The temples of Angkor Wat are a must-visit for anyone going to Cambodia. What most people don’t realize is that the site is actually huge! While there is a main temple that everyone goes to see, it is part of a much larger complex of temples that used to be part of a city around the 12th century.
In fact, to see everything, you can’t do it on foot. You will need to rent bicycles, or drive around by tuk-tuk.
The main temple is an awesome sight and many backpackers go there early to see it at sunrise. Later in the day, throngs of tourists will begin to appear, many of them group tourists arriving in buses. While the temple is still large enough to accomodate the crowds, for a different experience you might want to try some other temples in the area, where you can often be the only person there.
I won’t have to point you at exact locations because there are many maps you can pick up in the area. Anywhere away from the main structure is where you’ll find the ‘hidden gems’. Or ask a tuk-tuk driver to take you to some of the lesser known temples.
The experience of exploring the ancient ruins, often half-collapsed or overgrown with massive trees, has a real Indiana Jones feel to it. (Or, if you are a video game geek like me, you might feel like you’re in a giant real-life level from Uncharted.) Without so many other tourists, you can easily imagine yourself being an explorer discovering these temples for the first time. When I was walking through an ancient library with several of my travel buddies, all we could hear were some tropical birds in the distance.
… oh, and the piercing noise of thousands of cicadas.
I had to laugh when I looked back at my videos. The sound of the cicadas is so loud that it seems like one of those sound effects from a horror movie. This one has a certain Blairwitch Project quality to it …