it had a second story you could climb to get a better view unlike Ta Prohm.
This concludes my two day visit to the temples of Angkor Wat. You could literally spend months exploring all the temples in this complex. We covered some of the major highlights in two days, and had some unexpected surprises sprinkled in as well.
I was so excited to check Cambodia off my bucket list for 2020 since I had been eyeing this trip to Southeast Asia with Intrepid Travel for a couple years now! I’m hoping to squeeze in a trip to Japan at the end of 2021. Fingers crossed the world opens back up to Americans this year and we can start traveling again. I miss it so much!! It’s now been officially a year since I’ve been on a plane.
4 Comments Add yours
Love these! It reminds me of the temple in Jungle Book! Absolutely beautiful – and I love the juxtaposition of the intricate details of the temples against nature’s equally intricate tree roots! What an incredible experience!
Also— surprised at the sunrise crowd! Determined travelers! When you described the crowd, I didn’t imagine THAT many! =)
As always – love these posts! And those cute boomerangs!
Thanks for reading Zainab! It was very much like the Jungle Book, an absolute dream 🙂
It’s hard to believe that crowd was “small”, I don’t want to be there on a busy day!
Hi Jessica, Wonderful photos and content! Definitely on my bucket list. Traveled to Vietnam years ago but wasn’t able to go Cambodia. The number of people at Angkor Wat was much like the crowds at Machu Picchu when I was there in 2019. But if you can break away from your group for little you can find that space to connect with the environment. Better yet I am told go early. Love your blog. Sherry Williamson
Hi Sherry, thanks so much! I appreciate that 🙂 Yes, I’d say the crowds at Angkor Wat are very similar to Machu Picchu. Still so worth it. Like you said if you can break away and find a quiet corner it’s so peaceful and enchanting. I loved Vietnam too!