Angkor Wat - A UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Largest Religious centre with stunning Khmer Architecture and the most important pilgrimage for Buddhists across the world

For Indians, I would start with the statement that if you have visited Hampi in Karnataka state of India and appreciate the scale of whole heritage site Angkor Wat is even bigger. Angkor Wat World Heritage site is located in a dense forest with various architectural marvels spread around the forest. People even take a week to explore this heritage site. There are 3 kinds of tickets available for travelers coming to explore Angkor Wat in Siem Reap -

Angkor Wat is a cluster of Hundreds of temples spread over a huge piece of land surrounded by dense forests of Siem Reap in Cambodia. When you start reading about Angkor Wat on internet, it's overwhelming and at times, it's hard to relate to the scale we are talking about. Certainly it's hard to explain in words or even with photographs, but I would try my best to share what I experiences while in Siem Reap city of Cambodia to explore the famous Angkor Wat World Heritage Site. The very first photograph of the blogpost shows the main temple of Angkor Wat.
When you start reading about Angkor Wat on internet, it's overwhelming and at times, it's hard to relate to the scale we are talking about. Certainly it's hard to explain in words or even with photographs, but I would try my best to share what I experiences while in Siem Reap city of Cambodia to explore the famous Angkor Wat World Heritage Site.

For Indians, I would start with the statement that if you have visited Hampi in Karnataka state of India and appreciate the scale of whole heritage site Angkor Wat is even bigger. Angkor Wat World Heritage site is located in a dense forest with various architectural marvels spread around the forest. People even take a week to explore this heritage site. 

For lunch, there are enough options within the forest which has all these temples of UNESCO world heritage site. Try Khmer food, especially if you like non-veg.

There are 3 kinds of tickets available for travelers coming to explore Angkor Wat in Siem Reap -

1 Day ticket - $37
3 Days ticket - $62
7 Days ticket - $72

At how many heritage sites you have heard of such ticketing model? This itself talks a lot about scale of Angkor Wat.

How many heritage sites you have heard of such ticketing model? This itself talks a lot about scale of Angkor Wat. 

Siem Reap is a tourism hub of Cambodia and if you look at Cambodian flag carefully, Angkor Wat temple is part of the flag. Cambodia as a country is certainly known a lot for it's famous World Heritage site - Angkor Wat.

Siem Reap is a tourism hub of Cambodia and if you look at Cambodian flag carefully, Angkor Wat temple is part of the flag. Cambodia as a country is certainly known a lot for it's famous World Heritage site - Angkor Wat.

# Starting the day as early as possible can help you a lot at Angkor Heritage site. As sun goes up, you get more exhausted.

If Angkor wat is so big - how do people explore it? 

Some of the main ways to commute within Angkor Wat at - 
Tuk-tuk, 
cycles on rent, 
Taxi (people prefer Tuk-tuk over taxies in Cambodia), 
Tour vans/buses. 

# Starting the day as early as possible can help you a lot at Angkor Heritage site. As sun goes up, you get more exhausted.

We hired a tuk-tuk for the day and our hotel 'Chateau D'Angkor la Residence' arranged it for us by charging $15. Usually they tell you in advance about the things they would take you to. How much time you spend at each place is on your wish, so Tuk-Tuk is with you but you have almost fixed itinerary. As we had planned for Siem Reap, we spent one day at Angkor World Heritage site and explore the main temple of Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ba Puan, Elephant Terrace, Phimphimeanakas & some structures on our way.

In one day tour, you can easily explore the main temple of Angkor Wat, the beautiful Bayon temple with plenty of faces of Budha, Ta Prohm which is another beautiful temple in this heritage site and India is helping in restoring this one and some of the other architectural sites which come on the way. With all this you get a good sense about the space where this heritage site is located and most of the other sites would be similar in terms of architecture. During the day you also roam on the roads within heritage sites and that exposes you to some local plantation and water bodies inside the heritage compound.

