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Amazing Angkor Wat Photo Tour

35 photo tour of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temples

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.

Angkor Wat at sunrise
Angkor Wat at sunrise. This brilliant photo is from one of my favorite travel photographers, Trey Ratcliff at Stuck in Customs
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, in Siem Reap, Cambodia

History

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.

in the halls of Angkor Wat

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.

Angkor Wat sunrise in Cambodia
photo by JonJon Pascua

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.

The Library at Angkor Wat.
The Library at Angkor Wat. Photo from one of my favorite travel photographers, Trey Ratcliff

“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.

There are more than 1,860 carved Apsara dancers in Angkor Wat.
There are more than 1,860 carved Apsara dancers in the walls.
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.

Angkor Wat entrance - Angkor Wat at Visit50.com
“The city that is a temple.”

Stories in the Walls – a closer look

The walls of Ankor Wat tell stories of war heroes and battles from their troubled past - Visit50.com
The temple walls tell stories of war heroes and battles from their troubled past
Buddhist monk explores Angkor Wat
Buddhist monk explores the walls. Many tourists forget the religious significance
The Battle of Kurukshetra is the subject of this bas-relief at Angkor Wat.
The Battle of Kurukshetra is depicted in this impressive bas-relief.
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!

a monk at - Angkor Wat
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.

entrance of Angkor Wat

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.

Count the arms...VERY powerful!
Count the arms…VERY powerful!

statue in Angkor Wat - count the armsMany devatas grace the walls. Devata is another word for deva, the Hindu term for deity

a devata graces the walls in Angkor Wat. Devata is another word for deva, the Hindu term for deity
Many devatas grace the walls. Devata is another word for deva, the Hindu term for deity
a youthful monk learns to read the future
a youthful monk learns to read the future
Angkor Wat statue missing its head after it got raided. They stole the heads!
Raided. They stole the heads!
Angkor Wat entrance
“Angkor Wat” translates to The city that is a temple
Cambodian wedding photo shoot at Angkor Wat
Cambodian wedding photo shoot. I saw wedding photo shoots both times I visited, so perhaps it’s a popular spot for wedding photos.
Anchor Wat reflection in the reflecting pool. It was under repair
under repair when we went – the green tarps typically aren’t there

reflection of the temple towers in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ankor Wat and the reflecting pond
my first time in Cambodia and the reflecting pond

me at Angkor Wat

 

amazing Angkor Wat - best photo of the temples and reflecting pool in Cambodia
Photo from ITLWMT

temple at Angkor Wat

"Library" from Angkor Wat
“Library”. While its true purpose remains unknown, scholars say it most likely functioned broadly as a religious shrine, rather than strictly as repositories of manuscripts
devata at the entrance of Angkor Wat
devatas at the entrance

 

statue of animal guarding the city walls of Angkor Wat
guarding the complex walls
photo of the walls at the entrance.  8 meters high and 3 km long, and flanked by a moat.
The walls at the entrance are 8 meters high and 3 km long, and flanked by a moat.
The "swimming pool" at Angkor Wat
The “swimming pool” – looks good for being 1000 yrs old!
Cruciform gallery separating the courtyards in Angkor Wat
Cruciform gallery separating the courtyards
details of ruins. Look closely at everything - from a distance this looked like a pile of rocks
look closely at everything – from a distance this looked like a pile of rocks
tower at the temple
closeup of one of the towers
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!

Bayon Temples Cambodia -216 smiling faces

Bayon temples – 216 gigantic faces

Welcome to the Bayon temples, built end of the 12th Century. The Bayon temples feature 216 faces! It’s a nearly surreal masterpiece, unlike any I’d ever seen.

29 photo Bayon tour:

I’ll start with geography, then stats on the scale, and even the history beyond it, with photos of Bayon throughout.

Are you ready to get started with the Bayon tour? Here we go!

Reflections of Bayon in Angkor Thom
Reflections of Bayon in Angkor Thom. Brilliant photo by Mike Behnken
Where is Bayon?

Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman’s capital, Angkor Thom, which is located in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Bayon temples in the Angkor Thom area of Siem Reap, Cambodia near Angkor Wat
it’s 90-degrees fahrenheit, but I kept reading about killer mosquitos. They said it’s crucial to get vaccinated, and cover yourself from head to toe.

Bayon by the numbers

First, let’s give a sense of the scale of these Bayon faces.

How many Bayon temples are there? How tall are these massive structures?

There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers. They faces measure as tall as 7 feet just for the face, and there’s 37 towers!

There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers, in the Angkor Thom area of Siem Reap, Cambodia near Angkor Wat
There are 216 gigantic faces on the Bayon temple towers

Who are the faces of?

They Bayon faces are everywhere, and you might be wondering if they’re of someone specific. They’re nearly the same face over and over and over. I was wondering the same question.

To clarify, most historians say that they represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions, or even the king himself.

face from temple tower in bayon
Photo by Tartarin2009
Who’s Lokeshvary?

Here’s the explanation:

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.

