Located just a few kilometres from Siem Reap, Angkor is one of the most famous historic sites in Southeast Asia, and is one of the top things to do when visiting Cambodia.
Stretching over some 400 square kilometres, this UNESCO World Heritage site contains the remains of countless temples from the Khmer Empire, including Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple and of course…Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap was my first port of call in Cambodia, and naturally a visit to Angkor Wat was at the top of my agenda.
But the main question that was on my mind was should I see Angkor Wat at sunrise or sunset?
While I was backpacking through Southeast Asia, I had heard lots of travellers rave about Angkor Wat at sunrise, but to be quite honest I’m not a morning person and the thought of getting up at 5am wasn’t too appealing. After conferring with my travel blogger friend Turner, we decided that unless we partied all night and went to Angkor Wat slightly inebriated, it was probably best to spend the afternoon exploring the temples and stay for sunset.
You can usually expect to pay about $12 for a tuk tuk driver to take you there and back, but we got ours down to $9 because it was late in the afternoon. On arrival at Angkor you have to pay and entrance fee, and you can choose to pay for either 1-day ($20) or 3-day ($40).
Since it was around 2pm we tried to ask if we could purchase 1 day and then watch sunset the following morning, but alas we could not. We would have to wait until 5pm if we wanted to purchase a ticket, see sunset, and then come back the next day.
We didn’t want to go and come back at 5, nor did we really feel like paying an extra $20, so we just decided to see sunset and forget about the sunrise.
I have to confess after seeing so many temples in Southeast Asia I was feeling a bit temple-d out, so I was happy to just stroll around in a leisurely fashion instead of exhausting myself with a full day of sightseeing.
Our first temple stop was at the tree temple of Ta Prohm aka the temple where Tomb Raider was shot. It was possibly my favourite temple and certainly the most photogenic with the jungle growing through it.
Next was the Bayon temple, which is famous for the huge stone faces carved into its towers. No matter which way you look, there is a face looking back at you!
Since this was rather a spontaneous day out (I thought we would probably do the temples on my second day in Siem Reap), I had completely forgotten to bring my usual ‘temple attire’ of leggings and cardigan…naughty me. At the Baphuon temple I was told to cover up, but of course I had nothing with me. At most of the temples in Southeast Asia they always seem to have long skirts you can rent, but not here.
In the end a kind lady let me borrow her blue scarf, which I draped over my shoulders, but there was still the question of my knees. I had to untuck my top, unbutton my high-waisted skirt and awkwardly pull it down as far as it would go so it just about covered my knees. So if you’re wondering what to wear to Angkor Wat, either wear a long skirt and a short sleeved T-shirt for the day, or pop some leggings and a scarf in your bag to cover up when necessary.
Once the clothing debacle was sorted, we climbed to the top of the temple for this fantastic view…
Finally, the icing on the cake- Angkor Wat.
I have to say I always love sunsets- I just love that time of day just before evening comes. I prefer doing it this way round rather than getting up incredibly early, feeling tired, and then spending the rest of the day trudging round temples.
Unfortunately the sun doesn’t set over Angkor Wat, it sets on the other side, but you do get the beautiful reflection of the burnt orange sun in the lake.
At sunrise you would see the silhouette of the temple with the sun rising behind it, and the whole thing reflected in the lake. It makes for postcard-perfect photos, so I can totally see why people would prefer to do sunrise.
However if you’re happy just relaxing on the grass with a drink in hand watching the sun go down, then sunset is still a special experience.
So Angkor Wat sunrise or sunset? Have you decided? Which do you prefer? If you want to explore more archeological sights of this city, you can check out other Siem Reap temples on Overseas Attractions.