Let’s talk a little about why I think that one day in Angkor Wat is sufficient? At the same time I have reasoning for spending more time in Angkor Wat Heritage site but all depends upon your real goal of visiting this beautiful World Heritage Site in Cambodia.

In one day tour, you can easily explore the main temple of Angkor Wat, the beautiful Bayon temple with plenty of faces of Budha, Ta Prohm which is another beautiful temple in this heritage site and India is helping in restoring this one and some of the other architectural sites which come on the way. With all this you get a good sense about the space where this heritage site is located and most of the other sites would be similar in terms of architecture. During the day you also roam on the roads within heritage sites and that exposes you to some local plantation and water bodies inside the heritage compound. 

There can be cases when you may want to spend a little more time inside the heritage site - if you want to explore each place with a little detail in terms of history, architecture and do photography in appropriate conditions. Many people who spend more time, prefer hiring bikes which give them flexibility to move between the places without any dependencies.

There can be cases when you may want to spend a little more time inside the heritage site - if you want to explore each place with a little detail in terms of history, architecture and do photography in appropriate conditions. Many people who spend more time, prefer hiring bikes which give them flexibility to move between the places without any dependencies. 

There can be cases when you may want to spend a little more time inside the heritage site - if you want to explore each place with a little detail in terms of history, architecture and do photography in appropriate conditions. Many people who spend more time, prefer hiring bikes which give them flexibility to move between the places without any dependencies.

For lunch, there are enough options within the forest which has all these temples of UNESCO world heritage site. Try Khmer food, especially if you like non-vegetarian food. 

For lunch, there are enough options within the forest which has all these temples of UNESCO world heritage site. Try Khmer food, especially if you like non-veg.

Some handy tips -

Queue for getting ticket for single day at Angkor Wat Heritage site is relatively smaller than buying ticket for multiple days

# At Angkor Heritage site, you don’t need to buy ticket for kids under 12 years but please carry a copy of the kid's passport to present date of birth on the counter and other places inside the Angkor Heritage Site.

# Around Angkor heritage places you would find lot of hawkers. Stay away from the hawkers selling stuff outside the entry gates of these architectural marvels, if you don’t intend to buy anything. Anyway you can find everything in Night market.

# There are enough places to have lunch or enjoy snacks.

# Keep your body hydrated while walking around the Angkor Heritage Site.

# Good walking shoes is must. (expect to walk a lot on the day you visit Angkor Wat) 

# Starting the day as early as possible can help you a lot at Angkor Heritage site. As sun goes up, you get more exhausted. 

# Queue for getting ticket for single day at Angkor Wat Heritage site is relatively smaller than buying ticket for multiple days.

Let's also talk about 3 must visit temples of Angkor Temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia. 


We have already talked about how little people who haven't visited Angkor actually know about Angkor. At least I had a very limited idea of the place. I had seen pictures, read some blogs, but I visualized Angkor as one single temple, which in my imagination was a hybrid of Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm. I wasn't aware that all these are three completely different temples, and was completely oblivious of the fact that there are countless other temples and dramatic structures besides these three.
Statues of gods along the road leading to Angkor Thom. The gate ahead the South Gate to the Historical Khmer City
 
We have already talked about how little people who haven't visited Angkor actually know about Angkor. At least I had a very limited idea of the place. I had seen pictures, read some blogs, but I visualized Angkor as one single temple, which in my imagination was a hybrid of Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm. I wasn't aware that all these are three completely different temples, and was completely oblivious of the fact that there are countless other temples and dramatic structures besides these three. 

The Historical City of Angkor Thom lies on the bank of the Siem Reap River, which is a tributary of Great Tonle Sap. The city was established in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII. Bayon is the most famous temple in this complex, but there are several interesting structures that make for some very interesting explorations in this city spanning 9 sq km, such as the Baphuon, Phimeanakas, and the temple of the Leper King.  

