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Angkor Wat Avoiding the Crowds

Angkor, located in Cambodia’s Northern Province of Siem Reap, is one of the most fascinating archaeological places on the planet, definitely the most important in Southeast Asia.

The ruins were built 900 years ago by the King of the Khmer empire; initially as a Hindu temple but then converted to Buddhist.

If you haven’t been there, you have probably heard of it. Remember the stunning picture of a building with 5 peaks, reflecting in the water from the distance at sunrise? Yes, that’s Angkor Wat, the most popular of the temples.

But there is much more to it; in fact the archaeological park covers over 400 square kilometers. And yes, it is very crowded, but still absolutely worth visiting!

Note: If you don’t care to know how to tour this area, just skim through the post, check out the pictures, and see the rest on our Facebook page.

While I was in Siem Reap, I got in contact with Kimleng, a guide specializing in photography tours. Unfortunately he was too busy to take me, but he was kind enough to give me a detailed explanation on where to go and how to avoid the crowds and get the best pictures.

The park entrance is $20 a day. You can’t drive inside the park. Instead, hire a tuk tuk or a bike driver. We went with the tuk tuk driver from our guesthouse and paid $12 plus a tip (he was great!).

To explore without crowds and hundreds of people in the background of your pictures, I recommend following this guide that I created from Kimleng’s recommendations and my experience. It works!

Your driver should know where the temples are, just let him know the order and the places you want to be dropped.

Stop #1: Angkor Wat at sunrise

If anyone, I am the least excited about waking up at 5:00am to be picked up a half hour later, but if there is a place that is worth the sacrifice it’s here. You would be surprised at how many people are already there.

My recommendation is to go to the path (before the entrance of the actual temple) and find a spot for the sunrise picture reflecting in the water. Even thought it’s the typical shot, you want it! Plus you will have many opportunities for creative pictures throughout the day.

Wait for the sunrise, take pictures and leave as fast as you can! (don’t go inside, yet)

Stop #2: Angkor Thom, west gate

 

This is one of the less visited places and yet one of the best.

Explore; take pictures of the big faces, the gate and the river. This early in the morning people from the villages inside the park are headed to work so you might be lucky with some good cultural photos.

Aside from the locals commuting, we were the only ones here; a few tourists showed up just as we were ready to leave.

Stop #3: Bayon, south gate

Before you explore the inside of the temple, take a walk around the outside and look for some unique shots. Leave the inside for last.

This was one of our favorite temples and we easily spent an hour or more exploring it. People will start arriving, but you will be one of the first ones there, if not the first.

Stop #4: Taprohm, west side

This is the famous spot where ruins and the roots of trees have merged together, resulting in some unworldly pictures. You will be very happy to get here before everyone else. Tell the driver to pick you up in the east corner.

An insider tip: It is possible to walk off the main path with some pretty cool ruins to see, this area is sort of hidden to the right of the main door (picture above).

Stop #5: Angkor Wat *(It can also be visited at sunset)

Stop #6: King’s pool and the ruins facing it (optional)

If there is energy left in your body, visit it. Be aware that if you haven’t been hassle to buy stuff yet, you won’t escape it here.

At this point you have seen the best!

After this you have two options:

If you are hard-core you can have lunch inside the park and keep exploring the other temples, but it will most likely be hot and crowded everywhere.

Or take a break! My recommendation is to go outside the park, have lunch, take a nap and get refreshed. Tell your driver to pick you up again around 3 pm and do to the next stop *(or Angkor Wat if you skipped it in the morning).

Stop #6 Preah Khan for sunset

This site is in a different location from Angkor Park, but you can use the same ticket. We actually didn’t make it here because it was raining very hard, but many photographers say it delivers incredible sunsets.

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And this is how to avoid the crowds while seeing the best of Angkor. I hope this was helpful for those visiting the temples in the near future. For those not coming anytime soon, I hope you enjoyed the tour!

Cheers!

 

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Comments To This Entry.
  1. Pam September 24, 2012 Reply

    Gorgeous! Always enjoy your posts.
    Pam recently posted..Starfish FlowerMy Profile

    • Pamela September 25, 2012 Reply

      Thank you Pam, I really appreciate it :)

  2. TammyOnTheMove September 26, 2012 Reply

    Angkor is and will always be my most favourite sight in the whole world. I have never seen anything as beautiful as the sunrise and sunset over these temples. Like you we visited very early in the morning whilst most tourists were still fighting to get the best spot for that perfect shot, and we had all temples completely to ourselves.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Tonle Bati and children with stomachs of steelMy Profile

    • Pamela September 28, 2012 Reply

      That’s the best way to do it! Thanks for stopping by Tammy :)

  3. Charlie September 30, 2012 Reply

    Wow, such beautiful shots. You’ve made me miss my three days in Siem Reap. Even the early mornings! Taprohm is amazing and well worth the little detour. Great post!

    • Pamela October 1, 2012 Reply

      Hi Charlie, glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Chris October 20, 2013 Reply

    Angkor watt is very high on our bucket list . Thanks for the tips. It would be nice to see the temples without the crowds.

  5. Suki F August 15, 2014 Reply

    I wish I knew this when I went there. My exoerience would have been even better.

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