Angkor Wat is one of the most impressive sites in the world, and was immediately a highlight of my southeast Asia trip. The temples are breathtaking! While you need to visit them in Cambodia to appreciate it, below is a photo tour of the experience.
I’ll start with some sunrise photos, because that’s what it’s famous for and I love them! I’ll show you the geography, then sprinkle in a little history, with photos throughout the post.
Where is Angkor Wat?
Angkor Wat is located in Siem Reap, in Cambodia. Along with Angkor Thom, the Bayon temples, and Ta Prohm, Angkor might be the best two-day trip you can take in all of Asia.
Angkor Wat was built by the vanished Khmer empire. It was constructed during the reign of King Suryavarman II, who ruled from 1113 to at least 1145.
Did you know?
Angkor is located in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap literally translates to ‘defeat of Siam,’ which is today’s Thailand. It’s a conflict that goes back centuries, between the Siamese and Khmer people.
The real “tomb raider” ?
This is Angkor’s only temple with tombs, despite the “Tomb Raider” movie being shot at nearby Ta Prohm, where there’s no tombs.
“Angkor Wat” translates to “The city that is a temple.”
Aspara dancers everywhere!
There are more than 1,860 carved Apsara dancers in Angkor Wat.
Did you know?
I found this interesting – “Angkor Wat” translates to “The city that is a temple.” It’s true, it’s both a city and temple at the same time.
Stories in the Walls – a closer look
How long did it take to build?
They say Angkor Wat took 30 years to build, which seems like a long time, until you see all the rich detail on nearly every wall. Nearly every wall has details you can miss!
Why was Angkor Wat built?
Scholars say the temples were built for funerary purposes, since its bas-reliefs are meant to be viewed anti-clockwise, a direction that was associated with death in the Khmer empire.
From Hindu to Buddhist?
This stone sculpture depicts the 8 arms of Vishnu, the powerful Hindu god, but with the head of Buddha. When Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple, the head of Vishnu was replaced with the head of Buddha.
Many devatas grace the walls. Devata is another word for deva, the Hindu term for deity
My favorite in the Angkor Wat complex?
Finally, if you’re going to Siem Reap, you’ll definitely also want to check out both the Bayon temples / Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm (post coming soon). Those are my favorites!
Did you know there’s a Bahrain Camel Farm with hundreds of camels? They brought 500 camels to Bahrain. I’ll share the story behind how they Bahrain got camels, and some info about camels too in a photo tour.
Bahrain Camel Farm’s 500 camels
Business tourists visit Bahrain for meetings, but rarely ask, are there camels in Bahrain? There’s lots of of camels in Bahrain, but the reason might surprise you. Here’s the quick story he shared:
How did Bahrain get camels?
My guide told me that the King of Bahrain (actually Sheikh Mohammed, uncle of the King) wanted camels, and thus 500 camels were brought to what became the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain. He decided to open up this Royal Camel Farm to the public. I’d never seen so many camels!
Bahrain Camel Farm photo tour
I’d seen camels before, but never this many, and never like this.
Bahrain consists of mostly desert, making it the ideal habitat for camels.
Despite being called a camel farm, the camels here are not for eating. Sheikh Mohammed set up the farm to preserve the presence of the camel in Bahrain which, before the advent of the motor vehicle was the Bahraini’s foremost mode of transport. Indeed, the Arabian Peninsula has a huge cultural connection with the camel, and for the Bedouins of the past, the camel was revered as a sacred symbol of life amid the inhospitable desert. -Time Out Bahrain
I mostly just observed and took photos, but camel rides around the farm can be arranged. You can also play with them, feed them, watch them, or take photos with them. If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s also the occasional sale of camel milk.
Note, the post is called “500 Camels” because that’s what my guide/driver called it, but it looked more like 150 or 200. Either way it’s a lot of camels, and waaaaay more than I had ever seen.
Visit Bahrain Royal Camel Farm info
Camel riding is so much fun!
Where is the Royal Camel Farm in Bahrain?
Junaibiya Highway in Al Janabiya (near Manama), Bahrain
Hours: open to the public every day.
This destination wasn’t even on my list of things to visit in Bahrain, but ended up being a highlight! I trusted my driver a bit more to improvise from my prepared list, but that trust was short-lived. The next place he showed me was… the Bahrain King’s Parking Lot. I’m serious. I tell the quick story here.
Do camels really store water in their humps?
