Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure in the world.
At 400 square kilometers / 154 square miles, the site is enormous. It’s full of temples and structures built between the 9th and 15th centuries. It is believed that this site was the largest pre-industrial city in the world.
What started off as monuments to Hindu gods changed to Buddhist temples when a Khmer king converted to Buddhism and went on a building spree.
My day started at 4am so I could leave at 4:30am and arrive to see the sunrise. Unfortunately it was cloudy so the sunrise wasn’t very spectacular. But it was an interesting experience. The behavior of the other tourists there left a lot to be desired though.
Sadly, many of the Cambodians who have set up food and souvenir stalls there have been forcibly removed from their land by the government. Unable to farm anymore, they have resorted to living off of the tourists.
Also sad, as I mentioned in my post about Aki Ra, there are numerous landmine victims all over Cambodia. The people who live near Angkor Wat are no exception. Below are a group of landmine victims playing traditional music between temples for the tourists passing by.
I only visited the following temples Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Keo, Ta prohm, and Banteay Kdei, but there are many, many more. These are all just conveniently concentrated near each other.
Tuk Tuk Mishap
When I got out of the tuk tuk at 5am to go see the sunrise, he told me to go see the temples and he’d be waiting for me where he dropped me off. I thought this meant I had to walk to all the temples. On the map they didn’t seem too far apart.
Well, after seeing Angkor Wat I asked around and figured out how to get to Angkor Thom. It seemed like people weren’t 100% sure at times, which I found weird if it’s so close.
Then I got to a checkpoint and I asked the security guard and he confirmed it was down the road. But a Cambodian woman said it was very far and she could take me on her motorbike for $4. She said it was 3km away, then her daughter, maybe all of 5 years old, said “no, it’s 7km!” I thought they were just trying to screw me out of money. No, it really was 7km. The little girl was right!
So after the price getting reduced to $3 and then her hopping on the motorcycle to chase me down to offer $2, I still said no. I’m glad I did.
I walked for about 15 minutes after that when I encountered the only other people walking down this road. They came from the other direction and asked me where I was going. I told them and they told me it was really far away.
They asked if I came by tuk tuk. By this point I realized I made a mistake. I saw tons of other foreigners going by on their tuk tuks. Oops. But what to do? I felt like it would take an hour to get back to the entrance of Angkor Wat walking. Probably more like 30 minutes, but it was so hot..
Well, I turned around and started walking with these girls. Then, all of a sudden, a girl on a motorcycle stopped and it was one of their friends. I think she was there to pick up both girls, but since I was a guest in their country, they took me for free and one of the girls continued walking.
I couldn’t believe how nice the gesture was. A few minutes later we were at the entrance of Angkor Wat and my driver was there. This Cambodian angle rescued my day, as otherwise I wouldn’t have seen much and the farther I got from the entrance, the more complicated things would become.
Below are some pictures from Angkor Wat and the other temples.
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About Adam Pervez
In mid-2011 I left my cushy corporate job and took the plunge into a life incorporating my passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, educating, and telling stories. I study what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my engineering/MBA background as a volunteer, and try to leave each place better than how I found it. Read more.