Ta Prohm Temple is an eye candy for a photographer. To King Jayavarman VII, Ta Prohm was a centerpiece of his masterplan to restore Khmer empire to a never before seen splendour after it was reclaimed from Cham invaders; to me, Ta Prohm was a centerpiece of my photography adventures at Angkor Archaeological Park. Even though Ta Prohm was my favourite Angkorian era temple, I have only visited it once and all I could capture in rather tricky lighting conditions I had available during my visit is in this photo gallery.
Just as any other day in Cambodia, it was extremely hot and humid on the day I got to Ta Prohm so excessive sweating and subsequent heat exhaustion were inevitable. I was looking forward to taking pictures of Ta Prohm but much of the time spent at the temple was spent hiding in a shade of large trees in an effort to escape the frying power of the intense Cambodian sun. There is no such thing as catching a cooling breeze anywhere at Angkor so all you are left with is inescapable heat. High on natural energy from uplifting coconut water I got from the girls at the Banteay Kdei temple, but unceasingly dripping sweat out of every single pore on my skin, I crisscrossed the temple grounds back and forth to not miss a single opportunity for a perfect picture.
It was early afternoon when I got to Ta Prohm so the sun was right above our heads not causing any backlight no matter which way I turned to take a picture (unlike when I first got to Angkor Wat), however because the sun was super intense and because there’s a pretty elaborate maze of tree branches above Ta Prohm, many cool spots of the temple were subjected to severe contrasts caused by parts being in the sun, while other parts were in the shade. It was rather difficult trying to balance it out so neither highlights are too bright nor shadows too dark but I tried my best.
My first visit to Cambodia was in September – in the middle of rainy season. I wasn’t sure what to expect and thought that when it starts raining in the beginning of June, it doesn’t stop until the end of October. Luckily, this was not the case and as it turned out, there was advantage to visiting Angkor in rainy season. I wasn’t able to make that comparison until I made my follow up visit in April and spent a couple of weeks in the country during dry season, but it was pretty obvious.
From strictly photographer’s point of view, the temples of Angkor gain rich hue during rainy season because the stones are frequently bombarded by heavy torrential downpours. This makes the temples look more saturated (richer in density – if you will) than when the stones are parched dry by the intense sun rays of dry season. To put it bluntly – thanks to super high humidity which gives ancient stones richer shades, temples of Angkor look better in rainy season than they do in dry season. Plus all of the trees that grow along the temple walls look greener and livelier too.
Besides, it doesn’t rain nowhere near as much as you would think it does in rainy season. After 3 months spent in Cambodia during rainy season, I noticed that rain patterns are not frequent enough to severely disrupt your plans. It hardly ever rained for more than one day straight. One rainy day is usually followed by four or five sunny days when sky is cloudless and roads are dry. Then you would get some rain, which would typically be restricted to an afternoon downpour, but that would again be followed by a sequence of several rainless days. Make no mistake, though – the afternoon downpours are so heavy, they can fill up all ditches and bury the streets in a foot deep pool of water within a couple of hours.
Sometime it would rain whole night and the following day would be rather gloomy and overcast, but seeing continuous rain for an extended period of time is unusual. As a matter of fact, the number of sunny days you’ll get in rainy season will be about 4 times as high as the number of rainy days. Super high humidity with insanely intense sun will make for a sweaty stay, but the pictures will look awesome. There’s no reason to feel sketchy about visiting Angkor in rainy season. It really doesn’t rain all that much but you will catch the temple at their best. And that in my eyes gives visits to Angkor in rainy season an advantage.
To an average visitor, the temples of Angkor may appear as piles of rock – ancient structures in a great state of ruin, often overrun with jungle but we must not forget that they were built to be sacred places that are still used as places of worship by the local populace. Most of the temples that are still standing contain at least one sanctuary housing a statue of Buddha (or other divinity) and are deeply venerated by a steady flow of worshippers, including monks. It was with great disappointment that I saw so many westerners disrespect these sacred spaces by walking around wearing baseball hats sideways (wigger style), speaking loudly with their friends, and even walking in front of a person kneeling before the statue, interrupting their connection with the deity portrayed.
