Being one of the finalists for the new seven wonders of the world (and amid such tough competition, it deserves the title as much as the ones that made it, in our opinion) early on in the 21st century, Angkor Wat is simply a place that cannot be missed by anyone touring SE Asia.
Being such a massive complex though, it is difficult to know what is worth seeing first. The following three highlights of Angkor Wat will make the most of your trip here if you are on a tight schedule…
1) Watch the sun rise at the main temple complex
While dawn comes early at the main temple complex at Angkor Wat, it is one of the most iconic experiences to have while on holiday in Southeast Asia. Clamber into a hired shuttle in pitch darkness and head into Angkor park with other early risers as the light of the impending day begins to glow on the eastern horizon.
After witnessing the sun breach the horizon, lighting up the main spire of the inner sanctum of Angkor Wat, many tours will offer a breakfast spread to quell any rumbling stomachs, which will be a small inconvenience to endure given the beauty that you see on this momentous day.
2) Crawl through the passages within Bayon
Established after the dominant religion of the region switched from Hinduism to Buddhism, Bayon is a smaller, yet labyrinthic temple that will satisfy the inner Indiana Jones within you.
With calming highlights that include lit candelabras and mysteriously carved faces found throughout its many levels, this temple will occupy more time than you originally anticipate, so plan ahead to allow at least one to two hours here.
3) Witness the symbiosis between ancient ruins and nature at Ta Prohm
Having been abandoned for many centuries before serious archeological and preservation work began to help maintain Cambodia’s best known symbol, nature had begun the process of reclaiming the land from what was once the center of the Khmer Empire.
The best example of her relentless march intermingling with the ruins at Angkor is at the temple of Ta Prohm. Those that well versed in movies of the past couple of decades will recognize that this part of the park was used to film large parts of Tomb Raider, a movie based on a video game staring Angelina Jolie.
Even if you have no idea what either of those are, everyone can agree that the juxtaposition of massive tree roots and the centuries old masonry makes for excellent photo opportunities that will inspire wonder in family members back home.