Day 3 – Angkor Wat, Cambodia

After two days of morning and afternoon visits to the temples and hitting most of the ones on my list, we had just a couple of stops which I thought would have better light in the morning. We took a tuk tuk for this short temple visit. Leaving the hotel at 7:15 it was pleasant during the cooler morning hours.

Angkor Thom South Gate

The Ancient Angkor guidebook suggests this gate has better light in the morning. There is softer light and fewer tourists at this hour but it might be better to see more of the gate lit with the sun a little higher in the sky.

Bayon East Gate

Part of the front is still in shadow at this hour.

Elephant Terrace and Leopard Terrace

These two 12th-13th century terraces face east and would be fully lit at first light. It’s a pity that they do not open until 7:30. There were very few people at just before 8. The sites are well lit, but softer light would be better.

Although small in scale, the elephant and lion reliefs are fun to explore. Following the Elephant Terrace to the north you end up at the Leopard Terrace which is surrounded by a trench with a hidden wall of carvings in good condition.


The small 12th century complex, according to the Ancient Angkor guidebook,  is supposed to have  a pretty setting and good relief carvings. It‘s in an attractive setting and the structures are mostly intact, but it has very few carvings and is not as interesting as some of the other sites we visited.

On the plus side you are allowed to climb on the structure and get a closer look at some of the carving. There were very few visitors at the time of our visit and it was nicely lit in morning.

Sunset at Pre Rup

Although masses of tourists descend on Pre Rup (10th century) for sunset it really isn’t worth the effort. The sun sets over trees and is not that interesting. The temple is nicely lit in the late afternoon, but does not have many detailed carvings. Some of the walls around the complex are bowed so much you wonder how they remain standing.

On this particular evening the color in the sky deepened after sunset turning the clouds strewn all around the sky pink. A great opportunity to silhouette various structures against a pink sky, unfortunately the temple doesn’t have much to silhouette other than a few lions.

Buying Tickets for Angkor Wat

If you want to maximize your morning time at the temples (the best light and the fewest crowds) I suggest you get your multi-day pass the afternoon before your visit. Buying your ticket after 5PM allows you to have it start the following day. At the time of our visit a 3-day pass cost $62 and a 7-day $72.

The enormous ticket hall was fairly empty when we arrived at around 4PM. Lines are separated by how many days ticket you want to buy. Overall it’s an easy process. They take your picture and give you a laminated ticket. Credit cards accepted.

Ancient Angkor by Michael Freeman and Claude Jacques

This is an excellent resource for visiting the temples. Along with photographs and detailed information on visits through the sites, they also rate the sites, give you information on the best time to visit and suggest itineraries. Hawkers at all the major sites sell copies of the guide.

November 17, 2018

For links to all the posts in this series see the Laos/Cambodia page.