Cambodians must have grown used to the westerners and their apparent lack of respect (or understanding) for their religion, because I’ve never seen or heard any of them speak up and request the westerners to adjust their behavior as a sign of respect for the holy space they are within, but this was something one should not have to ask of another. Just because Cambodians are tolerant of inappropriate behavior of westerners in their sacred places, it should not be seen as open invitation to completely disrespect and desecrate them.
Yes, exploring the temples of Angkor involves a lot of sweating and an exposure to an intense sun, so head covering is often a necessity, however removing your hat when you enter a space with a decorated statue that has incense sticks burning at its base and people praying in front of it is the least of trouble. Yet I’ve always been the only westerner doing it.
Why do so many westerners think that they are too good to have to remove their hats upon entering the Buddhist sanctuary? Does that really make you feel macho that you were able to disrespect the sacred statue of Buddha and got away without? Does it really make you feel macho to announce your presence by shouting when you enter a sanctuary where people are praying to their deities in silence. And does it really make you feel macho to wander in front of a person who’s praying to that statue so you can pose yourself up for a cool photo?
Exploring Bayon is a challenging but rewarding experience. The temple is very complex both in terms of architecture and symbolism and offers many an opportunity to theorize on its structure and meaning. King Jayavarman VII who had the temple built had it altered several times but the modifications continued even after his death. It is believed that when originally built, Bayon had 49 face towers – towers adorned with giant faces each facing one cardinal point. Even after extensive restoration works, only 37 of Bayon’s towers are still standing. Let’s take a look at some of Bayon’s facts. This guide will be accompanied with pictures.
Just as is the case with most Angkor temples, Bayon faces east. I approached Bayon from the south after crossing the South Gate of Angkor Thom and turned right on the T intersection which got me on the road encircling the temple. Turning right took me to the main entrance in front of which I parked my bicycle (at the elephant station).
Broad, two-levelled terrace serving as an approach to Bayon is guarded by stone lions and naga serpent as balustrades on far sides. Despite extensive restoration works, much of the terrace is in desolate state but the feel of walking on ancient stones is much stronger than any other structure at Angkor. The sun was frying me alive and was far more intense now as it got closer to noon, than it was during my exploration of Angkor Wat.
Entrance gopura (gate) consists mostly of collapsed stone frames serving as doors but there are no walls. Piles of giant stones lie scattered randomly around as archaeologists try to figure out which ones belong together so they can paste the whole temple together to its intended look.
Galleries within outer enclosure contain extensive carvings and bas reliefs. It comes as a striking contrast seeing fine work of artists who skilfully covered entire exterior wall with beautiful bas reliefs against the pile of disorganized, large rectangular stones laid piled up right opposite of it. Much work needs to be done to fully restore Bayon.
I turned left at the main entrance because the bas relief on this section of the outer wall seemed the most interesting. The carvings continue around the corner and throughout the south wall which has its own, collapsed gopura. There are several chapels within the exterior wall that can be entered as you’re exploring the bas reliefs. Because Bayon was a state temple, I think these chapels once house statues of divinities.
As I got within the outer enclosure, the face towers took more distinct shape. From the outside they appear as a disorganized pile of rocks sticking up. Countless hallways and wall-less corridors make navigation trickier as you get inside. Several flights of stairs are available to take to get to the second and third levels. Some are easy to climb, others downright dangerous, especially if you’re carrying a DSLR camera like I did.
Because Bayon was remodelled so many times after taking its original shape, exploring the interior of the temple is a bit confusing. The temple is large to begin with but oddly structured galleries and terraces which were added later made it difficult to set out on an obviously best way to explore it all. The best way for me to describe it is by thinking of it as a maze without walls. You can exit any corridor through the wall that is not there and get to another corridor through the wall it doesn’t have. It’s literally akin to cheating in a videogame. You are an explorer of an ancient temple on a mission to find holy grail, but you hacked the game and can just take shortcuts.
