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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.