I’m pretty sure I’d heard the name Angkor Wat before I went to Asia, but I don’t think I realized what it is.
I rarely pay to go in attractions when I travel; I generally would rather be where the tourists are not. But everyone that I met in Siem Reap encouraged me to pay the $20 to enter Angkor Wat, so I did. I rode a Giant hardtail mountain bike to the ticket office right at 5pm, when they sell tickets for the next day. There was a huge line and tour buses lining the parking lot. Once you bought your ticket you could rush the 4km from the ticket office to the Angkor Wat temple to catch sunset on the temple. There was a mass of humans here, trying their best to all take award winning photos with their smartphones. The sun had mostly gone down by the time I found a spot on the lake in front of the temple. I quickly took some quintessential tourist shots and moved on, making my way into the temple.
Pretty much as soon as I got in the temple, guards started ushering tourists back towards the road. The temple closes at sundown. I somehow slid past the guards and went to the backside of the temple grounds.
I found a monk standing perfectly still on the far side of the temple. This was a long exposure, several seconds, and he doesn’t appear to move. I tried a second shot…
and apparently kicked my tripod. Happy little accidents.
The next morning I woke up before sunrise to peddle as fast as I could the 8 kms to the complex. I think it took me around 20-25 minutes of basically sprinting on the bike. I was psyched I paid the $1 extra for the Giant mountain bike instead of the city bikes. I was blazing past other tourists on bikes like they weren’t even moving.
I raced past the Angkor Wat complex, since I already had photos of it, in order to find something of interest before the sun came up. I think I found just what I was looking for.
The temple had faces carved into so many of the surfaces
I had successfully avoided the hoards of tourists, and basically had this temple to myself for the sunrise. I continued on, searching for whatever treasures I could find.
After only a short time, I got bored looking at temples. I started seeking out humans to photograph. I stopped at many of the vendors and asked to take their pictures.
I found a trail that looked like it could accommodate my bike, which led from one temple structure to another. I came across a group of Cambodian tourists following a boy monk.
One of my favorite photos from the trip.
The trees in the complex were some of my favorite things.
Finally, after a lot of searching, I found Ta Prohm, the temple used in Angelina Jolie’s “Tomb Raider”. It was one of the more interesting temples because of the interaction between nature and man-made. But sadly, I got there at the same time as the hoard of tourists, so I didn’t get too many good photos of it.
Partway through I realized I was almost late getting back to my hostel to check out before they charged me for another day. I ran back to my bike and peddled as hard as I could. I didn’t realize how far I’d gone during the morning. I rode roughly 20 miles in total, a lot when you weren’t planning on riding much at all. I reached my hostel right at 1pm, the deadline. The ride had been pretty horrendous in the hot sun. I took a road back that wasn’t the most direct way, and there were zero trees for shade. I was psyched there was a pool.
I loved my time in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. I definitely recommend it as a destination. Next, I was seeking out some beach time.