The two most popular sights in Angkor, the capital city of the Khmer Empire between the 9th and 15th centuries, regarded as the largest pre-industrial city in the world. Angkor Wat is the main, and maybe only, attraction for many visitors. Originally built as a Hindu temple before becoming a Buddhist temple, it is possibly the largest religious monument in the world, contained within a 5km long moat. The classic way to visit it is at dawn, with hundreds of tourists lined up by the moat in the hope of a spectacular sunset reflected on the water, which wasn’t to be when I visited.
Avoiding the crowds after sunset we explored some of the outer parts of the complex, home to some wonderful carved reliefs.
We then headed into the main part of the complex and toward the top for views of the surrounding area. Although clearly impressive I preferred many of the other temples at Angkor, which are covered in another post.
Ta Prohm was made famous when it was featured in the first Tomb Raider film. Built slightly after Angkor Wat it has deliberately not been restored, preserving the evocative atmosphere with numerous silk-cotton and strangler fig trees enveloping the structures.
The temple has some exquisite carvings.
Parts of the temple were under repair / restoration when I visited in September 2013.
Siem Reap is the gateway to the Angkor archaeological area, a city of 120,000 people which depends heavily on tourism, with over 2 million visitors a year pre-Covid. It was basically a village until the early 19th century when tourists started to arrive. It’s a pleasant place to unwind after a day (or three in my case) exploring the sights of Angkor.
Wat Preah Prom Rath is a modern temple worth a visit.
The Royal Residence isn’t open to the public but is surrounded by the attractive Royal Independence Gardens.