It’s a bad day for a sunset photo says Nicky, our guide who is actually named Yem Kosal. A few American tourists gave him the name Nicky because they wouldn’t bother to remember his real name. We are in Siem Reap and the place is run flat by thousands of tourists every single day. They all come here to visit the Angkor temples, making it the most visited place in Cambodia. But tourists couldn’t be more right in coming here because the Angkor temple complex truly is a sight to see.
But how much time should you however spend here? And which temples should you visit?
These are my 5 tips for visiting the Angkor temples in Siem Reap.
1) Angkor Thom – Bayon Temple
This temple put the same gentle smile on my face as the hundreds of stone faces on the temple facades. It’s an intriguing temple and my personal favorite. It’s one of the only temples that once was home not only to the gods but also to more than 1 million inhabitants living within its surrounding walls.
Iconic picture: The eskimo nose to nose move.
2) Ta Prohm
The temple of Ta Prohm is a true eye-catcher that shows how tree routs and nature are able to devour the enormous stone structures built centuries ago. It’s no raw jungle temple like Beng Mealea but the tree routs are more massive and a true power struggle show off between nature and man.
Iconic picture: get your imaginary guns out because this is the Tomb Raider temple that Angelina Jolie used to hop arround. Or not if you hate queuing. Oh and don’t forget to make a wish!
3) Angkor Wat
The almighty Angkor Wat is probably what most people come for in first place. It’s not my favorite temple but it is the heart and soul, the national symbol of Cambodia. It’s an enormous sight and worth it’s climb to the top. Don’t forget to wear long trousers and a long sleeve t-shirt though. Oh and did you know that the 3.000 detailed stone carvings on this temple where essential on recreating the once lost iconic apsara dance?
Iconic picture: Get up early for sunrise or stay late until sunset to shoot its reflection in the water pool just in front of the temple.
4) Phnom Bakheng – The sunset viewpoint
The temple of Phnom Bakheng lies on a hill 400m south of Angkor and it takes a little steep walk to get there. It delivers the greatest view on Angkor Wat lying amidst of the jungle. A lot of people (the access gets restricted at 300 max) head up here for sunrise or sunset. During rain season however clear sunsets aren’t guaranteed. So check with a local when it’s best to climb the hill and be sure you get up there and back down before the mass does.
Iconic picture: Angkor Wat amidst of the dense jungle.
You’ll need at least a 300mm lens for this one! I took my shot with a 200mm lens but had to crop the picture afterwards.
5) Stay another day
Seeing all Angkor temples in one day is a hard thing to do. I was able to see all of the above in one day but felt like I didn’t have the time to discover the details, the many stories of the stone carvings and all of the surroundings. So if you are a temple lover, stay another day and get yourself a personal ride. Hiring a motorcycle or taxi is the best and fastest way to get you from one place to another.
6) One more tip: Be adventurous and leave.
If you are up for some extra adventure then leave the main complex for an indiana jones experience. Sleep in the jungle and climb the temple ruins of Beng Mealea by day. It’s an adventure I’ll never forget!
Do It Yourself
Tip: Book transport for a whole day to take you from temple to temple.