Five Reasons to Visit Angkor Wat

Five Reasons to Visit Angkor Wat

I hate it when someone asks me to name the one favorite place I’ve visited. It’s one of my personal quirks: I don’t do favorites, whether it’s colors, cars, or cartoons. That’s just me. Having said that, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a list of favorite places. The ruin sites at Angkor Wat, for example, will always have a front-row seat in my memory bank. 

Anger What? You ask. It’s a place that many have never heard of, most likely because it’s in Cambodia, a country that’s mostly ignored by the average tourist. As it happens, I have a friend who moved there to teach English, and knowing that we share an affliction of wanderlust, he suggested that I come to visit his side of the world. 

Largest Religious Monument in the World

If you enjoy seeing ancient ruins sites as much as I do, then you must visit Angkor Wat. The Buddhist temple complex is the largest religious monument in the world. Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the God Vishnu, it was built for Khmer King Suryavarman early in the 12th century.  The modern name, Angkor Wat, means Temple City. Or, if broken down, Capitol City and Temple Grounds.

Angkor Wat

The name Angkor Wat is used to describe the largest and best-preserved temple but it can also include Angkor Thom and Bayon, which are equally impressive sites. Too numerous to mention, there are several more temples in the area. Each successive king took it upon himself to outdo his predecessors by going bigger and better. The three major sites can be taken over a two-day leisurely tour. It can be done in one day if you want a kamikaze experience.

Angkor Thom

Cambodia is Cheap

Thailand and Vietnam may see more tourists than neighboring Cambodia, but it is by far the cheapest of the three Southeast Asian countries. Beers can still be found for a buck and meals for under five. Despite it being cheap, don’t fear the cuisine. Meats and vegetables are always fresh and flavored with an amazing array of spices. It was there that I learned about all the different colors and varieties of curry. 

Tarantula Appetizer

Accommodations in the capital city of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap,  the nearest city to the ruins, can be found at a fraction of the cost of any American city’s best nightly price. The bus fare from the capital to Siem Reap was a pittance, and a tuk-tuk driver for the day is $15 to $20. To understand and appreciate the ruins, a good tour guide costs about $60 for the day. Some drivers and guides will negotiate their prices if things are slow. 

Religion and History of Angkor Wat

I don’t follow any particular religion, but I was intrigued by how the Hindus converted to Buddhism. Like other Muslim/Christian sites around the world, the conversion is evident in the artwork and facades of their temples and buildings. The three-mile perimeter and sheer size of the monument is mind-boggling. The whole site is surrounded by a moat, making it seem even cooler. Modern-day Khmer Monks in orange robes can be seen wandering or praying within the temple walls. 

Aerial View of the temple

A Unique Ruin Site

I’ve visited the pyramids and temples in Egypt and ruin sites in Mexico and Guatemala, but the ancient temples at Angkor Wat are truly unique. Khmer architects used sandstone to cover the facades of their temples, a material that they masterfully carved. At Angkor Thom and Bayon, giant faces adorn the entrance to the temples. 

Like Egyptian hieroglyphs, scenes depicting important events or everyday life are carved into virtually every surface throughout the complex. The massive blocks that form the walls in the structure are so tightly fitted that some seams are difficult to locate. The ravages of time, jungle, earthquakes, and war took their toll on the Angkor ruin sites, but meticulous restoration has brought them back to life. 

Ta Prohm

Angkor Wat is Incredibly Cool

If you haven’t seen Angelina Jolie’s movie, Tomb Raider, give it a watch. Much of it was filmed in and around the jungles and ruin sites at Angkor Wat, and more specifically at Ta Prohm. There is no other place like it on earth. Giant silk-cotton trees have rooted themselves between the giant building blocks, giving the temple an eerie appearance. In some cases, tree roots look like giant hands grasping stones the size of small cars. 

Jolie’s film crew frequented a restaurant called The Red Piano while they filmed on location. When I visited the eatery, they had her table roped off as a tourist attraction. The walls surrounding the booth were lined with autographed photos of her and the locals. She took a shine to the poor and orphaned children while she was there. There is nothing else to really see in the city, as it is basically a bedroom community for the ruins. 