The face towers are clearly the most attractive and photogenic (picture friendly) part of Bayon. Aside from crowning the entrance gates (gopuras), the face towers can also be found at corner angles but also as free-standing pillars on upper level. Because many of these towers were added later, they don’t seem to be placed in any logical order and just give an impression of being there to rise up to the sky.
When I reached the upper terrace, I was offered several good opportunities to take pictures of the giant faces. The space on top seems more organized with fewer collapsed structures and it’s overall less tight (as far as breathing space is involved). From here you can get up close and personal with the free-standing face towers.
Historical inscriptions suggests that Jayavarman VIII, a rather insignificant Khmer king who took over the kingdom after Jayavarman VII has order a destruction of Buddhist symbols and initiated conversion to Hinduism. It was during his rule, when 3.6 meters tall statue of Buddha sitting on a body of a serpent whose multi-headed head shelters him was destroyed. Remarkably, all pieces of this statue, which was originally housed in the oval sanctuary at the heart of Bayon, were recovered enabling full restoration of the image. There are several smaller replicas of the same statue throughout Bayon, but the original, restored piece was relocated and is currently housed in Vihear Prampil Loveng – a small pavilion south of the Victory Way (road connecting Victory Gate with the Royal Palace area), next to South Khleang.
When you get to a sanctuary housing a statue of Buddha, there will likely be some locals inside as well. They sit and patiently wait inside with incense sticks at the ready and as soon as a foreigner enters the room, the sticks will be handed to them. It is a natural instinct of every person to take what is offered to them, especially if statue of a local divinity is present. This is exactly what these people are counting on because once you grab a hold of what is handed to you, they won’t be taking it back but will be insisting that you make a donation that as they claim, would go to the monks and to the preservation of the temple. None of the money provided will ever make it to any purpose other than personal enrichment of a person who gets the money from you. Just as almost everything else in Cambodia, this is a scam. The best way to protect yourself is to never ever impulsively take anything that is handed to you. No matter whether the person handing you stuff is a kid, or a nun with shaved head and robe draped around her body – the purpose is to abuse the presence of the divinity and scam you out of money. Don’t be surprised if you get told to “f%$k off” or called “stingy” or “a$$hole” by a kid whom you didn’t give any money. You may not see this anywhere else in the world, but in Cambodia, touts will not hesitate to call you names and swear straight in your face if they fail at scamming you of money.
Once I got the layout of Bayon more or less figured out, I saw it as a structure consisting out of three main sections. Starting from top middle, there is an oval sanctuary that is the center of the temple originally assigned to house the large statue of Buddha which was later destroyed as described above. The oval sanctuary is surrounded by four corridors creating an orthodox cross around it. These serve as access points to the sanctuary with east entrance being the largest. This is the third, top tier of Bayon.
Second tier consists of rectangular inner galleries (second enclosure) encircling the orthodox cross with the circular sanctuary in the middle of it. First tier consists of outer galleries (exterior enclosure). Passages at each cardinal point connect outer galleries with the inner ones.
Bayon is covered with extensive bas reliefs. Earlier carvings mostly contain scenes from every day life at Angkor Thom as well as the battles with Champa armies on the great lake whereas later carvings contain scenes from Hindu mythology, signifying the conversion of the religion during the reign of Jayavarman VIII.
Bayon was a temple honouring a host of gods which gave it the name of “Tevea Vinichay”, which loosely translates as “Assembly of the Gods”. Its principal sanctuary housed an image of Buddha, but dozens of other sanctuaries housed various provincial and local Khmer gods. Inscriptions on door jabs of these small sanctuaries tell us about the many gods housed by them during the reign of Jayavarman VII.
North East corner of Bayon has a small, stand alone gallery with many people inside. There was another such gallery at the south-east corner but because that part of Bayon is in much ruin, there was nobody there. I thought something interesting must surely be within the gallery given the number of people inside and around it so I went to take a climb. The access was extremely difficult as stone steps are high and steep, much steeper than I had seen anywhere before. To my disappointment, there was absolutely nothing inside. I think people were just hanging in there, killing time. Some interesting bas reliefs could be found on the outer wall of the gallery, otherwise nothing excessively special about it.
