Angkor Wat 11 Years Later

In 2004, I took my second big trip to Southeast Asia; the first had been in 1999. I traveled from Bangkok to Siem Reap by cheap bus. At that time, once you crossed into Cambodia the roads ceased to be paved. The bus broke down several times. We even had to push it out of a dusty ditch once in ridiculous heat. The trip to Siem Reap was a nightmare but the sight of Angkor Wat was something I’ve never forgotten. I was just able to go back to Angkor Wat 11 years later and it still blew my mind.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
I have pretty much seen and done everything in Southeast Asia to be perfectly honest. If I ranked the 30 best things to see and do in Southeast Asia (which sounds like a great future post), I would probably rank Angkor Wat at the top. It is simply stupendous.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia, sunrise, reflection
Waking up at 4:30am to make it into the Angkor Wat temple complex by sunrise around 5:30am or so is a pleasure. I personally think the best place is outside the temple walls across the large moat because you get great reflections and see both the front and the massive back spires.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Lee Abbamonte
There will literally be thousands of other tourists, mostly Chinese and Korean, doing the exact same thing. However, as I always say, a ton of tourists don’t go to bad places so Angkor Wat has something going for it for sure. In fact, I would put the site of Angkor Wat up there with any of the new 7 wonders of the world. In my 30 best man made sites list, Angkor Wat ranked pretty high as well. It is sensational.
Ta Phrom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
After you’ve had your fill of sunrise photos, I suggest not going inside and beelining it for Ta Phrom to see the overgrown banyan trees on my favorite temple before the masses arrive. This is the famous Tomb Raider temple made famous by Angelina Jolie in the Lara Croft movie-which I’ve not actually seen…but I think she’s super hot!
Ta Phrom, Siem Reap, Cambodia, view
Having Ta Phrom to yourself is something special and you can get some great photos and just enjoy being there. You can enter either way when you walk to it and the main site is to the right.
Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Thom is next and the Bayon Temple is simply awesome. There is so much to see in this massive part of the Angkor temple complex. Take some time to take it all in but without question; the Bayon Temple is the star of the show.
Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The rock carvings along are worth the trip. Add in the faces in the rocks, the amazing architecture and little hallways all over the place and you feel like a kid playing on the rocks!
Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
After you’ve visited sufficiently, head back to Angkor Wat itself and head inside. Most of the sunrise tourists will be gone by then and although it will be hot as hell, it’ll be better for you.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap Cambodia
Inside Angkor Wat’s walls is a massive area and it takes time to walk and explore it. Again, it will be very hot so bring water. Also, bring extra batteries for your camera or phone charger because you’ll be snapping away just like the Asian tourists you make fun of!
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
I stayed at the Le Meridien Angkor; which is pretty conveniently located right near the park. I set up my driver by using the same taxi that drove me from the airport to the hotel. I paid him $40 for driving me around all day, waiting and then driving me to the airport for my flight to Laos. It may be a little high for Cambodia but he was a good guy and deserved it.
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The town or should I say city of Siem Reap has grown so much since 2004 that if I was dropped off there without knowing where I was-I’d have no clue! It is massive, noisy, polluted and buzzing with cars, tuk tuks and 5 star hotels! Tourism happens!
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Sadly, I don’t think the locals are seeing much benefit from the tourism boom as foreigners are coming in. Apparently, a Vietnamese company controls Angkor Wat; as one of my Instagram followers informed me. That said, it’s still a site that’s not to be missed and should be a top priority for anyone visiting Southeast Asia. Angkor Wat 11 years later was just as good if not better and at least this time I have photos!

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  1. Angkor Wat is on my bucket list! Thanks for the tip about exploring the outside temples after the sunrise first. As for your initial visit in 2004, how did you not have a camera to take photos of this majestic beauty? 🙂

    • Ray, thanks buddy. I had throw away cameras but I have no clue what happened to them. I didn’t really start taking pictures of my travels consistently until 2008 or so and I didn’t really start uploading them to my site on a regular basis until 2011 or so.

  2. Good to catch up in BKK but still a shame we missed each other in Angkor by about a week. We had a good time in Siem Reap. Ta Phrom is unreal.

  3. Great post, amazing place, couldn’t agree more, want to go back, thanks.

  4. Great post and glad you were able to get back not that we ever doubted you!

  5. I went to Angkor Way back about 2010 and was truly blown away. I did a three day pass and really got to see a lot of the outer temples that most people don’t get to see. It was an experience I’ll never forget. But it’s hard to argue how amazing the temples you wrote about here are.

    • My first time in 2004 we saw a ton of temples but it was still on a one day pass. The next time I go to Siem Reap I will probably make the effort to go see more of the distant temples and not rush so much. I didn’t feel rushed at all to be honest but there’s no question the 3 main temples were my priority as they are most peoples.

  6. #1 on my bucket list!

  7. Lee I’m heading there this October. The hotels offer a combo deal – a drive and tour guide to the site and to the less vised further away Beng Maelea. Do you think it’s worth paying the extra $200 ish dollars for convenience or should we just hire the tuk tuk?

  8. Have just returned from Angor Wat.
    I prefer not to book any combo deals.
    Just book your first nights accomodation for when you arrive that you have somewhere to go, then look around yourself and you will find something cheaper and better.

    I found that to be the case all over SE Asia.There was loads of accomodation on offer.
    Also decide where you want to go and get your Tuk Tuk to take you.$25 per day is about going rate.

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