For some reason people learn that camels store water in their large humps, to allow them to live in desert climates. That’s not actually literally true; they store fat in their humps, but it is a crucial part of how camels bodies allow them to live in hot deserts. This video on how Camels store water explains it in just 2 minutes. Enjoy!
What else is in Bahrain? I’m fascinated by the architecture in Bahrain , especially the Bahrain World Trade Center with wind turbines connected to the buildings.
Initially the faces were believed to represent Brahma, the Hindu God of creation depicted with four heads. When it was later established that the Bayon was not a Hindu temple but a Buddhist one, archeologists believed the faces to be of Lokeshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. The similarity of statues of Jayavarman VII and the face towers had led some to believe that it is the King himself whose face is depicted on the towers.
Bayon temples History:
But who’s Jayavarman?
Bayon was the state temple of Jayavarman VII, a powerful ruler in the late 13th century (Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII). The temple sat at the center of Angkor Thom, a walled city that served as the capital of the Khmer Empire.
Next, we’ll explain the cosmic angle.
The Bayon temple was “intended to evoke the form of Mt. Meru—the cosmic mountain at the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. In keeping with this cosmic symbolism, the plan of the temple is based on a ‘yantra’, a symbol used by Tantric Buddhists as the basis of mandala diagrams that represent the layout of the universe. The temple honored not just one deity, but a host of gods found throughout the Khmer empire. Its central shrine held an image of Jayavarman VII, who perhaps imagined himself as a god-King ruling in the name of the Buddha” [source]
Our guide explained how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war
Bayon faces are facing in all four directions on each tower. The faces are thought to represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions
Details on every Bayon wall!
Next, I’d like you to focus in closer up on the actual walls. Every wall has detail that’s interesting in Bayon!
Finally, let’s finish the tour with some more photos of these structures. You can’t tell from my expression here but I loved it!
Angkor Wat Itinerary
If you have just a day or two, make sure you get to these three areas of temples.
Petra in Jordan is impressive! You’ve seen it on Indiana Jones, but it’s actually REAL! I’ll take you on a photo tour of Petra, and share the history. I highly recommend visiting!
Petra, one of the 7 Wonders of the World
First I’ll briefly catch you up on the history. Next, let’s take a photo tour.
Petra was established in the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans. They carved the entire city out of the rock. They didn’t build columns – they kept carving the rock until they had columns. Given the back-story, it’s some of the most impressive architecture I’ve seen.
Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage site
Petra is one of the new seven wonders of the world (as of 2007) . It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site as well (since 1985).
Next, let’s walk down to their canyon called the Siq.
The Siq in Petra
Siq – Scale / By the numbers
The Siq is a 250-foot-high (76-meter-high) sandstone slot canyon. So impressive!
The site from Indiana Jones
Watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade before you arrive. You may recognize this spot (above photo) from the film.
The movie’s fictional “Canyon of the Crescent Moon” was modeled on it. The Siq leads directly to Al Khazneh (the Treasury). The Siq is pictured above, and the Treasury is below.
When was it discovered?
Petra was established as early as early as 312 BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans. You can visit it now, but the site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812. UNESCO describes it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”. I agree! It’s such a gem!
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
At the film’s climactic final scenes, Harrison Ford and Sean Connery burst forth from the Siq and walk deep into the labyrinths of the Treasury in their quest to find the Holy Grail. But, as usual, archaeological fact bowed to Hollywood fiction when Indy came to Petra.
In reality, the Treasury is nothing more than a facade with a relatively small hall once used as a royal tomb.-Nat Geo
There are dozens of tombs and other carved or constructed structures and sites within the city.
Where is Petra?
You’ll find it in Jordan, in the Middle East. While you’re in Jordan, I suggest you also visit the Dead Sea and the Wadi Rum desert.
Itinerary and tips
By now I think you know how much I love Petra. I recommend visiting as soon as it opens at 6am, if you’re able to. I really wish I had done that. Here’s why:
You’ll get it all to yourself
Get to experience the city before it gets swarmed by tourists
Walk through the Siq without waiting or getting bumped. As a reminder, the Siq are very narrow.
Catch an epic sunrise!
Explore before it gets too hot (bring lots of water)
Petra is photogenic! Take some great photos without competing for the angle!
Another name for the city?
“Wadi Musa” is another name for the same place. Google Maps sometimes refers to it this way.