I spent several hours exploring Bayon. I started in late morning and wasn’t done until early afternoon. This basically means that I spent the hottest part of the day marking the ancient stones of the temple with my sweat. As I found out later, this was a great idea. Vast majority of organized tours take their high paying customers back to Siem Reap during noon hours so they can have lunch in one of the air-conditioned restaurants. The number of tourists at Angkor drops significantly during that time. As such, it is advisable for solo explorers to brave the midday heat and continue exploring the temples during lunch hours despite intense sun.
Because Bayon is the second most famous temple of Angkor (second only to Angkor Wat) and is a must-see for everyone coming to Angkor Archaeological Park, there were a few dozen people sharing the temple with me despite scorching midday sun. However it is better to have to share it with a few dozen people, than with hundreds, who on top of it all have an escort with an umbrella to shelter them from the sun and oftentimes a guide as well.
The best time to visit Bayon would be either very early in the morning (when all organized tours are at Angkor Wat), during noon (when all organized tours are back in Siem Reap for lunch) or in late afternoon (after 4pm, when all organized tours are either in Banteay Srei or already lining people up to go on Phnom Bakheng to watch sunset from the hill). The worst time of the day would be between 8am and 10.30am when dozens of buses full of rich tourists park it next to the temple and release hundreds of people to swarm the temple, turning it into an anthill full of crawling creatures.
Even though already completely devastated from exposure to extreme sun, after I was done exploring Bayon, I was still determined to complete the small circuit the same day. I was done with two of the largest structures to explore, but many more to go. Angkor Thom itself had several more iconic pieces nearby. I made an attempt to stop at one of the food stalls north west of the temple but touts were so aggressive, I opted for a swift dart off. The temple of Baphuon, which is 200 years older than Bayon was next.
Angkor Thom means “Great City” in Khmer language. Covering the area of 9 kilometres squared, the royal city of Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Angkorian Empire. Completely surrounded by wall and moat that’s almost 3 kilometres long on each side, there are five entrance gates to the royal city – one at each cardinal point and the Victory Gate which connected the east side with the Royal Palace. Each of the Angkor Thom gates is crowned with four giant faces, similar to those found on Bayon temple.
Angkor Thom as we know today was constructed over the site of earlier temples and was occupied by city people for five centuries. It was brought to its final glory by King Jayavarman VII though construction of Angkor Thom continued to certain degree after his death.
The remodelling to Angkor Thom to its current state started after King Jayavarman VII drove away Chams who sacked the city. The King remodelled what was left of Angkor Thom into an ensemble that represents the Mount Meru with Bayon in its centre and the moat around it representing the sea of milk that encircles the sacred mountain range. It’s a microcosm of the universe.
Archaeologists speculate that during its boom, Angkor Thom had a water system running through the city. River O Khlot may have been branched and have some of its flow diverted to supply the royal city with life supporting water.
King Jayavarman VII also built temples at each corner of Angkor Thom. These temples, known as Prasat Chrung (Shrine of the Angle) contain an architectural element called “stele” which is an upright slab with inscriptions. The south-eastern Prasat Chrung is the only one with a stele containing complete inscription in Sanskrit on all four sides of the slab. Prasat Chrung temples were dedicated to the Bodhisattva Lokesvara, same as Bayon which served as city’s state temple.
Parts of today’s Angkor Thom, the last capital of Angkorian Empire overlap the area of what used to be Yasodharapura – the first capital of Angkorian Empire (9th century). Temples of Baphuon and Phimeanakas which still exist within today’s Angkor Thom were built in previous centuries and were incorporated into the new layout of Angkor Thom by Jayavarman VII.
Following the tradition, the royal palace was built north of the state temple (in this case it was Bayon). There is nothing left of the royal palace but the courtyard and terraces, as dwellings of people, including royalty were built of wood. Stone dwellings were reserved exclusively for the gods.