The Historical City of Angkor Thom lies on the bank of the Siem Reap River, which is a tributary of Great Tonle Sap. The city was established in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII. Bayon is the most famous temple in this complex, but there are several interesting structures that make for some very interesting explorations in this city spanning 9 sq km, such as the Baphuon, Phimeanakas, and the temple of the Leper King.  

Apart from these major structures, there are pieces of history splattered all over the landscape. The Southern entrance to Angkor Thom is itself quite marvellous. Along the length of the bridge, you would find faces of gods on one side and demons on the other. These gods and demons seem to be pulling the body of a giant seven-headed serpent. The imagery seems to be related to the samudramanthan in Indian scriptures.

Apart from these major structures, there are pieces of history splattered all over the landscape. The Southern entrance to Angkor Thom is itself quite marvellous. Along the length of the bridge, you would find faces of gods on one side and demons on the other. These gods and demons seem to be pulling the body of a giant seven-headed serpent. The imagery seems to be related to the samudramanthan in Indian scriptures. 

It is also possible to take an elephant ride from the South Gate to Bayon and also around Bayon. I am not sure how that feels, but when these elephants cross the bridge, it is a sight to see. If you search on Google, you will come across some beautiful compositions of these elephants roaming the streets of Angkor Thom. I guess it is a matter of planning your trip such that the timing matches. Elephant rides start at 8am from the South Gate.

It is also possible to take an elephant ride from the South Gate to Bayon and also around Bayon. I am not sure how that feels, but when these elephants cross the bridge, it is a sight to see. If you search on Google, you will come across some beautiful compositions of these elephants roaming the streets of Angkor Thom. I guess it is a matter of planning your trip such that the timing matches. Elephant rides start at 8am from the South Gate.

Close to every major temple / structure, you would find eateries that serve Khmer food. If you do not eat non-veg, you may not be able to eat here comfortably, and in that case it is better to carry something to eat because all these explorations are very tiring.

Close to every major temple / structure, you would find eateries that serve Khmer food. If you do not eat non-veg, you may not be able to eat here comfortably, and in that case it is better to carry something to eat because all these explorations are very tiring.

However, if you haven't been able to carry food and do not mind the seafood aroma, you can find some good, authentic Khmer food here. You can also order fries for kids and some very refreshing shakes

However, if you haven't been able to carry food and do not mind the seafood aroma, you can find some good, authentic Khmer food here. You can also order fries for kids and some very refreshing shakes

When you plan a trip to Siem Reap, do not underestimate the time you would need to explore the Angkor Complex. It is a vast area and if you are really interested in Khmer architecture, you should plan at least two days for this. Only then can you claim that you have scratched the surface.

When you plan a trip to Siem Reap, do not underestimate the time you would need to explore the Angkor Complex. It is a vast area and if you are really interested in Khmer architecture, you should plan at least two days for this. Only then can you claim that you have scratched the surface.


Whenever you plan for Cambodia and visit in Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm is one of the most important temples in this World Heritage site. As we shared in our last post, there are different categories of tickets which allow you to explore Angkor wat Heritage site in a day, 3 days or a week. Irrespective of the ticket you have bought, it's highly recommended to visit Ta Prohm and appreciate it grandness and how the giant trees have converted some of it structures into ruins.

Whenever you plan for Cambodia and visit in Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm is one of the most important temples in this World Heritage site. Irrespective of the ticket you have bought, it's highly recommended to visit Ta Prohm and appreciate it's grandness and how the giant trees have converted some of it structures into ruins. 

At times I find it hard to explain the scale at which these temples of Angkor Wat are built and now being preserved. These temples were ignored for few years and that's when huge trees of the forest adopted them. As of today you can see some of the trees hugging the temples tight.

At times I find it hard to explain the scale at which these temples of Angkor Wat are built and now being preserved. These temples were ignored for few years and that's when huge trees of the forest adopted them. As of today you can see some of the trees hugging the temples tight. 

Above photograph is clicked just after buying our tickets for Angkor Wat. Ticket counter is in the building which you see in this photograph.