The white and green spots on the face are lichen (fungus, green alga).
The white and green spots on the face sculptures are lichen (fungus, green alga).

Cosmic Bayon?

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]

Bayon temples, built end of the 12th Century, capital of the Khmer Empire , Cambodia
Welcome to Bayon, built at the end of the 12th Century, capital of the Khmer Empire

Our guide explained how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war

our guide explains how the bas-relief is showing Khmer soldiers going to war
our guide explains 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

Facing in four directions on each Bayon tower, the faces are thought to represent Lokeshvara, a Buddhist deity that projected benevolence outward to the four directions.. Cambodia
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.
Bayon In the Golden Hour Bayon temples in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
photo by Lee Phelps Photography
Aspara dancers at the Bayon temples Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Aspara dancers
great photos of the Bayon temples in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
so many great photos of the Bayon temples in Angkor Thom
photo from from the vantage point of the Bayon temple's the upper terrace, Cambodia
photo from from the vantage point of the Bayon temple’s the upper terrace
Bayon temples at Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia, near Angkor Wat
photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Smiling face of Avalokiteshvara at the Bayon temples at Angkor Thom, Cambodia
Smiling face of Avalokiteshvara

nearly every wall of Angkor Thom are sculpted, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Central structure tower of Bayon, in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Central structure tower of Bayon

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!

A scene from the eastern gallery shows a Khmer army on the march in the Cambodia ruins
A scene from the eastern gallery shows a Khmer army on the march
scene from the outer gallery. Our guide said it shows Chinese expats negotiating with Khmer merchants at an Angkorean market.
This scene is from the outer gallery at the Bayon temples. Our guide said it shows Chinese expats negotiating with Khmer merchants at an Angkorean market.

walls of Angkor Thom in Cambodia walls of Bayon in Angkor Thom in Cambodia

face to face in the ruins
face to face at the Bayon temples of Angkor Thom near Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

faces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodiafaces of the Bayon temples, in the Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodia -014

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! my face between the faces, in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodia

wide shot of the Bayon temples in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
photo from Tushar Dayal

Face in Angkor Thom area in Cambodia

Angkor Wat Itinerary

If you have just a day or two, make sure you get to these three areas of temples.

  • The Bayon temples
  • Angkor Wat
  • Ta Prohm (post coming soon!)

Those three are all near each other in Cambodia. They’re easily the best 1-2 day trip you can take in southeast Asia.faces on the temples, in the ruins in Angkor Thom area in CambodiaBayon temples in Angkor Thom are an impressive display of Khmer architecture

entrance to Bayon temples, in the Bayon complex - Bayon ruins in Angkor Wat Angkor Thom area in Cambodia
entrance to Bayon temples area
How to get to the Bayon temples and Angkor Wat

You might be wondering how you’ll get all the way to Siem Reap. Most visitors seem to build it into their Thailand trip.

Siem Reap is a short flight from Bangkok, Thailand. Do it!

Want more Cambodia photos?

I’ve posted a bunch more about Cambodia too! Check out the crown jewel, with a photo tour of Angkor Wat, and an   Angkor Wat Video Tour,

Finally, I’ve included links to learn more of the history of the Bayon temples at the center of Angkor Thom, in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Impressive Petra!

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.

History

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.

The Monstary

The Monastery at Petra, The Monastery of Petra, (aka Ad-Dayr or Ad-Deir in Arabic), in Jordan
The Monastery, (aka Ad-Dayr or Ad-Deir in Arabic)

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).

The Monastery is massive - Petra, Jordan
The Monastery is massive!

Next, let’s walk down to their canyon called the Siq.

The Siq in Petra

at the Siq, the narrow passageway to Al Khazneh ("The Treasury") at the ruins in Jordan
at the Siq, the narrow passageway to Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”)

Siq – Scale / By the numbers

The Siq is a 250-foot-high (76-meter-high) sandstone slot canyon. So impressive!

Al Khazneh ("The Treasury") - carved out of rock.
Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”) – carved out of rock.

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.

in front of Al Khazneh ("The Treasury") in Petra, Jordan
in front of Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”) in Jordan

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!

camel at the ruins in Jordan

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

Monastary in Petra
photo by seetheholyland.net

There are dozens of tombs and other carved or constructed structures and sites within the city.

detail on the rocks in Petra
photo by Maureen
boulder falling
Don’t let the boulders fall on you!

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.

Jordan mapPetra map

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.

Petra from a distance

 

Roman acoustics – ancient Gerasa’s surprisingly modern technology

I’m continually impressed by the sophistication of technology from years back. Most theaters have points marked before a performance on where to stand, but this was done for acoustics. The Romans built this theater in such a way that there’s a point in the front where simply talking will be loud enough for the whole audience to hear, as if you’re speaking into a microphone with speakers. Natural amplification!  Do modern theaters and public speaking places do this?  Obviously I tried it – while we were talking I stepped on the marked square and people that were in the upper deck could hear me without raising my voice. I wish I had a photo of the startled look of the tourists taking photos from the top. See below.