This was it – here I was at the doorstep to Angkor Wat ready to start exploring the temple that’s been at the top of my “Must Visit Before I Die” list for ages. The morning was in its early stages yet the sun was already pretty intense. As I took my last turn around the moat that surrounds the temple complex, I noticed a bunch of locals having a big laundry washing day in its waters. None of the hundreds of locals passing by in both directions seemed to pay any attention to it and neither did the policemen that ride their motorcycles throughout Angkor making the laundry washing look like doing it in the moat is a normal, every day thing.
I found it rather weird that you would take all your clothes to the moat where everyone can see you and pour loads of washing powder in it to openly poison the environment – especially when it comes to such significant piece of history as Angkor Wat yet since I was the only one who seemed to have found it awful, I just moved on and continued riding towards the entrance gate which was only a few hundred meters ahead of me. The excitement was unmeasurable at this point. I was only minutes away from entering and exploring Angkor Wat, however before one gets to that point, the dark side of Angkor Wat is revealed to them – extremely aggressive touts, hustlers, peddlers and other con artists.
There was a super high density of locals right opposite Angkor Wat’s entrance gate that’s proceeded by a sandstone causeway over the near 200 meters wide moat. Countless Tuk Tuks and unceasing ruckus left little for guessing. This is Angkor Wat – the most famous and the best preserved temple of the Angkor Archaeological Park which also happens to be the closest temple to Siem Reap from where all organized tours originate so mobile touts concentrated around here in anticipation of fat profits.
As I was riding by I had just about every local screaming at me to make me stop but it wasn’t until a woman came running across the street to block me from going any further that I stopped. She came after me with such haste it looked as though it was a matter of life or death. At first glance I thought that maybe I have done something wrong, perhaps by entering a road that’s off limit and she ran to stop me so I don’t get into any trouble but the real motifs came to light right away. She used the moment of surprise to get my attention so she can make money on me. Now that she had me stopped it was up to her to make the most out of the opportunity. Afterall, there are hundreds of other touts and she was the only one who got me stop and listen to her.
She could see this was my first time here and I didn’t know my way around very well so she fooled me into believing that I couldn’t go any further. I didn’t mind that one bit because I was gonna stop and go to Angkor Wat anyway, but this was yet another lesson that taught me that one should never trust a Cambodian who’s on a mission to get your money (are there any who are not?).
The woman said that I could park opposite Angkor Wat for free, but I had to buy cold water from her. She insisted that the temple was big and there was no water to buy inside. As soon as she said that I could park there for free, I knew I was dealing with a simple scam artist who is ready to throw any lie that will work my way just as long as it ends up in her making money off of me. With this being finally clear in my mind, I turned away from the woman and drove through the parking lot, alongside countless Tuk Tuk drivers who saw me riding a bicycle yet kept asking me if I needed a Tuk Tuk ride anyway. I rode until I found a chain fence and locked my bicycle against it.
Within two seconds I had dozens of kids with postcards, bracelets, water, bootleg guide books and other junk surround me and bash at me from every side, unceasingly demanding that I buy something from them. Within additional seconds they were joined by dozens of adults who insisted that I buy a hat from them because it’s hot, the sun is scorching and there is no where to buy a hat inside Angkor Wat. Everything that can be sold was offered to me, but I use word “offer” sparingly., Those people were extremely pushy, surrounded me, got in my face and never took “No” for an answer.
It was clear that they are used to harassing tourists and used to being told “No” so they had a response at the ready no matter how I responded to their pressure. I showed them I had water of my own and didn’t need any more weight on me. I also showed them I had a hat of my own and was happy with it. I was well equipped for a whole day on a bicycle riding in this extreme heat yet it mattered not to them. They were continuously bashing and bashing at me and pulling more and more of their handy tricks to get me buy something from them.
After I had about five dozen touts on me, they were joined by new way of hustlers – tour guides. To avoid scam, legitimate tour guides must wear pale yellow-ish shirts with a badge on it to identify them as licensed tour guides. Because it is possible to earn $20 or more (in case of non English or French guides) as a tour guide, it is an extremely popular money maker so supply far exceeds demand. As a result, tour guide who got their license and are not booked for the day yet hang around the most popular temples at the right time of the day to try to score a gig right on the spot. Dozens of them got on my bum to get me buy their services, most of them by instantly starting to “guide” me without my permission in anticipation that they will stick with me until I feel obliged to keep and pay them.
