Many people dream of seeing the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the beautiful pictures that we see floating around make it seem so serene and a peaceful and calm. That is until you actually get here and the place looks like a zoo for humans. Okay, there are times when it's not so crazy, providing you avoid the place at certain times. Below are some of the things I wish people would have warned me about, which I hope will help you. Also, note that this post is only intended to assist in setting your expectations when you visit and perhaps prepare you for it. There is no doubt that this place is magical but would be even better without the things mentioned below.
1. The Moat Is Artificial (Fake)
We have all see those beautiful pictures with a beautiful reflection of Angkor Wat towers and palm trees reflecting off the water. Well, guess what the moat has dried up and now has to be artificially filled with a pipe connected to the water supply from the main moat at the entrance of the temple's outter entrance from the road. The scenery itself was beautiful and the reflection perfect but to stand there while also in clear view of this large blue pipe that was supplying water to the moat so that these tourists who have paid hard earn money for to view the world famous Angkor Wat sunrise reflection can get their money's worth and that money shot reflection picture. Well, let's just say I felt cheated a little. I arrived in the summer so maybe it does dry out and refills during the rain season, but just the thought of this thing being filled up while we were there, rubbed me the wrong way.
2. Relentless Vendors and Touts
Many people set off from hotels at the crack of dawn so you will most likely not have had breakfast. Hotels usually make breakfast for their guests if they have any part in arranging your tuk-tuk to take collect you at 4am from the hotel to the entrance of the temple. When you do get to Angkor Wat you will soon notice that they have set up small stalls with small cafes. These cafes send out their waiters to drum up business and take breakfast orders from the many tourists that stand and wait the sunrise to hit the fake moat and produce the reflection shots that they have all waited to tick off their bucket lists. These vendors are relentless and the moment you fend off one, another comes out of nowhere and it now appears you have entered some kind of 'whack em all' game with the vendors. When the sun does rise and the tourists start to disperse, many people go back to the hotels to sleep with a few heading to explore the inside of the temple and others staying behind for breakfast. Note that if you do stick around for breakfast, most of the vendors will not speak a word of English so don't go thinking that you can have your eggs made to order just the way you like em. What you get on your plate will very much be what you have either pointed on the pictures of the menus or what the waiter and the cook assumed you meant to order. Neither will match your expectation of what your mind's eye envisioned. Either way, don't forget to bring your sense of humor!
3. Expect To Pay Buddhas For A Picture
There are many a buddha around the temple and all providing some sort of a service. You can either sneak in a few pictures of them but most will expect some sort of compensation for taking pictures with them and for the bracelets that they put around your wrists.
4. The Crowds At Sunrise and Sunset
I knew the gathering for sunrise at Angkor Wat was popular but what I was faced with, I hadn't prepared for. In addition to the moat being artificially filled, let's just say I was less than pleased. The place is crowded!!! People probably embark to the spot at least by 3.30am. Also don't be surprised by the micro-aggression of people as they fight to hold down their little spot in front of the moat so they can take the reflection shots they have been dreaming about for so long. The whole experience was not as serene or as peaceful as, perhaps, I had imagined it was going to be. It's a temple and therefore I thought it would have some sort of peaceful and perhaps people would either behave a certain way or dress a certain way. Let's not get into my pet peeve of people who turn up half naked to religious sites. Just mentally prepare yourself for the crowds or prepare to get there at ridiculous o'clock to get a good spot. Another option is that you may have to revisit a few times if you are serious about your sunrise photography and their quality. If you want to avoid the crowds then visit Angkor Wat after 8am once the sunrise crowds have dispersed. Same goes for the sunset crowds, depending on when the sunset is that day, ensure you visit much earlier. This is also the best time to visit a lot of the other temples before the sunrise crowds descend back to the temple for further exploring after morning power naps.
5. Kids Selling Items
I get that Cambodia is a developing country but it's rather disheartening to see so many kids out here so so early trying to flog off items from some of the market stalls nearby. From magnets, to key rings and postcards. The kids also seem to be taught not to take no for an answer so will sometimes come as a group and expect you to buy, buy, buy! That whether you need it and whether you have repeatedly said "no thank". The adults bank on you being guilt ridden by their poor little faces that you will ultimately buy items. There are so many of these kids about, selling items from 4am sometimes, which is just a sad case but what can one do? As much as I wish they were in school, I can't help but think that buying items from them will help the situation. It only helps to prove to their parents that keeping them out of school is profitable for them. In the short run, it might be, not the long run.
Items To Bring With You
- You can actually bring your own breakfast or grab something from the stalls near the moat.
- There is water(much of which is stagnant) nearby so that means mosquitoes so bring repellent or something to cover you with.
- Bring some drinking water with you.
The crowds circling the moat at Angkor Wat
Once the sun comes out the crowds disperse and disappear back to hotels or inside the Angkor Wat
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