Angkor Wat from Sunrise to Sunset

Where do you want to travel?

Your journey will lead you to exotic destinations around the world.

Angkor wat carvings

Angkor Wat from Sunrise to Sunset

My day of exploring the temples of Angkor Wat started very early. I decided I should be on the road by 4:30 am for the 20 minute bike ride to the ticket office which opens at 5. When I made it to the ticket office I could tell already that I was going to be too late to get a good spot to photograph the sun rising behind Angkor Wat.

After finally getting through the line at the ticket booth and riding the last 10 minutes to the temple gates, I knew my suspicions were correct. I guess I’m not the first one to think of getting up for sunrise here. In fact it is the thing to do at Angkor Wat.

Despite the fact that my angle for pictures was horrible, it was a magnificent view. Having never seen the temple in person it is amazing to watch the sun start to climb behind it. When I arrived it was pitch dark. A few minutes later you could start to see the silhouette of something massive. Then as the clouds turned all shades of orange, yellow, red, and purple I got my first glimpse of this monument that was nothing like I had ever seen before reflected in the lake I was standing next to.

first light at angkor wat

Over the course of my day exploring the temples of Angkor Wat I did something I have never done before. I filled an entire 32 gb memory card and drained though most of my 3 camera batteries. There is a lot of information and pictures I would like to share here on The Global Gallivanter so I have decided to divide this day into 3 parts. The first post will describe the most famous temple, Angkor Wat, then I will move on to show you what I did with the rest of my day at Tha Prohm, Bayon, and the numerous smaller temples I climbed and explored.

Angkor Wat Post Sunrise

Despite the packs of people crowded around the lake to get the best views and pictures of sunrise, the group broke up quickly as soon as the sunrises above the horizon. Everyone is then recruited by little children to go to their parents food stand for breakfast. I paid more for pancakes here than I would have paid at a fancy restaurant back in the states, but at least they were good.

After a filling breakfast I was ready to start climbing the stairs up to the temple. I immediately realized that I had no idea what to expect from Angkor Wat. As I think I have said a couple times I have been getting kind of tired of spending my days looking at temples so I figured one day would be enough here.

This, however, is nothing like the temples I have seen up to this point. Angkor puts every temple I have seen so far to shame. It is absolutely massive. Until you start to climb through the first gate you don’t get a sense how huge it really is. Then you start to walk down the side gallery and it just stretches on and on.


As you start to acclimate to the size of this monument you will start to focus more on the details. They are incredible. All carved in to the Sandstone bricks of the temples foundation. Then you realize that this was built 100% by hand 1000 years ago. I just had to stop and try to picture the amount of man power it would take just to erect something like this, then the amount of fine detail work was put into it blows my mind.

King Suryavarman II originally build the temple as a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu starting around 1113 AD. It continued until after his death in 1150, mostly complete except for a few details. The original name of the temple is unknown, but today we call it Angkor Wat or “city of temples.”

Climbing to the Top of Bakan

Entering from the west gate is the traditional way to enter Angkor Wat. At 5 am I was aware that I was crossing a large moat on a foot bridge but I could not see it. I then walked through a small gate in the barrier wall. Directly inside is the North Library on your left and the South Library on your right. Walking straight ahead you come to two small ponds which is where everyone wants to see the sun rise. After climbing another flight of stairs and another half mile walk I walked through another gate and up another flight of stairs. Now inside the main temple area I could see I was’t done climbing yet.untitled-7442I enjoyed the beautiful architecture of the barrier wall and the lower levels of the temple before climbing up a couple more flights of stairs to get to the base of the Bakan.

There are five towers at the top of Angkor Wat to represent the sacred Mt Meru and I wanted to get a closer look at them. They only allow a few people up at a time so I had to wait in a long (45 minute) line to climb the stairs, but it was well worth it. From the top you really get a sense how far the grounds at Angkor Wat stretch out.


Angkor Wat from the top

I spent almost 4 hours at Angkor Wat and could tell I was going to have a full day and be very impressed if the rest of the temples were anything like this. I was especially looking forward to Ta Prohm or “The Tomb Raider” temple.

It really was amazing to see what some call the 8th Wonder of the World. The fact that it was built almost 1000 years ago and is still standing shows that King Suryavarman II really knew what he was doing when it came to building temples.

Angkor Wat and many of the other temples I saw during the day are currently under restoration, so hopefully they will be around for another 1000+ years for future generations to enjoy.

Now I’m ready to see the other 7 Wonders of the World.




I am traveling the world focusing on adventure and photography.


  • Mom

    Looks like you had an awesome spot by the pond. I think you captured a stunning sunrise! What a magnificent feat, this Angkor Wat! Truly a worldly wonder! And it’s easy to get a sense of the tremendous size of the city of temples by your description of your travels through the course of your day. Keep up the good work Global Gallivanter! Looking forward to your next Angkor Wat post. And others!

    December 13, 2015 at 9:02 am
  • Cara

    Wow Brooks! Very cool, especially to closer pictures that show detail. They really give us passengers a tiny glimpse into the magnitude of Angkor Wat! I’m exhausted just looking at the pictures, LOL Cara

    December 13, 2015 at 10:06 am
    • Brooks

      The details were amazing. Still its hard to really get a feel for the place without taking it in all at once. I had seen plenty of pictures before I got there and I definitely was not expecting to be so impressed.

      December 13, 2015 at 10:27 am
  • Aunt Mary

    I’m following you and I’m so impressed ! Your blog is so interesting and your photos, spectacular!! Enjoy this fantastic time in your life!

    December 19, 2015 at 8:23 pm
    • Brooks

      Thanks, Aunt Mary. Sorry if it hasn’t been very interesting lately with the lack of new posts.

      December 21, 2015 at 10:06 pm

Comments are closed here.