I remained adamant that each of them is wasting their time using the most solid reply they have nothing on:
“I’m out of my money. All I have is one dollar and I’m saving that for a bottle of water in the afternoon. You are welcome to guide me for as long as you understand that you are not getting paid for it. And no matter how hard you try to argue me into hiring you, I simply have no money to give you. End of story.”
There is no such thing as a “helpful local” in Cambodia. They all make it look like their sole purpose is to help you yet the only people they are looking to help is themselves. A tourist who doesn’t realize this sets themselves up for a big surprise. I continued on keeping my pace disregarding all attempts to get money from me so now that they could tell there was no way I was gonna buy anything from them, they used passive aggressive lines to make me feel obliged for the future. They did it by saying something like this:
“OK so then you’re gonna buy on your way back, OK? I’ll be waiting for you. Don’t forget you promised to buy from me!”
It is notably shocking that everything any of these touts lets out of their mouth is a lie. Ancient temples of Angkor are widely regarded among Cambodians as sacred places with powerful deities patrolling them. Angkor Wat where all these touts jumped me is particularly powerful in that regard since it has been a point of pilgrimage ever since it was built, being the only temple in Angkor Archaeological Park that has served that purpose without being fully abandoned.
Everyone in Cambodia will tell you that you should never lie in proximity to Angkor Wat (or any other temple for that matter, but Angkor Wat in particular). If you do so, you are bringing very bad karma upon yourself. However, if you do so knowingly, karma effect gets hundred times more powerful. If these Cambodians are fully aware of the fact that they mustn’t lie in presence of a temple, how come they all do it openly and without a wink?
Once you have walked inside Angkor Wat, you cross the passages inside the exterior wall and walk along the sandstone causeway, there will be small libraries on both sides followed by small ponds also on both sides – right before the steps that will lead you to the first level of the central temple. On the left hand side, where the most popular spot to observe sunrise at Angkor Wat is (also the best spot to take pictures of Angkor Wat) hidden from the sun under the line of trees, there is a long line of stalls selling everything you may need.
Each time any of the touts outside of the temple tells you that you must buy water/hat/scarf/food/whatever from them because there is none of it available inside, you will know they are straight up lying. And this starts with kids as young as three years old. These people grow up being professionals liars. After decades of doing nothing but lying each and every day of their lives – what have they grown to be?
All of those magnificent, world famous temples of the the Angkorian-era Khmer Empire that drive millions of tourists to Cambodia each year are housed within the Angkor Archaeological Park. Covering an area of more than 400 square kilometers, Angkor Archaeological Park is the largest religious complex in the world. Today, Angkor Archaeological Park is considered to be one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and was declared a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s International World Heritage Program UNESCO in 1992.
Angkorian-era of the Khmer Empire lasted between 9th and 13th centuries during which most of the famous tamples of the Angkor Archaeological Park were built. Some of the temples date back to the 8th century while the latest additions come from the 1500s.
The most famous temple of the Angkor Archaeological Park is, expectedly Angkor Wat with Bayon Temple located within larger Angkor Thom counting as close second. The complete list of all 53 temple ruins located within Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap Province of Cambodia is below:
Chapel of the Hospital
Chau Say Tevoda
Kleangs (North and South)
Prasat Suor Prat
Prasat Top (East)
Prasat Top (West)
Preah Pithu Group
Ta Prohm Kel
Terrace of the Elephants
Terrace of the Leper King
Thma Bay Kaek
The entire Angkor Archaeological Park is located in Siem Reap Province with the town of Siem Reap serving its main tourist and business hub.
Additional pre-Angkorian and Angkorian-era temple ruins are located Takeo Province, south of Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh. From historical and archaeological perspective, the temples in Takeo Province are some of the most important, however their visual appeal and magnificance don’t match up to the temples of Angkor Archaeological Park.
