Angkor Tour 1: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon and Baphuon

Angkor Wat and the temples of Bayon and Baphuon at Angkor Thom. The main event. Only 20 minutes outside of the city of Siem Reap (which lies 6 hours north of the capital of Phnom Penh, Cambodia), these temple complexes are just two of the many temples and ancient city areas that you can visit in the Angkor Archeological Park, but they are the two must-see sites. Please check my previous posts for more detailed info on Angkor Wat and Tour 2.

What is Tour 1?
Tour 1 typically starts before sunrise at the incredibly famous temple at Angkor Wat. You’ll easily spend 3 or 4 hours walking around the temple complex. Then it’s off just up to road to what used to be the city of Angkor Thom. While the enclosed area is enormous, most people see just three things at Angkor Thom: Bayon, Baphuhon, and the Elephant Terrace. For information on entrance passes and tuk tuks vs taxis, please check my previous post about Tour 2

Angkor Tours Map

 

Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Baphuon

Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Baphuon are the main attractions

 

Sunrise over Angkor Wat

The first stop of the day is Angkor Wat. I wrote a LOT about Angkor Wat in a previous post (Check that post for more info) , so I won’t flog the horse too much again in this post. Just a few very important points:

Angkor Wat at dawn

Sunrise over Angkor Wat, Cambodia. One of about 100 on my iPod Touch.

1. YES! It IS worth getting your butt out of bed to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat. But no, you don’t have to get up at 3am and be there while it’s pitch black out. Just find out what time the sun rises and get there about 30 minutes before to experience one of the most amazing sights you’re likely to witness in this life.

2. Do your visit around the temple as soon as you’ve had your fill of the sunrise to beat the package tourists. In particular, the ramp to the very top level opens around 8:30 am, so you can be up there and experience it in relative peace.

3. Rather than eating at the mostly awful tour-group oriented restaurants in the area, throw a bit of lunch and a couple of towels to sit on in your cab or tuk tuk when you leave in the morning and have your lunch along the moat that runs on either side of the main entrance. It’s a fairly common thing for the locals to do, and it sure beats the roach infested eateries within the temple complex.

Angkor Thom: Bayon

As you can see from the map above, you enter the ancient city of Angkor Thom from the south. The first temple you will hit is Bayon. Bayon was built after Angkor Wat in the late 12th century, and it has had numerous additions, demolitions, and repurposings as various kings conquered and put their stank on it. I still think of Bayon as the “Temple of Faces.” Or rather, a mountain of faces, as the numerous face-towers were built to give the appearance of a mountain of ascending peaks. Although there used to be 49+ face towers, only 37 remain. Only?! What am I talking about? Even if only 5 remained, it would still be worth seeing.

Bayon is best up close and personal

Bayon is best up close and personal

Bayon from a distance

Bayon from a distance

A view just at the entrance of the 2nd enclosure

A view just at the entrance of the 2nd enclosure

Can't get enough of those mug shots

Can’t get enough of those mug shots

Note that Bayon is not just a pretty face. It has an incredible range and number of bas relief carvings around the enclosures. I kiiiiiind of remember them, but I was mostly just walking around in stunned amazement looking at the face towers. I’ll have to pay closer attention to them next time around.

A bas relief carving just to take a break from the faces

A couple of dancing Apsaras in bas relief carving just to give your eyes a rest from all the faces

The back courtyard at Bayon

The back courtyard at Bayon

There were even faces in the rubble, which is piled neatly around the temple

There were even faces in the rubble, which is piled neatly around the temple

A wide view of the faces

A wide view of the faces

Bayon is in my top 3 temples at the Angkor Archeological Park. Be sure to check it out!

 

Angkor Thom: Baphuon

When you leave Bayon continuing north, you’ll see a loooooong stone walkway over a small reservoir. At the end of the walkway is another “mountain temple” that really does seem like a mountain. It is a five-tiered pyramid that looks intriguing from a distance, but is amazing once you enter, climb, and walk around. And there’s a bonus: It gets much less tourist traffic than other major temples, which makes for a fairly serene viewing. Definitely worth checking out.

At the start of the walk toward Baphuon

At the start of the walk toward Baphuon

Get ready to climb

Get ready to climb

It's a long way down once you get to the very top of the temple. An amazing view.

It’s a long way down once you get to the very top of the temple. An amazing view.

Angkor Thom: Elephant Terrace

Close to the walkway leading into Baphuon is a long, raised terrace of sculpted elephants and other creatures, including lion-headed figures and “garudas” (Giant bird deities from Hindu mythology). I thought some of them looked more like monkeys than birds or lions, but maybe that’s just me seeing what I want to see.

Elephant Terrace-Angkor Thom

Wide view of the Elephant Terrace at Angkor Thom

Elephant Terrace-Angkor Thom

Elephant Terrace at Angkor Thom

Elephants digging up some lilies (or so a guide book said).

Elephants digging up some lilies (or so a guide book said).

Now tell me this guy doesn't look more monkey than bird. I think the scholars are wrong and I'm right on this one :)

Now tell me this guy doesn’t look more monkey than bird. I think the scholars are wrong and I’m right on this one :)

Not sure what this guy is, but he means business!

Not sure what this guy is, but he means business!

And that’s it for Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Hope you can get there soon and take some photos of your own soon. Happy travels.

Bayon faces

A perfect weather day for Angkor Thom and Bayon

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