Visiting Angkor With A 3-Day Pass
Angkor… That name always has a special flavor for all exploration-minded travelers. The vision of these incredibly old temples temples buried under a thick jungle is enough to wake up any desire for adventure. These astounding trees growing huge roots along the temple walls (Tetrameles nudiflora – locally known as “spung“) are a real postcard of Cambodia and South-East Asia.
I got the 3-day pass, that allows you to enter all the temple of the region during 3 days. Just in case you were considering it, don’t expect to buy a cheaper one-day pass and try to sneak in other temples on the following days – Officials are there at each temple and they carefully check the validity of your pass. I know it quickly adds up if you are several people, but the temples are fantastic and well worth the price.
The best advice I can give you is to hire a tuk-tuk driver who will pick you up at your hotel in the morning and take you from temple to temple inside the Angkor area, in a very pleasant and comfortable way.
On my first day, as it was too late to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat, it was kept for the next day. My first Angkor Temple was the Bayon, with its famous monumental faces sculpted in the rock, followed by various other temples in the Angkor Thom area.
On the second day, as planned, the tuk-tuk driver was there very early not to miss the sunrise over the world-famous Angkor Wat Temple. It was nice but I wasn’t alone to have had this idea… The top section of Angkor Wat opens later in the morning, so expect some waiting time if you were there at sunrise.
Another important temple that I visited that day is Ta Prohm Temple, with the super famous spot where a huge spung tree grows roots on the walls.
On the third day, I had the chance to visit some last temples on my way to Lake Tonle Sap, where I discovered the surprising village of Kampong Phluk. If you ask your tuk-tuk to take you to Kampong Phluk, don’t hesitate to ask him to stop at Preah Kô, Bakong and Lolei Temples. They are not among the cluster of temples surrounding Angkor Wat (but not far), but they are still part of Angkor and you will need your pass.
In total, I visited 17 temples in the region of Angkor. I didn’t make a panorama in each of them but you still have quite a lot to see on that page.
17 temples might sound a little boring. That’s one surprising fact of that trip: from the pictures you can find online, the temples all look the same and you think that yes they look great but once you have seen 5 or 6 you can consider you have seen them all. But all the temple actually look and feel different, and I must say that I never got tired of them.
Another surprise, the great big famous Angkor Wat temple is not necessarily the one I preferred. Yes it is absolutely huge, it is a jewel and an extremely precious monument; but I feel that I took at least as much pleasure to explore some smaller temples that are less visited and have these huge trees growing on them. For instance, I have a great memory of the Preah Khan Temple. Ta Keo and Pre Rup Temples were also wonderful, overlooking the forest around.
“Were You Really Alone In The Temples To Take Your Panos?”
“Probably used some magic erasing tools in his favorite software…” No, I didn’t cheat with Photoshop.
In some temples, yes, I was alone. In some others, I wasn’t. But I still wanted to offer you interactive 360° views of these temples with no-one inside, as an attempt to make you feel how it’s like to discover and explore these archaeological wonders.
I don’t know if you’re like me, but when I find myself lost in an ocean of other tourists, invading the whole area, queuing forever to take the same exact picture at this very precise spot… in the end I just glance at the stuff I came for and tend to naturally run away from that crazy crowd. The magic of the exploration is totally lost. And the visit is a bit of a failure. This is sometimes inevitable for very famous places and monuments like the Temples of Angkor.
When I am about visit a place that I know will be fantastic, exceptional, spectacular, memorable for the rest of my life, I want to make sure I will find my little “privileged” personal moment in connection with the place.
First of all, I went slightly off-season, in April. The peak season for Angkor is supposed to be more around November-February, when the weather is OK. In April it was damn hot. That’s why the “spung” trees growing on the walls had lost their leaves, because of the drought. At the hottest hours of the day, it was well close to 40°C/104°F, you can imagine how it felt being surrounded by all these hots stones. But it there were still some people anyway, specially in the most famous temples like Angkor Wat or Ta Prohm.
One thing I did was trying to visit some of these more touristic temples at around lunch time. Already much less crowded.
I did explore some temples that were really empty and it was fantastic! But the bigger ones, were never empty. So, instead of walking with the crowd from the entrance straight to the exit, I just walked around waiting for the crowd to go away and deciding in what spot I will do my panorama. I was basically taking my pictures between two waves of tourists.
That’s how I managed to get these panoramas with nobody inside. In Angkor Wat, I rushed to be the very first entering the top of the temple when it opened, to quickly take my panorama before the crowd of tourists arrives (but there are still a few people on the picture already).
As you can see there is no amazing technique or software miracle here, just a bit of patience. This way, through these panoramas, you can get the feel of how it’s like to be alone in the Temples of Angkor, as if you’d just discovered them.