Welcome to Siem Reap! Wondering what to do in this region beyond Angkor Wat? We ventured 1.5 hours outside of the city to a remote jungle area where we find a sacred mountain and hidden waterfall with significant history to the ancient Khmer Empire. Let's go check it out!
Behind the Scenes video:
First we visit Phnom Kulen, which is a National Park area located about 48 km to the north of the provincial town of Siem Reap. Phnom Kulen is considered a holy mountain in Cambodia, of special religious significance to Hindus and Buddhists who come to the mountain in pilgrimage. It is where the Khmer empire was established in the 9th Century and also served as the quarry for Angkor Wat.
When we arrived at Phnom Kulen, the entire area was filled with Cambodian music, satay and grilled meat street food, and the smell of intense lingering from the temple. The site has two waterfalls and a magnificent Buddhist temple that sits a few floors above ground. Inside the temple is a reclining Buddha with epic views of the jungle.
The waterfall is where locals gather for picnics and festivities. We followed a dirt path that winded beside a stream, and we new the waterfall was near. Once we saw the waterfall, there were crowds of locals and tourists taking photos and enjoying the view. The water was very shallow, which was refreshing after experiencing the 90 degree humidity.
Phnom Kulen was also one of the last strongholds for the Khmer Rouge in 1979 and even still has landmines. The country is making great progress to remove the landmines and rebuild its economy from the civil war. Despite the tough recent past, the country is extraordinary and Cambodian people are some of the sweetest and most inspiring people I have met on my travels.
What are your favorite places in Cambodia? Comment below!
Welcome to Angkor Wat! In this travel vlog, we take a guided weekend trip to the ancient temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and photograph the temple. Like most magnificent sights, we were not the only ones there. In fact, crowds can reach the thousands. So be sure to come prepared. Here is how to photograph the temple like a pro during a weekend trip.
Behind the scenes video:
When to go:
September or March, which are the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. At this time, the sun lines up directly above the central pinnacle of Angkor Wat, a estimate to the genius architecture.
First, we get up at 4:45 am to buy our ticket to the temple, which is $36 for a one day pass and $62 for a three day pass. At 5 am, we reach the temple. You can get to the temple via tuk tuk, taxi, or bike.
Here is the scene when we arrived:
Camera Set Up:
First, make sure your DSLR lens does not fog from the humidity. It took me about 15 minutes for the humidity on my lens to dissipate. I set up my tripod and filmed a time-lapse photo of the glorious sunrise. Be sure to get in the front row for optimal viewing.
Where to set up your camera:
Set your camera up on the west or north sides of the temple next to the outer moat (see pin drops below). You can also cross the moat and set up next to the "Libraries" where you will find an interior reflective pool. This area is much more crowded, so be sure to get there early.
View from the West side of the outer moat. The temple looks more distant, but I got an unobstructed view with no people or scaffolding in the shot.
View from the interior pool near the "Libraries". The temple is closer in view and the colors change every few minutes.
Here is what to bring:
Welcome to Siem Reap, Cambodia! This area is filled with majestic and ancient temples from the Khmer Empire built from the 9th to 13th Century. While Angkor Wat dominates the itinerary for most tourists, there are plenty of other temples that are unique and interesting. Here are the top five temples to see in Siem Reap.
Behind the scenes video
1. Angkor Thom and Bayon
The first stop is Angkor Thom and Bayon, built in the 12th Century by King Jayavarman VII. The temple of Bayon is one of the most recognizable for having the four sided-faces on the monument. It is flanked by a surrounding reflective moat. Our tour guide explains that the temple was modified from Buddhist to Hindu (by adding the third eye to the Buddha head) and back to Theravada Buddhist.
2. Ta Prohm
Next, we visit Ta Prohm which is the filming location for the movie Tomb Raider. It is notable for its atmospheric and jungle scenery, including giant tree roots from over 200-400 year old sacred fig trees engulfing the temple.
3. Pre Rup
Pre Rup is a Hindu temple made of brick and sandstone, notable for its cistern in the center, and towering staircase leading the towering prasats. It is most beautiful at sunset as the sandstone temple glows a pink color in the sun.
4. Ta Som
Ta Som was built in the later 12th Century. The entrance is through a gate with a face culture on top, and a central temple while contains a Buddha sculpture. .
5. Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is so massive and historic, that it needs its own blog post. Stay tuned for the next blog post where we will review the top places to photograph within Angkor Wat.
Comment below on your favorite temple to visit in Siem Reap?
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We are two adventurous young professionals who turned our passion for travel into a blog to help others travel more.