We started our day at sunrise again after sunrise-sunset exploring the day before, so needless to say we were pretty exhausted. But we powered through and saw some pretty awesome things during our second day.
Sunrise, Angkor Wat
Easily one of the coolest experiences of the trip was walking through the main Angkor Wat temple at sunrise with literally no one around.
Thanks to a friend who had been there before, we knew that while everyone was out front waiting to see the sun rise over the lake, the entire main temple complex would be nearly empty. So we took our flashlights (essential! it was pitch black!) and creeped through the ancient corridors, completely alone.
It was amazing.
We hung out toward the back of the temple when the sun came up, getting a great view of the countryside in the calm morning air. I can’t stress enough how cool that was.
Then, once it was actually light enough to explore inside properly, we took our time following the incredibly detailed bas relief carvings that circle the temple, depicting various battles between gods and demons.
Then, out of nowhere, we ran into another ETA from Korea who was also travelling in Cambodia at the time with some ETAs from Taiwan. We ended up walking around a bit together, chatting, and got a long lunch so we could keep talking about the differences and similarities between our programs and teaching English in Korea vs. Taiwan.
Then it was off to more temples!
We screwed our schedule up a bit by hanging out with the other ETAs for so long, so we ended up at Bayon right in the middle of the hottest part of the day. If you can help it, don’t do this - it was sweltering and there’s not nearly enough shade to mitigate the problem.
Despite this, Bayon was awesome. From afar it doesn’t look like much, another cool temple complex, but if you look close you can see the famous face carvings all over the temple’s towers. This is another place that you can end up exploring for a while (although with the heat we did end up rushing through it a bit.)
Afternoon, various temples
Around Bayon are a handful of various temples that you can easily walk to (although again, avoid doing this in the heat of the day). Some, like the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King, sounded a lot cooler on paper than they ended up being in real life, but they’re worth a brief look if you have the time.
The highlights in this area were the few temples hidden down wooded paths which were often quite run down but beautiful.
This temple above is Baphuon, which only recently reopened after years of renovation work. Apparently the original archaeologists who were restoring the temple in the 1960s had taken some of it apart when the Khmer Rouge came to power and destroyed the records of where each piece was supposed to go. So it took years to rebuild and no one is quite sure if this is exactly what the temple looked like originally.
And that was the end of our Angkor tour. We were so exhausted that we decided to head back early, skipping the second day’s sunset in favor of going back to bed.
Overall I’d say that Angkor Wat is definitely doable in two days if you don’t mind being exhausted, or three if you want to take your time. Any more and things will get pretty repetitive.
I will also say that those two days were a highlight of our trip, and it would be incredibly foolish to miss out on Angkor during a trip around Southeast Asia.