If you read your guide books, they tell you that the one thing you absolutely can’t miss is sunrise at Angkor Wat. What they don’t tell you is that there will be around 60,000 other sleepy, sweaty tourists, a million or so mosquitoes, hawkers and a rather underwhealming experience as the sun comes up in a rather hazy or even foggy sky.
I can imagine that before it became a massive tourist destination, the quiet moment you could have as the sun rose over the towers would be frankly awe-inspiring. However that day has long gone, and I highly recommend you skip it. Buy a postcard – you will have plenty of opportunities to do just that.
On our recent stopover in Siem Reap, we declined the sunrise visit. I’m all for early starts to beat the crowds but I have no desire to be anywhere before dawn. Our guide was startled, “everyone goes to Angkor Wat at sunrise”. I’ve never been one to do what everyone else is doing. No thank you.
We decided to still have an early start though, we’d seen Angkor Wat the previous morning anyway, so bugger the sunrise. We instead headed off to another crowd favourite, Ta Prohm aka The Tomb Raider temple. Arriving around 8am, we weren’t the only ones there, but it tourist terms, we had it pretty much to ourselves. This allowed for some great photo opportunities of the trees growing in and on the temple structure and for our “me-in-front-of-photos” we let our inner Angelina Jolie shine through.
Since my last trip to Cambodia in 2007, there is a lot of obvious conversation work going on. At times at Ta Prohm, it was hard to not have photos with scaffolding and cranes in the photos. Still can’t complain as this will ensure this fabulous temple is conserved for years to come, particularly with the impending tourist onslaught that is forecast for Siem Reap and no doubt through other parts of Cambodia.
Most people seem to do a quick 2 days of temple sightseeing but I think if I had more time, I would aim for a week and see some of the less popular temples which are no less impressive than the main tourist trail ones.
Siem Reap itself is a great (tourist) town. It has lots of great restaurants and is very walkable or a tuk-tuk is a cheap, easy way to get around. The night market was very low pressure albeit with the same same stuff at most stalls. Siem Reap is definitely worth a few days visit and if we’d had longer, I would have liked to see the museum. Oh well, maybe next time…