Traversing the Temples – Dawn at Angkor Wat with a side of Angkor Thom

I had always planned my third day at Angkor to be my dawn day. There were several reasons for this. Firstly, it was my birthday (I couldn’t think of a better thing to do than watch the sun rise on my birthday). Secondly, I had always wanted to save the best of the temples for last and thirdly, I didn’t want to face such an early morning so I’d been delaying it.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat was a 4am wake up for me on a bicycle. You might get a bit more of a lay in if you’re taking a tuk tuk. I had prepared the night before by visiting the bakery and getting myself something for breakfast and a snack. I was pedalling by 4:45 and, if I’m 100% honest, that was a smidge too late. I took the most direct route up to Angkor Wat. Please see the long straight line on the map.

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Night was already retreating by the time I got to Angkor Wat and chose my spot. Angkor Wat is set on an island, almost, so you have to cross a large bridge to get to it in the first place then traverse through a ‘u’ shaped entrance gate. All very massive and grand. There were hundreds of other people there to see dawn so finding a good spot was harder than expected. I settled on standing on the wall of the entrance gate. Here’s the shot I got just after I arrived. You can see the sun is well on it’s way.

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I sat, ate my breakfast and swatted away wildlife. About 40 minutes later, I could definitely see the sun peeking out from behind the clouds. An awful lot of people were starting to leave the temple too so I hung around for a while longer.

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A spectacular number of people left the temple immediately after dawn and I decided that post dawn was probably a good, quiet time to look around Angkor Wat. I started the long trip across the stone walk way towards the trio of Angkor Wat.

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Angkor Wat’s main courtyard is surrounded by an outer, covered walkway on all sides. You can see one side here.

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Angkor Wat is huge so these walkways go on for a very decent amount of time. Here’s the inside of a walkway.

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Finally, I’ll show you what is on the walls of these walkways. What you see is exquisitely carved stone which tells a story as you walk down the corridor. The craftsman who carved these stones would have been very proud that people are still enjoying their work after so many years.

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Angkor Wat is the grandest temple in the park. It is set in larger grounds and has some very imposing features but, as far as what I enjoyed about the temples goes, being the biggest didn’t make it the best. It’s still an amazing temple but I didn’t enjoy it as much as others.

As I didn’t finish Angkor Thom the previous day, I still had two temples to see there. By 8am I was heading for Bayon. So was everyone else it seemed. Bayon was teeming with people and not quiet, organised people. There were groups of 25 or more all screeching and yelling at each other as they tried to make their way around the temple as this mass of harpies.  Here’s Bayon from the outside.

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Bayon is a little confusing. It kind of rises up to a central citadel part but has lots of different bits on the lower levels which feel like they’re in the wrong place. I got very disoriented around Bayon (could have been the temple or it could have been that the harpies melted my brain) but did eventually manage to navigate to the top. Here’s the proof!

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Wherever you go in Bayon, you are watched. Bayon has faces carved everywhere. They see everything but they seem quite cheerful about it which is good.

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Bayon is a big square to walk around. There’s a few decent sized courtyards where you can find individual structures to explore if you need to get away from the crowds. I don’t think Bayon is ever quiet but I do think I went on a very bad day (a Saturday) as the crowds felt unmanageable. Nevertheless, a fun walk around.

Once I’d seen Bayon, I was down to just one temple. It was round the corner from Bayon in Angkor Thom and, along with Ta Keo, one of my favourites at Angkor. Say hello to Baphuon!

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Baphuon was a pile of rubble for a long time.  A lot of time, money, effort and brains went into getting Baphuon back on it’s foundations. It was worth all the effort in my opinion. This temple is great! You get to Baphuon by walking down a very long, raised walk way. You can see it here.

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There’s a sort of entrance gate half way down the walkway but you have to disembark the walkway to get into Baphuon. The temple is tall and square. There’s three man levels. To get to the top level, you have to climb steep wooden stairs (2 flights of) but I would if I were you. The view is amazing.

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You can see the walkway here again extending away from Baphuon, it really is a very long walk!

I think I liked Baphuon because, really, it shouldn’t still be there. It should be a pile of rubble that earthquakes left it as but it’s not. Brains and brawn have brought it back to life because it’s an important part of history. It’s a comeback kid and I like that.

So, I saw the temples of Angkor. I did it over 3 days and I did it on a bicycle. I would recommend it to anyone.

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2 thoughts on “Traversing the Temples – Dawn at Angkor Wat with a side of Angkor Thom

  1. Michelle says:

    Fab review. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go and so really appreciate reading your descriptions and seeing the photos 😀 xx

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