There are some sights in life to which words don’t do justice. This is one.
The silhouette of this incredible building whispers down through the ages, and has an effect on your soul, religious or not.
For one, it is much bigger than you imagined. Huge in fact, and utterly dominates the landscape around it.
Secondly, it is serene. As a building, it seems completely unaffected by anything going on around it.
Finally, when your turn to stand before it and marvel comes, you will find yourself rooted to the spot, unable to move. There are some places you visit because everyone visits there. You soak it up and move on.
Antonio de Magdalena was one of the first Westerners to lay his eyes on the Wat. I love these words he wrote:
The temple is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of.
He couldn’t be more right. Here’s the rub though, when de Magdalena made it to Angkor, it would already have been starting to vanish back into the jungle. Yet still, this man, a man of the cloth, standing before a completely alien religious building cannot compare it to anything else. It is utterly exceptional.
Now it stands clear of the rampant jungle around it, and wow.
#1 Tip: Don’t bother with sunrise. It’s cool, don’t get me wrong, but what is far more impressive are the shadows thrown by either sunrise or sunset across the Wat.
Find a view point where you can see it bask in the shadows and orange light thrown up by sunrise, or come just after sunrise as thousands flock on to their next temples and bask in the cool morning shadows.
#2 Tip: The tuck tuks in town offer to do loops for set prices around the temple. Don’t argue on price, it’s pretty set and really no skin off your nose (around $13 USD), but do ask to do the loop backwards. This way you’ll get to lots of the temples of Angkor when virtually empty (by Angkor standards).
#3 Tip: Don’t haggle too hard with those selling inside the temple. First they will lower their prices without you arguing, secondly, many have lived around the temple for decades, but are no longer allowed to farm and must make their living off the tourists or move. For this reason please, please, be an ambassador for your nation, be discreet, and don’t celebrate loudly the $2 you got off the Angkor book many of them sell. For one, you can probably find it cheaper, and two let them live in dignity.
Amazing Angkor. Go there.