Above photograph is clicked just after buying our tickets for Angkor Wat. Ticket counter is in the building which you see in this photograph. 

Just after buying the ticket tuk Tuk took us to the Ta Prohm temple of Angkor Wat. Very first thing I saw outside the main gate was huge board with Indian flag. As I went closer to the board I got to know that preservation of Ta Prohm temple of Angkor Wat is being done in collaboration with Indian Government. That's certainly a proud moment for an Indian to see the government supporting search beautiful causes.

Just after buying the ticket tuk Tuk took us to the Ta Prohm temple of Angkor Wat. Very first thing I saw outside the main gate was huge board with Indian flag. As I went closer to the board I got to know that preservation of Ta Prohm temple of Angkor Wat is being done in collaboration with Indian Government. That's certainly a proud moment for an Indian to see the government supporting search beautiful causes. 

As we entered into the main gate we had to walk through a rough path through dense forest with high trees all around us. Fortunately the weather was in our support. Usually it's very hot in Cambodia in the month of December as well, but when we were there the weather was relatively pleasant. And because this Temple is in the middle of a forest there are very few points wear your body gets exposed to the sun. When you are exploring Angkor Wat, it's important to know that you need to walk a lot.

As we entered into the main gate we had to walk through a rough path through dense forest with high trees all around us. Fortunately the weather was in our support. Usually it's very hot in Cambodia in the month of December as well, but when we were there the weather was relatively pleasant. And because this Temple is in the middle of a forest there are very few points wear your body gets exposed to the sun. When you are exploring Angkor Wat, it's important to know that you need to walk a lot. 

That's the first view you get at Ta Prohm, when you enter through the East Gate. If you see carefully there is a huge tree sitting on the top of this Temple. But when I go to the back side, you realise that the tree has grown through the cracks of the structure and then broke the structure apart.

That's the first view you get at Ta Prohm, when you enter through the East Gate. If you see carefully there is a huge tree sitting on the top of this Temple. But when I go to the back side, you realise that the tree has grown through the cracks of the structure and then broke the structure apart. 

Lot of people get stuck at this place. Some are interested in getting clicked with this structure, while others start appreciating the nature power. And this is just the beginning of the beautiful temple Ta Prohm in Angkor Wat heritage site. There is an interesting thing about these temples that local authorities have built wooden platforms at appropriate areas which are more photo friendly. You would always find these places busy with queue of people. We didn't need any defined places to click the photographs so We moved on :)

Lot of people get stuck at this place. Some are interested in getting clicked with this structure, while others start appreciating the nature power. And this is just the beginning of the beautiful temple Ta Prohm in Angkor Wat heritage site. There is an interesting thing about these temples that local authorities have built wooden platforms at appropriate areas which are more photo friendly. You would always find these places busy with queue of people. We didn't need any defined places to click the photographs so We moved on :)

If you notice closely there are these iron rods used to provide support too many of the structures around Angkor Wat Heritage area. It was sad to see the state of these beautiful temples which were built in 12th Century.

If you notice closely there are these iron rods used to provide support too many of the structures around Angkor Wat Heritage area. It was sad to see the state of these beautiful temples which were built in 12th Century. 

Just look at the photograph above and try to guess what it is and how big it would be.

Just look at the photograph above and try to guess what it is and how big it would be. 

Just look at this huge tree which has wrapped around the temple and try to imagine how old this tree would be. That would give us a sense about the time for which these temples on their own in this cruel forest.

Just look at this huge tree which has wrapped around the temple and try to imagine how old this tree would be. That would give us a sense about the time for which these temples on their own in this cruel forest.

Above photograph of Ta Prohm shows the most popular spot with the tree growing through the walls of the temple. If you notice a lot of people standing close to the tree and I was wondering what exactly there trying to click, because it would be pretty hard to take wide shot of the place when you are standing so close to the walls. Probably I was overthinking.

Above photograph of Ta Prohm shows the most popular spot with the tree growing through the walls of the temple. If you notice a lot of people standing close to the tree and I was wondering what exactly there trying to click, because it would be pretty hard to take wide shot of the place when you are standing so close to the walls. Probably I was overthinking. 

Since the famous photogenic tree of Ta Prohm was crowded with lot of people who wanted to get clicked, we chose to move little away and compose above photograph :).

Since the famous photogenic tree of Ta Prohm was crowded with lot of people who wanted to get clicked, we chose to move little away and compose above photograph :). 

Sun at Angkor Wat was harsh but the forest around these temples keep the temperature a little balanced. Above is the favorite star effect shot by my TravellingCamera.

Sun at Angkor Wat was harsh but the forest around these temples keep the temperature a little balanced. Above is the favorite star effect shot by my TravellingCamera. 

At Angkor Wat, every thing is grand - temples as well as the tree like what you see in above photograph.

At Angkor Wat, every thing is grand - temples as well as the tree like what you see in above photograph. 

Ta Prohm in Angkor Wat used to be called as 'Rajavihara', which was build in Bayon style by Khmer King Jayavarman VII.

Ta Prohm in Angkor Wat used to be called as 'Rajavihara', which was build in Bayon style by Khmer King Jayavarman VII. 

Whenever you plan for Cambodia and visit in Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm is one of the most important temples in this World Heritage site. As we shared in our last post, there are different categories of tickets which allow you to explore Angkor wat Heritage site in a day, 3 days or a week. Irrespective of the ticket you have bought, it's highly recommended to visit Ta Prohm and appreciate it grandness and how the giant trees have converted some of it structures into ruins.

We loved roaming around these ruins of Ta Prohm in Angkor Wat heritage area of Cambodia. It's an interesting place with plenty of trees growing through these structures and the best part is that it's being preserved well now. 


Most of us have heard of Angkor Wat and some of us know that the photographs that we usually see floating around the web masquerading as Angkor Wat photographs are not really those of the Angkor Wat. Some of the most popular photographs either have huge trees growing out of rock or gigantic faces.    If the photographs you are seeing feature trees growing out of rocks and walls, then it is Ta Prohm that you are seeing. And if it is the big faces then it is the incredible Bayon. Both these temples are in the list of Angkor temples but aren't a part of Angkor Wat.

 

Most of us have heard of Angkor Wat and some of us know that the photographs that we usually see floating around the web masquerading as Angkor Wat photographs are not really those of the Angkor Wat. Some of the most popular photographs either have huge trees growing out of rock or gigantic faces.


If the photographs you are seeing feature trees growing out of rocks and walls, then it is Ta Prohm that you are seeing. And if it is the big faces then it is the incredible Bayon. Both these temples are in the list of Angkor temples but aren't a part of Angkor Wat. 

Bayon is located in the Angkor Thom area and was built in the late 12th or early 13th century by the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII. His Hindu and Theravada descendants made some modifications to the temple as per their own religions. However, the most striking feature of the temple, the countless, serene faces are still around.

Bayon is located in the Angkor Thom area and was built in the late 12th or early 13th century. His Hindu and Theravada descendants made some modifications to the temple as per their own religions. However, the most striking feature of the temple, the countless, serene faces are still around. 


These faces bear striking resemblance to a sculpture of King Jayavarman VII, and there are 216 of them. Scholars are divided in thinking whether these faces are representations of the King Jayavarman or the Bodhisattva of compassion. It may also be both, as Kings often believed themselves to be representatives / reincarnations of God.

These faces bear striking resemblance to a sculpture of King Jayavarman VII and there are 216 of them. Scholars are divided in thinking whether these faces are representations of the King Jayavarman or the Bodhisattva of compassion. It may also be both, as Kings often believed themselves to be representatives / reincarnations of God. 


From a distance the temple looks like a pile of rocks. It's only when you get up close that you start notice the detailing, including the giant faces. Smaller carvings are only visible when you are up close.

From a distance the temple looks like a pile of rocks. It's only when you get up close that you start notice the detailing, including the giant faces. Smaller carvings are only visible when you are up close. 

