The temples of the Angkor Wat complex are the largest religious monument in the world and it is something you have to go and see if you are in Cambodia. Siem Reap is the best place to base yourself beforehand and the easiest way of getting to and from Angkor Wat is via a tuk tuk driver which you can hire for around $15 a day.
We rose early at 4.30am and met our driver outside who took us to the ticket office. The price of a daily ticket has just been increased to $37 but it is still worth the money for what you get to see. We then drove into the temple complex and headed for our first temple, Angkor Wat.
First must see temple – Angkor Wat
We joined the masses who had the same idea as ourselves, to go and see the sun rising behind the magnificent temple. It is a spectacular image and you can see the reflection of the temple on the lake which makes for a great photo.
We then spent a couple of hours walking through the inner walls of the temple itself. All of the temples were built by the Khmer civilisation but unlike some of the other Angkor monuments, Angkor Wat was never abandoned to the elements and has been in virtually continuous use since it was built.
Second must see temple – Bayon temple
This was my favourite temple as the level of detail is astonishing. The Bayon was the last state temple to be built at Angkor and was constructed in the 12th-13th century. The dense jungle that surrounds the temple camouflaged its position in relation to other structures at Angkor so it was not known for some time that the Bayon stands in the exact centre of the city of Angkor Thom.
There are over 2000 large faces carved on the 54 towers and you can test your photographic skills on certain faces whilst you’re walking round to see if you can get the perfect shot. You will probably fare much better than us!
Third must see temple – Ta Phrom
This temple came to fame as it was featured in the Tomb Raider films starring Angelina Jolie. For this reason it is likely to the busiest temple that you visit as Chinese tour groups flock to this temple. As such, finding a quiet secluded spot to take a photo may be a bit difficult. The temple itself has been left largely unreconstructed and is being conserved as a partial ruin.
There are dozens of gigantic trees that engulf parts of the temple and one of these trees is the famous ‘Tomb Raider Tree’. The appeal of Ta Phrom lies in the fact that, unlike the other monuments of Angkor, it has literally been swallowed by the jungle, and looks very much the way most of the monuments of Angkor appeared when European explorers first stumbled upon them.
So that’s our three must see temples if you only have time to explore the Angkor complex for a day. There are dozens of other temples to see, some close by and others a bit further away, which i’m sure also make for fascinating viewing! If you are exploring the rest of Cambodia be sure to check out our blog – Backpacking Cambodia: Must see places!