Like many other touristy sites, it is best to get there early. My guide suggested using the rear exit to start my tour. It was a great move; I got excellent unobstructed photographs and didn’t bump into other tourists until later in the day. For an overall and excellent view of Angkor Wat, try going up in the hot air balloon. It sounds tacky but you won’t be disappointed. I certainly wasn’t. 

If you want to read about any of my southeast Asian adventures take a look at the travel section of my website at www.edmondgagnon.com.

Sandstone Carvings

57 thoughts on “Five Reasons to Visit Angkor Wat

  1. Amazing, I recently ‘virtually met’ someone who has moved to Cambodia and she made it sound absolutely amazing. Looks like Angkor Wat would be the place to visit there, I love the look of that buddhist temple and the silk cotton trees sound great, too. Thanks for compiling this info, this is definitely a location to keep in mind for a future trip.

  2. You are welcome, Kathrin, that’s the great thing about the internet. I visited South America a few years back and was able to hook up with a woman I met on a dating site. Maybe you’ll visit your friend some day.

  3. Angkor Wat is such a magical place isn’t it. I love being able to visit places like these and just soak in everything. My Dad always wanted to visit Thailand and other Southeast Asia places before he passed, so when I can, I’ll visit and enjoy for us both! Now thanks to you I can add Angkor Wat to my list!

    1. Magical is a good description, Ashlee. I hope you both get to experience it some day. If you check my blog, under the travel section, you can see more stories about SE Asia.

  4. The reason I peruse the travel blogs is to have the ability to learn more about places I might not ever be able to visit or thought to visit. As you mentioned Cambodia would be one of those places and particularly Angkor Wat. I am also fascinated with Egyptian and Mexican ruins ever since I was a child. The temple is beautiful and makes me wonder how they built something so big so long ago with no real tools like we have today.

  5. I’m glad your pursuit is bearing fruit, sjd68. I’ve recently been to Egypt and Mexico too and if you check the travel section of my blog you can see the pyramids in both countries.

  6. I would love to see the ancient temples at Angkor Wat – what an amazing experience! Hopefully, I can travel there and see them in person one day!

  7. Bring here is the UK it is really nice to see some inspirational travel, as for obvious reasons travel is off the cards at least until 2021

  8. Happy to inspire you, we’ve been holding our finger over the cancel button for a Croatia trip this fall and just got some good news from a travel agent friend who lives there part time. She’s giving us the green light. I was ready to right off the year too.

  9. Angkor Wat is just amazingly beautiful to me. I’d love to visit one day, just to experience it in person. It’s just so evocative.

  10. Evocative. I like that..and think I’ll use it. Angkor Wat is truly one of the most unique places I’ve visited. Thanks for your feedback.

  11. Thank you for sharing these five reasons to visit Angkor Wat. I hear a lot lately about the beauty and historical heritage of Cambodia, and how cheap the country is for tourists. As always, I read every word of your travel report, and thank you for sharing your memorable experience and these fantastic photos.

    I took a note of your tip to enter the Angkor Wat from the rear exit and arrive there early. I’d also like to watch Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider movie.

    I haven’t been to any Asian counties yet, and Cambodia is definitely on my list.

    Thank you again,

    ~ Julia

  12. Thanks for your feedback, Jewelia, I hope you get there. It’s a huge country to discover.

  13. Great place and post. I have to admit I wanted to pack my things and go there ‘now’ ready the the first reason

  14. Cambodia has never been on my travel radar, as you mentioned as well. But these pictures and the history of Angkor Was that is there make me want to change that. Especially before all the other tourists discover how amazing it is! You mentioned the food (when I’m hungry, of course) and that is easily the best way to experience a new culture, in my opinion. I would love to take a trip around the world just to experience the food.

  15. I like to eat, and wondered about the food too but I never went hungry. I was disappointed when they cutting my meat but was blown away by the flavourful spices. And they use a fork and spoon to eat…no need for a knife.

