What landmark attracts over 2 million people to Cambodia each year? Exactly- Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the largest religious building in the world and therefore the world's largest temple complex. Falsely people only think of the Angkor Wat temple when relating to Angkor.
On a total area of more than 200km², several capitals were built in succession and in each of their centers a large main temple was constructed. To date, more than 1000 temples and sanctuaries of varying sizes have been discovered. There are speculations that up to a million people in the Greater Angkor area could have lived at around 1000km² at the pinnacle of the historic kingdom.
The Angkorian period spans more than 600 years from 802 to 1432 AD. During this time, the temples of Angkor were built, and the position of the Khmer empire was consolidated as one of the major powers in Southeast Asia.
The hundreds of temples that have survived to this day are just the sacred skeleton of the vast political, religious and social center of the ancient Khmer empire in Cambodia, a city that had one million inhabitants at its zenith, at the same time London being a small town of 50,000 Residents.
The temples of Angkor are a source of inspiration and national pride for all Khmer who, after years of horror and trauma, are seeking to rebuild their land.
Angkor is one of the oldest ancient sites in the world, with the epic proportions of the Great Wall of China, the details and complexity of the Taj Mahal and the symbolism and symmetry of the pyramids, all in one.
I was really looking forward to visiting Angkor. When researching and looking at pictures on the web, the pictures speak for themselves. I was all the more excited about my visit.
Originally, I had planned to ride to Angkor Wat by bike, but changed my plan last night. Since I wanted to drive for the sunrise, therefore would be dark on my departure, I found it better to take a TukTuk. That way I was also able to get an idea of the surroundings and the distances. The temple complex is supposedly huuuuge.
As the sunrise in Siem Reap is at 06:00, it meant for me to get up at 4:00 am 😖 When I got into the lounge room of the hostel, it became clear that watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat is THE highlight. The room was jam packed with sleepy backpackers at breakfast.
The ride on the TukTuk was set to leave at 04:30hrs. At 04:25hrs I figured, I should check once again if I packed everything. Admission ticket✓ water✓ money✓ camera✓ But was the battery of the camera still charged enough? No, she was not. It was completely empty 😫 I was sick, I had stomach aches and hot flashes all at once. THE highlight of my journey. And the battery of my camera was empty.
But luckily, I spent a lot of money on a solar power bank 😅 So I ran into the room and fumbled through my luggage.
The ride on the TukTuk could then start punctually at 04:35hrs and took about 30min. This was enough time to charge the camera on the way 😉
At 05:00hrs we arrived at Angkor Wat. Still dark, my driver told me I have to walk from here. Yes, but where to go? 'Angkor Wat is this way' my driver told me. I saw nothing. After a short walk through the darkness, I discovered a flow of people with flashlights. I was on the right track.
Over a bridge we first crossed the 190m wide moat. Next, we went to the west portal. It was really pitch black in there. Impossible to find your way without a flashlight.
The small cone of light ahead, I arrived in the first courtyard without stumbling.
Already at this early hour, a considerable stream of people was on the way to the temple. Everyone wanted to get one of the front row places at one of the two ponds.
From now on it took another hour until dawn.
The silhouette of the temple complex could only be guessed in the pale moonlight. The temple was barely visible, but the vibe evolving was intense. I let the minutes go by quietly and enjoyed the mysterious mood.
At 5:00 o'clock we were just a small group of about 20 people, the crowd grew by 06:00hrs to around 100 watchers. I had to vigorously defend my place in the front row.
Suddenly a murmur went through the crowd. The sun, which was slowly rising, made the towers of Angkor Wat recognizable. The sky turned blue and pink. An incredibly magical moment. And there was the temple before me in all its splendor.
After spending 2 hours at and in Angkor Wat, I continued with the TukTuk first to Srah Srang, then to Banteai Kdei and on to the Tah Prom Temple. The Tah Prom Temple gained worldwide fame through the movie 'Tomb Raider' in which Angelina Jolie plays 'Lara Croft'. The temple is known for its huge Tetramles trees that overgrow the ruins. He is also one of the most visited temples. But I was lucky. The first half hour there were not too many people there. After that, however, all the Asian travel groups stormed in 🙈
Time for me to move on.
The last temple on my list for today was 'Bayon'. From a distance, the temple looks like a pile of stones. Approaching the temple, one recognizes more and more of the 216 faces of King Jayavarman VII, which are carved in stone.
Unfortunately, there were countless Asian travel groups there too, so it felt quite cramped.
As I booked a half day tour this was my last stop for today. I was glad too. It's brutally hot in Angkor. Around 35 celsius with a humidity of 65%. At this climate climbing temples is really exhausting.
I was back at the hostel at around 11:00hrs and went straight to bed for about 3h 😅
Have here a look at the images of Angkor 📸