It is the largest, the main temple and the one that best withstood the passage of time. Considered the largest religious structure in the world, it was the epicenter of the empire in governance and spirituality. Its name means precisely that: Angkor means capital and Wat means temple.
It consisted of the royal palace and a temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, also symbolizing Mount Meru, like many other temples in Southeast Asia. It is estimated that in its perimeter there were about twenty thousand inhabitants.
Beyond the majesty of the temple, where we can ramble for hours while admiring the building, its sculptures and prints, the Angkor Wat sunrise comes as one of its greatest appeals. Thousands of people converge on the shore of a lake, in front of the temple, to witness the colors and reflections of a memorable phenomenon.
The only point against this program is “just” the thousands of people that can not escape from. We have to be at the ticket office at5 am if we want to find a good seat. This means waking up around 4 am, leaving Siem Reap around 4.30 am.
The Bayon temple is one of the most popular and not only because of its large size. Situated in the center of Angkor Thom, whose meaning corresponds to the great capital. The temple itself has as its particularity the many imposing statues that populate it. In any direction we look, we find a magnificent work with over 1000 years of history.
These are massive images that decorate the towers of the temple’s highest level, each of which has four faces. Built by King Jayavaram in the early 12th century, it underwent alterations at different times according to Hindu and Buddhist beliefs.
The best time to visit will be early, while the large crowds are still at Angkor Wat watching the sunrise. Making the Bayon Temple the first or first stopping point will be a good idea for one of the days. Either way, whether or not this is the option, Angkor Thom is only 3 kilometers from Angor Wat, about 5 minutes by scooter, 15 or 30 by bike, depending on the pace, but quite close.
Ta Prohm Temple
This temple shares the style and is of the same height as the previous temple, having been built as a Buddhist shrine and university. It is distinguished among the generality of the temples of Angkor Wat because, after its rediscovery, it was kept practically as it was found.
In Ta Prohm it is noticeable why it was possible for something of Angkor’s dimension to be lost and forgotten in time. We will find ruins consumed by the roots of large trees, which are no longer separable. It is an indescribable scenario but may even be familiar. Those who have seen the movieTom Rider, which was recorded there, should recognize the scenario.
Being one of the most popular in the whole complex, it should be visited between7 am and 8 am to avoid large crowds. If we have three days to explore everything, this should be, along with sunrise and the Bayon temple, one of the starting points.
Ta Prohm is 6 kms from Angkor Thom and 7 kms from Angkor Wat, about 10 minutes by scooter.