I did my homework prior to entering Angkor Archaeological Area and found out about the cost of entrance fees. This was quite an important bit of information I needed in order to plan out the budgeting and exploration schedule. What I knew before coming to Angkor was the following entrance fee schedule:
1 Day Entrance Fee to Angkor: $20 US
3 Days Entrance Fee to Angkor: $40 US
7 Days Entrance Fee to Angkor: $60 US
One day pass is good enough to explore main and most popular ancient temples which are located along the small circle that most visitors take. This includes Angkor Wat, South Gate of Angkor Thom, Central Angkor Thom with Bayon, Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King, Victory Gate, Thommanom, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, Bantey Kdei, Sras Srang and Prasat Kravan ruins.
Three day pass allows a visitor to explore all major temples as well as some less frequented ones along the grande circle with enough time to dedicate to your favourite spots. On top of what you would see on a single day pass, you would also get a chance to explore Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon, Banteay Samre and Pre Rup as well as quite possibly a bunch of smaller ruins.
Seven day pass is for serious explorers and gives you enough time to explore all of the main and smaller temples of the main area, as well as some of the more remote temples, such as Banteay Srey (Citadel of the Woman) or Rolous Group temples (Bakong, Preah Ko, Lolei). You could also visit the West Mebon, which is submerged in the waters of the West Baray moat.
Because Angkor temples were on top of my must see before I die list, I definitely wanted to pay the price of a 7 days pass and explore the area thoroughly. At the same time I realized that because entrance fees are rather steep (keep in mind that average monthly wage in Cambodia is $90) for Cambodia, so I wanted to make sure I use each day to the fullest.
Because of that, I would not consider going on a rainy day. I wanted to take some nice pictures while I’m exploring and that’s virtually impossible in downpours typical for rainy season in South East Asia (unless you have some specialty water resistant equipment and don’t mind getting soaked the hell out of).
I’ve been patiently waiting for the right day and it’s paid off. The biggest disadvantage of multi day passes was the fact that you had to use them up in consecutive days. I did not see the possibility of scoring 7 consecutive days of sun in rainy season but I remained hopeful and determined.
Luckily, there was serious talk that Apsara Authority will be changing this rule and multiday passes will be modified to allow for use over a period of time, rather than consecutively. If you bought a 3 days pass, you would have a week to use it and a month if you bought a 7 days pass. This sounded more like it. If this was put in place, I’d be able to go at it full throttle on a nice day and if the following day turned out rainy, I would not go and would wait until the next sunny day to make full use of my 7 day pass.
Luckily for me, the consecutive-days-use rule was terminated on the day I didn’t get to go because I was with Ha. When I got to the ticket booth on my attempt to get the first glimpse of Angkor Wat, they were just replacing the signs with new ones which stated that you could use multiday passes over an extended period of time, not consecutively. That was great news and there truly was nothing in my way to start exploring the ancient temples of Angkor.
The rule of non consecutive days is still in effect. If you buy a 3 day pass, you can use your three days over a period of 1 week and if you buy a 7 day pass, you can use your 7 days over a period of 1 month (it will terminate on the day prior to the day of purchase of the following month).
Three and Seven day passes will have your mugshot on it. If you have a passport photo on you, you will be asked to provided it to the person processing your ticket which generally speeds up the processing and sets you on the way to Angkor quickly. However if you don’t, you will just be sent to another window where your mugshot will be taken with a webcam and this image will be used to print on a pass. This is how I had mine processed. It was an extra step I needed to do but it only delayed me a few minutes.
If you wish to have a pretty picture on your pass to Ankor and have yourself processed faster, then bring one passport sized photo with you. Either way, try to show up for the purchase of your entrance ticket before 7.30am as after that time buses full of tourists from Japan and Korea start coming and none of them will have a passport photo so they all will wait to get a mugshot taken. This could put you back quite a while – if you get there right after half a dozen buses full of elderly Asian people with cameras hung on their necks.
If you purchase your entrance pass at 5pm or later, it’s validity won’t come to an effect until the following day but you will be allowed to enter the Angkor Archaeological Area and enjoy a free sunset.