Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world.
So we've given ourselves a few days to visit the entire complex, which is made up of several sites about 15 minutes north of the city of Siem Reap. It was a bit confusing finding out where to pick up tickets. The office is in a building somewhere between the city and the temples, and the signage is not very good. We rode up and down looking for the ticket office. We got a three day pass for $50 each. Pricey!
We've read that the main temple, Angkor Wat, is best viewed at sunset
So we hid out in our luxurious hotel room, waiting out the hottest time of the day, to venture out in the late afternoon, a couple of hours before sunset.
Parking is free for motorcycles! We just pulled up to where all the taxis were and stashed our bikes between a couple of tuk tuks. Camouflaged! I love traveling by bikes!
We met some of the locals of Angkor Wat
The site that the main temple is on is huge! The grounds are 1.6 square kms and it takes a long time to walk from the parking lot on the outside of the moat surrounding the site to the actual temple itself.
Also whoever is recommending visiting the temple at sunset is telling everybody they know, because it is friggin' crowded! I guess it is the #1 tourist destination in Cambodia...
We try to time our walks through the temples in the lull between tour groups
The lull between tour groups
The city of Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th century. These temples were built in the 12th century.
It is not just a tourist site, it's an active temple as well.
People come here to pray and burn incense sticks.
Angkor was founded on political and religious ideas from India. This explains why this statue has multiple arms, which indicates that it's a Hindu deity. The Khmer were a Hindu/Buddhist religion.
So I found out that these monks don't live at Angkor Wat,
they all make pilgrimages to visit the temple
Another tourist, just like us. But dressed more snazzy...
Interacting with the monks
Walking a bit further away, we get a chance to snap the world-famous shot of Angkor Wat
reflecting off the pond in front of the temple. This is the picture on everyone's Instagram feed
What those Instagram photos never show you is where you have to stand to get the shot:
Seems so peaceful and serene in front of the camera, doesn't it?
I am fascinated with tourism.
Having traveled to many of the tourist hot-spots, there's often a sharp contrast between the marketing of a destination and the reality. Everyone's picture of the Greek island of Santorini shows the solitary blue domes on spartan white buildings against the wide-open Aegean Sea. There's never any other people in the shot. But the reality is that there are thousands of sweaty tourists all crowding each other trying to take that spartan shot. And *all of them* continuing to perpetuate the marketing myth that Santorini is a peaceful, solitary getaway!
Stonehenge backs up right against a major highway. In Pisa, we took more pictures of the tourists miming than the leaning tower itself. I've heard that the Sphinx in Cairo is being crowded by McDonalds and shopping malls (I still want to see it though!). But everyone wants a picture of how it was a hundred years or a thousand years ago, when there weren't cities and highways, shopping malls and parking lots, and acres of concrete, glass and steel all dominating our landscape.
I find that so interesting.
Here are two more of those sweaty tourists, lined up to get their picture taken in front of Angkor Wat
We've visited many of the "Top Ten" tourist spots in almost every country we've traveled to. Although we dislike crowds, there is a reason why these places are so popular. Angkor Wat is magnificent, due in part to the sheer size of it, but also all the way down to the well-preserved old grey stones and the odd monk walking around in orange robes (odd as in few, not weird).
Neda spent a lot of time taking pictures of the lily pads on the pond in front of the temple
A horse is parked in front for more tourist picture opportunities.
So this is a thing now...
We've kept this blog going for so long that it's not only just a diary of where we've been, but it's also become sort of a historical record of worldwide fads and trends. Back in 2012, we returned from a six-week trek to and from the Arctic Ocean in Alaska, and our friends in Vancouver informed us that Gangnam Style had become a thing while we were gone...
So let this be a record. As of right now, "dabbing" is a thing.
Personally, I find it a bit odd. (Odd as in weird, not few)
More traditional dabbing going on here
Dabbing our sweaty foreheads because of the heat
Ah ha, the light is getting good!
Sun is approaching the golden hour and everyone is flocking outside
The crowds outside the temple
Are these monks also walking outside to get a shot for their Instagram account?
Not joking! I've seen a few monks tapping and swiping on their smartphones. So apparently it's allowed.
I've heard that they have special Buddhist SIM cards for their phones. There's a guy who sells it to them, he's called the Chip Monk...
(insert obscure Asus Zenfone reference here)
Temple silhouettes against the setting sun
Take our place in line across the pond
Gotcha. You're going on Instagram now!
We're saving the best temples for tomorrow!