All through the Bayon complex, there are stairs running up and down. There are places where you can pose in a way that it appears that you are kissing the statues. The staff at Bayon will gladly help you identify these spots and even guide you how those pictures should be clicked.

All through the Bayon complex, there are stairs running up and down. There are places where you can pose in a way that it appears that you are kissing the statues. The staff at Bayon will gladly help you identify these spots and even guide you how those pictures should be clicked. Somehow I found it little weird, but lot of tourists enjoy doing so. May be I was shy to try something like that :).  

Apart from the faces, there are several other spots in Bayon where you can click some excellent photographs. My nephew Nishu kept making us pose at such spots. This is one photograph in which we made him pose for us with is parents.

Apart from the faces, there are several other spots in Bayon where you can click some excellent photographs. My nephew Nishu kept making us pose at such spots. This is one photograph in which we made him pose for us with his parents.

While some faces are fairly intact, others have eroded over centuries. Some of the best fridge magnets available in Cambodia are those of Bayon. You will find some that depict a face complete with its cracks and every other detail.

While some faces are fairly intact, others have eroded over centuries. Some of the best fridge magnets available in Cambodia are those of Bayon. You will find some that depict a face complete with its cracks and every other detail. 

It is said that all of these faces have different expressions. To be honest, most of them seemed similar to me. But that may be because I do not have the skills to notice nuances in sculptures. The only thing I can say with confidence is that they are all beautiful and it is incredible how people managed to build such grand structures without modern technology.

It is said that all of these faces have different expressions. To be honest, most of them seemed similar to me. But that may be because I do not have the skills to notice nuances in sculptures. The only thing I can say with confidence is that they are all beautiful and it is incredible how people managed to build such grand structures without modern technology. 

You will find these bas reliefs at many places inside the temples. These are Apsaras or dancing nymphs. Cambodia has inherited these symbols from Hindu cultures and their significance is the same too. Today, inspired by these reliefs, many hotels organize something known as the Apsara dance and tourists often pay heavy ticket prices to watch these.

You will find these bas reliefs at many places inside the temples. These are Apsaras or dancing nymphs. Cambodia has inherited these symbols from Hindu cultures and their significance is the same too. Today, inspired by these reliefs, many hotels organize something known as the Apsara dance and tourists often pay heavy ticket prices to watch these.  

Similarly, lion as a protector of temples is also a concept that is inherited from Hinduism. According to Hindu scriptures, Brahma used lions as the guards to his palace. The fact that today in most Cambodian temples you will find a lion (a sculpture, of course) sitting at the entrance, is a definite indication that Hindu culture was a huge influence in this era.


 
Similarly, lion as a protector of temples is also a concept that is inherited from Hinduism. According to Hindu scriptures, Brahma used lions as the guards to his palace. The fact that today in most Cambodian temples you will find a lion (a sculpture, of course) sitting at the entrance, is a definite indication that Hindu culture was a huge influence in this era.

We tried to capture the complete structure of Bayon. Unfortunately some restore work was going on in the temple and therefore you can see the green barricades. After Ta Prohm, Bayon was the most beautiful temple in Angkor Wat complex.

We tried to capture the complete structure of Bayon. Unfortunately some restore work was going on in the temple and therefore you can see the green barricades. After Ta Prohm, Bayon was the most beautiful temple in Angkor Wat complex.

If you liked this post and found it helpful, I would request you to follow these things when traveling -

  1. Manage your waste well and don’t litter
  2. Use dustbins. Tell us if you went to a place and found it hard to locate a dustbin.
  3. Avoid bottle waters in hills. Usually you get clean water in hills and water bottles create lot of mess in our ecosystem.
  4. Say big no to plastic and avoid those unhealthy snacks packed in plastic bags. Rather buy fruits.
  5. Don't play loud blaring music in forests of jungle camps. You are a guest in that ecosystem and disturbing the locals (humans and animals) is not polite

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