Most of tourists consider to visit Cambodia because of its stunning temples, the largest of them Angkor Wat – one of the World’s Most-Visited Ancient Ruins, but this iconic attraction is only the beginning of Cambodia’s beauty. From pristine beaches and untouched jungles to stunning architectural feats, indeed, this country can satisfy any type of traveller.
Travel Tips: Cambodia’s dry season runs from November to May, and the busiest tourist season is November through February, when temperatures are coolest. The late spring, before the rainy season picks up, sees fewer tourists.
Our journey in Cambodia began after spending a few days in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The flight took less than an hour, but we ended up waiting in the customs line filling in extra landing cards etc.
Hot and tired we finally arrived to the most authentic hotel in whole Siem Reap city – Sokha Angkor.
We were not disappointed as this high class hotel offers luxurious resort living in central Siem Reap. Among its special features is an outdoor sea water pool, very good spa treatments and lovely in-house restaurant. You can’t go wrong with soft music and slow running water when you want to enjoy a relaxing environment, and this is an ideal place where you can sit back and enjoy pool-side drink or walk through the beautiful garden rich in tropical plants.
To be able to see the enormous scale of the World Heritage site of Angkor Wat is worth to take helicopter flight tour. Besides flying over the remarkable Angkor Wat complex, the pilot made our way across Siem Reap to the unique floating village on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake. A helicopter tour is definitely one of the best ways to view these fascinating places.
Planning things out in advance always makes me feel more in control when travelling in unknown places. Local knowledge is king, this is the true value book of a professional guide. Thankfully I stumbled upon a local guide, Tes Chhaya, who offered private independent tours for Angkor temples complex. He showed himself as well prepared and professional guy.
The first question you need to ask yourself when you arrive in Siem Reap: Should you get up to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat? The answer is yes. Sunrise at Angkor Wat may change your life. It’s an amazing spiritual experience.
You need to get up at 4:30 a.m. to get there in the dark, but it definitely worth it. Sunrise at Angkor Wat is a huge event and attracts a lot of tourists.
Travel Tips: You need to buy a pass before you visit Angkor Archaeological Park because the ticket office is not at the park and it’s not in central Siem Reap. It’s somewhere in between and down a road to the right. You can buy an Angkor Pass for 1 day, 3 days or 1 week.
Most people come to Angkor Wat for sunrise to get a picture of the beautiful temples with the swirling colors of the dawn.
The quintessential photo of Angkor Wat at sunrise is from the reflection ponds in front of the main temple. This is a great spot to get that sunrise shot of Angkor Wat, but there are also many other great spots for sunrise inside the ancient city of Angkor.
Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, and even after Khmer empire collapsed it remained as a big pilgrimage site over the centuries.
Angkor was built in the 12th century as a royal temple dedicated to a Hindu deity, as a place of worship for the king. The central tower of the tempe represents a divine hill Mount Meru, the home of the gods, thats why only king himself and some members of royal family were allowed to do their prays right on the top the tower in order to be closer to the gods.
Travel Tips: When visiting the temples of Angkor, be respectful. Wear clothing that covers your knees and shoulders, just as you would if you were visiting any religious site or holy space in Cambodia. The dress code is not strictly enforced.
A very advanced water supply system of the complex was providing its inhabitants enough water for daily needs, for rice fields and mainly it symbolised the waters of cosmos which was part of many religious rituals. These large basins once upon a time were filled with water, smart drain system was helping to control water level especially in rainy seasons.
Built at first as a Hindu temple, Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple over time. Statues of both Vishnu and the Buddha can be found across much of the temple complex. However, much of the temple’s fame stems from the murals that can be found on the inner walls of the outer gallery. Intricately carved murals of scenes from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as well as of Suryavarman II can be found on these walls.
Angkor Wat is a miniature replica of the universe in stone and represents an earthly model of the cosmic world. The central tower rises from the center of the monument symbolizing the mythical mountain, Meru, situated at the center of the universe. Its five towers correspond to the peaks of Meru. The outer wall corresponds to the mountains at the edge of the world, and the surrounding moat the oceans beyond.
The walls of the temple are decorated with variety of stunning carvings showing the scenes of great battles, religious rites and other life routines of Khmer people. The most graceful figures decorating the walls and towers are apsaras heavenly nymphs, beautiful supernatural female beings, spirits of the clouds and waters, at service of a god, they may be compared to angels, ancient people believed these divine creates protecting the temple from dark forces.
The Angkor Temple is one of the most beautiful man-made structures I’ve ever seen. While some temples are now unfortunately no more than piles of rock, many are restored monuments that take your breath away as you walk through and imagine what life was like in Cambodia all of those years ago.
Photography © Gurcan Sarisoy