How to best enjoy Angkor Wat at sunrise

Top tip for the best sunrise picture of Angkor Wat: see below!

Yeh, this is a joke: here’s my tip… just enjoy the sunrise over one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and then buy a picture taken by a professional photographer and comprehend how utterly laborious that must have been for them to take.

I mean, arriving around 530am with HORDES of other people, you follow the crowds in the dark and arrive at the western gate of Angkor Wat in front of the two pools of water that is already about 5 rows of people deep. Mr A has his tripod set up on the edge of the water and is getting angry towards the crowd that are slowly pushing him into the water. Ms B is trying to take selfies in the dark of nothing… because it’s still dark. Miss C is trying to drink a takeaway coffee but is being jostled and it is almost knocked out of her hand. A young western couple are photographing the Chinese people viewing the sunrise SOLELY through their smartphone screens, and not-so quietly mocking them. Ms B still hasn’t got her selfie and the sun is up, yet she has had her back to Angkor Wat the whole time and hasn’t seen how beautiful the reflection in to the water is, when the light just starts to break. Mr A has been jostling with pushy people so much that he missed his desired shot and then leaves, not noticing that when the sun gets higher in the sky, the colours of the stones glow gloriously. The young western couple think they’re watching the sunrise and mocking the Chinese people who aren’t, but they’re secretly annoyed and irritable so will rush actually being inside the temple and not take in the architecture that makes this site one of the most revered on earth.

Jokes aside though; please just go there, with the hordes of people, observe the stunning reflections in the water you get when light first breaks, enjoy the view and appreciate the start of a new day and the excitement or romance that may bring to mind. Then, when you feel you’ve had enough of the view, go into the temple (you would be surprised how many people actually view this ‘must see sunrise’ then never go inside) and appreciate the way the morning sun lights up certain areas incredibly beautifully. Appreciate the lintels and carvings that make this temple so unique and special. Climb to the top of the tower and enjoy the view.

I obviously love taking pictures and whilst watching sunrise at Angkor Wat, I did lift my hands above the crowds and point and shoot and get a picture of the water and the temple. It’s no masterpiece, but nothing you can’t edit to look passable for an Instagram post, and you still get to absorb the view for the remaining hour or so you’re there – with your eyes not your camera screen.

There will be some, total dickheads there for sunrise, that is the truth. But what really upset me is that NEARLY ALL (I really don’t want to stereotype) the Chinese tourists literally viewed the sunrise through the screens of their phones, pushed and pushed and stood directly in front of people (actually on my toes at one point), then left to go to the next temple, without a smile or any indication they had just witnessed something so beautiful. We found this at other popular temples in Angkor as well – that people would just stand ON the temples, without any respect that it is a sacred religious site and a protected historical site to get their posed pictures and selfies and Instagram worthy shots of their backs, whilst they look meaningfully at something they DON’T KNOW THE MEANING OF. The amount of people we saw doing this at Bayon- the beautiful face temple, was incredible. We wondered between ourselves how many people actually knew say, the age of the temple and what the faces mean: so many people genuinely took pictures of the main section then left. We actually found somewhere to sit away from everyone, and just took in the carving, the marvellous architecture and history. It makes me SO SAD.

Apologies for this less blog and more rant.

Rant over, Katy

My non edited Angkor Wat picutre – basically what my eyes actually saw
Heading into Angkow Wat to explore rather than leaving like many people do
Such beautiful architecture
The amazing carvings depeciting battles and historical scenes relevant to the time of building the temple (so events from the 9th- 11th century)


  1. Mandy Thompson

    Sorry late commenting !
    Sounds like you had a mixed experience here, and despite your rant , you saw a beautiful place and managed to get some stunning photos and soaked up all the wonderful sights and absorb everything around you…

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