After an early morning viewing followed by breakfast at the hotel, we headed back to Angkor Wat again, this time to view it under a high sun and blue skies. We had a full day of temples ahead of us, too. Because Semester at Sea docks in each port for such a limited amount of time, they really manage to pack everything in on our ISE trips; all of our days ran from before sun up to well after sun down.
While sunrise at Angkor Wat was impressive, I much preferred the site in broad daylight. It was almost too dark when we were there at 5am to observe any of the fine detailing of the 12th century temple, like the countless stone carvings on the walls, both inside and out.
Angkor is a temple complex comprising nearly 400 square miles—the largest pre-industrial city in the world—and is situated just a couple of miles from the center of Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, of course, is the most well-known of the temples.
As we wandered the periphery, SVV scored some black makeup off a little girl and used it to do some rubbings of the glyphs on the inner walls of the temple. That’s the biggest difference with the sites in Cambodia versus any major U.S. point of interest: There was no one there to yell at us and say touching the walls was forbidden. In fact, there were very few rules at all. Can you imagine if he had tried to do this anywhere in the United States, let alone at an ancient structure that dated back nearly a millennium?
What no one tells you before you go—at least I was never told as much—is just how steep the climb is into the main tower of Angkor Wat and how much walking it would require just to reach that point. I’m not even afraid of heights and I was clinging onto the bannister out of fear that I would go tumbling down the side.
Another thing to note is that if you want to go all the way up, not only do your shoulders have to be covered, but they must be covered by actual sleeves and not just a scarf, as is allowed by many other sites. Luckily, our tour guide told us as much, so all of us girls bought $2 T-shirts at the night market the previous evening so we’d be allowed up.
Also, we were at Angkor at the end of October, and it was hot as the dickens out. I can’t imagine how it must feel during actual summer. Wearing sleeves and pants was painfully sweaty, and SVV had to buy a bamboo hat at one of the stalls to keep the sun from scorching his face.
Once at the top of the temple, it’s rather anti-climactic. There’s not a whole lot to see actually, and the views are much better from ground level (in my opinion).
We were given two hours to roam around the Angkor Wat grounds. This was more than enough time to see the one temple, though bear in mind, it’s a huge place and takes about 15 minutes to reach the main temple from the entrance. The moat that surrounds the complex alone is more than two miles.
And for those of you who guessed that I might have done a jumping shot at Angkor Wat, well…you were right.
And this was just our first stop of the day, too. We still had a good five temples to go…and I was already starting to experience a smidge of temple fatigue.
Not into historical vacations like Angkor Wat? Consider accommodation in Yorkshire for your next getaway instead if you require a country escape.