    1. I’ve been to Angkor Wat four times. The first was in September 2000. The most recent in October 2019. Of course I liked my first visit the most because of fewer tourists. But I still find the place fascinating enough to escort first time travellers to Cambodia there, which accounts for my second and third visits. My most recent visit was because none of my kids had been there and they are now old enough to appreciate it.. I agree with you that a painfully difficult question to respond to is naming a favourite place from ones travels. Far too many variables to consider. As for this genre of travel, I’ve been to many sites around the globe. Machu Picchu is by far on the top of my list – for the location alone – high up in the clouds. But Angkor Wat Wat remains high on my list, as does Bagan in Myanmar. If anyone is fortunate enough to be coming to Cambodia soon, now is a great time to see Angkor Wat as the tourist numbers are way down for obvious reasons. I spoke to someone who went there about a month ago. He loved having the place almost to himself.

  16. I’d love to see Angkor Wat one day. it’s one of the wonders of the world, and it’s easy to see why. It’s such an amazing place.

  17. Angkor Wat has been on my bucket list for years. I’ve always been so fascinated by the architecture and beauty of it. It’s one of those places that just exudes history.

  18. This is undeniably such an amazing place to visit and as someone who briefly lived in Cambodia, I would definitely also recommend people take the time to include this in their travel plans. Interesting you mentioned Egypt. When I was there last year visiting the Karnak Temple in Luxor, the guide was adamant that Karnak was larger than Angkor Wat. He would not be persuaded otherwise even though the two structures are so different from each other anyway. Fabulous and informative post that I really enjoyed reading. Great tip about the back entry way and I love your photos as well.

  19. Interesting comparison between Karnak and Angkor Wat…I don’t believe him, even if he’s only comparing temples, but I’m no expert. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece, Nicole. Happy travels!

  20. the largest site? wow. that is impressive. the design and architecture would definitely be worth checking out.

    1. You could spend a week checking out the various temples in the area. The design and architecture is truly unique.

  21. oh my Gosh what a deeply beautiful place to visit , love the stunning sculptures kind regards Pati Robins @ style-squeeze blog

  22. The temple is fabulous and it makes me wonder how talented people we had in the past centuries. Cambodia certainly now features in my plans for later this year or early next year and this post gives a good feel of what to expect in Angkor Wat.The ruin site is certainly what I would love to visit.

    1. I’m glad I could inspire you, Roy, you will not be disappointed if you visit. I have a few stories and some more photos in the travel section of my website if you need some more inspiration for a trip there.

  23. I have always been fascinated by ruins all over the world. This would indeed be a dream place for me to go to.

    1. Put it on your list, Marie, The Killing Fields and Floating Villages on Ton Le Sap Lake are something to see too.

  24. I have read about Angkor Wat a lot. In fact the history and architecture are fascinations for me. You have nicely covered details of the place. Pictures are superb, all the more inspiring to visit the place,

  25. Angkor Wat is an amazing place! I have heard a lot about it and hopefully one day I can visit it too. How was the tarantula appetizer?

    1. Once you get past the idea of what it is…not bad…kinda like crispy dark chocolate with a nice dipping sauce.

  26. I get what you mean about favorites. Is the same for me. Why have a favorite when you can love all? This place is just stunning it’s like a Mystic Place I wish I could travel there.

  27. This has been on my list of places to visit for a very long time now! I have many friends who have been here and they say its wonderful!!

  28. I’m glad it’s on your list. Your friends are right…I hope you too, get there some day.

  29. Definitely there are even more reasons to visit Angkor Wat. I had a chance visiting the temple and always want to visit it again and again. Evenly, I figured out all the interesting facts related to Angkor Wat and shared it on my blog – https://thebroadlife.com/25-angkor-wat-facts.html
    Leave me a comment on the post if you like it also!

  30. Angkor Wat is such a beautiful place. I love the sunset there. It was one of the most beautiful and unforgettable travel experience I’ve had

  31. I visited Anghorwat and it was just amazing to see the architecture. Really worth visiting once in life time. The sunrise at Anghorwat should not be missed

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