Our first day at Angkor was epic. I had a highly researched plan, examined from every angle and committed to heart. But when our tuk tuk driver seemed to have a different idea, I adopted my new go-with-the-flow attitude and just trusted we’d get to everything on my list, albeit by a different route. We started out at the big one, Angkor Wat. I’ve read recommendations to do the opposite, as starting with the most impressive sight can make the rest a bit of a let down. I can see that point, but I think seeing it right at the start is a good overview and intro to the complex.
Angkor Wat deserves all the cliches. My Dad had brought over the July issue of National Geographic from the states, featuring a cover story on Angkor. The maps, photos and story had me more excited than ever to get my first glimpse of the place, and the real thing didn’t disappoint. According to Canby Publications guide, the best temple by temple resource I found:
“Angkor Wat is visually, architecturally and artistically breathtaking. It is a massive three-tiered pyramid crowned by five lotus-like towers rising 65 meters from ground level… the centerpiece of any visit to the temples of Angkor. Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat and an exterior wall measuring 1300 meters x 1500 meters.”
Angkor Thom was next, a walled in complex that you can explore for hours. Though we walked around the whole thing, the highlight was really Bayon. Bayon is famous for the postcard worthy carved faces on its 37 standing towers. We had a lot of fun exploring this site and all the photo ops it had to offer. If you come to Angkor, you can’t miss Bayon.
Almost as fun as Bayon itself were the monkeys that hang around all day, to the delight of tourists and young entrepreneurs selling monkey snacks alike. When we stopped to have a look, one of the greatest photo ops of all time ensued, and I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves: