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Visit Cambodia now and see Angkor Wat like you’ve never seen it before

Siem Reap, home to the remarkable Angkor Wat, is once again open to vaccinated international visitors, with no need to quarantine upon arrival. Since the Cambodian borders closed in March 2020 the ‘tourist tap’ has well and truly been turned off, but with impressive vaccination rates, overseas guests are now welcome back to the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’. During 2019, visitor numbers to Angkor Archeological Park were in excess of 2.2 million, but the COVID pandemic has seen these numbers reduce dramatically. The first 9 months of 2021 has seen only 6167 foreign visitors enjoy the breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site, quite simply, unless you’re Cambodian or you live here, it just hasn’t been possible. We’ve been blessed to spend this unique time exploring the vast jungle temple complex and words cannot describe just how incredible this has been. Angkor Wat with zero tourists has usually been reserved for royalty, VIP guests and visiting dignitaries but that once in a lifetime chance to experience Angkor Wat like you’ve never seen it before is now a reality. The trail blazing travellers who are first to book their trips to Cambodia post-COVID are in for a treat as the reduced numbers are likely to continue for some time. This means that the iconic sunrise at Angkor Wat with just a handful of others is possible and an opportunity not to be missed. Our good friends (and fellow Siem Reap expats) from Angkor Photography Tours have been documenting this unique time with a collection of enchanting images that they were kind enough to share with us for this article. Venus rising over Angkor Wat Angkor Wat was built in the early 12th century by King Suryavarman II and is often considered to be the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. Visitors have continued to be amazed by this religious monument, which is quite simply breathtaking. The iconic sunrise over Angkor is a ‘bucket list’ item for sure, but there are other times when with a little planning and foresight you can be blessed with a memorable and unique vista. The below image shows Venus rising over Angkor Wat, just after the autumnal equinox during September, with the solitude and peace perfectly captured in still form. The deserted roads of Angkor Archeological Park The early morning light reflects upon the northern gate at Banteay Kdei, a temple which even during busy times provided the opportunity to escape the crowds. Village life continues within Angkor Archeological Park and here you can see a local villager on his motorbike WITH trailer, heading east towards Sras Srang, one of the vast manmade barays or reservoirs that provide vital irrigation throughout the park. ‘Green Season’ at Ta Nei Temple Starting in June with the arrival of the monsoon rains, the temples within the complex take on a whole new appearance. The moss and lichen enjoy their time to thrive as they create a carpet over each and every surface, a natural transformation that is both impressive and dramatic. Shown below is Ta Nei temple which was built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, the devata in the background watching on as her surroundings are slowly transformed. Local life at Angkor Thom The 12th century gated city of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer empire, measures 9 square kilometres and is accessed by 5 majestic gates. Home to the iconic Bayon Temple, you could spend a whole day or more exploring the multiple temples within the ancient gated city. Tourists or no tourists, local life continues, as this image of two local women on their bicycles about to exit the north gate depicts. Welcome to Preah Khan One thing you can be sure of when exploring the temples of Angkor, is that you will be greeted with an infectious smile on multiple occasions. When this photo was taken at Preah Khan temple in August 2021, Cambodian schools were still closed as they have been for the duration of the COVID pandemic. Government guidelines have just been issued to implement a much needed re-opening and we hope that by the time you read this, this young Khmer lad will still be smiling, and be back at school… Leaving Angkor Wat At the end of the evening on an empty walkway with the five iconic towers behind you, it’s time to leave Angkor Wat and what better time to do that than just after the spring equinox in March. With the sun slowly sinking and the sky on fire, it’s time to say goodbye to the eighth wonder of the world, with memories that you will cherish forever. Just you, your camera and the four other inquisitive souls who enjoyed this once in a lifetime experience. So for anyone who has Cambodia and the temples of Angkor on their radar, there’s never been a better time to visit as you will be sure to enjoy Angkor Wat like you’ve never seen it before. And for those budding photographers amongst you, why not join one of the half day or full day photo tours with the excellent Angkor Photography Tours? Their popular Angkor Sunrise Tour is an action packed half day including luxury SUV transportation, breakfast and exploring the trio of temples which are all seen above, Angkor Wat, Ta Nei and Preah Khan. Along the way you will not only enjoy expert and knowledgable guidance to the temples, but photographically you will be assisted and guided to ensure you capture the best pictures possible. Paul Eyers is Founder of Vegan Food Quest. Vegan Food Quest have become luxury vegan travel specialists as they continue to find, eat and write about the best vegan food in the world. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Paul Eyers

Paul Eyers is co-founder of Vegan Food Quest who write about luxury hotels and resorts in Southeast Asia with a focus on sustainable travel, eco travel and vegan travel. Currently based in Malaysia, Paul also writes about sporting events and some of the finest golf courses throughout the region.

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  1. Now is the right time to visit so many places. As Angkor Wat is usually very busy I would agree that it makes sense to enjoy its beauty without being surrounded by the normal crowds. It’s the sort of destination that benefits from a feeling of peace and quiet.

    1. On my gap year I spent 4 months backpacking round South East Asia and I still can’t understand why I missed out on Angkor Wat. Now that I’m sort of grown-up and even have a little money in the bank, t to his might be the time to go back and do Cambodia.

    2. Thank you for commenting Valerie. The temples have been remarkable and unique during covid without the crowds and that will certainly continue for some time. We can’t wait to welcome tourists back here and have them enjoy the peace and quiet!

    3. Hi Ellen, thank you for commenting! What a shame you missed Angkor Wat on your SEAsia tour, but like you said it’s a perfect excuse to return and now is a better time than ever…hope to see you here soon :)

  2. The temples and the whole area are just a joy, and as said the perfect time to visit before it get’s really busy again.
    Spend some time going round slowly rather than rush around in a car or tuk tuk. My prefered method is by bicycle.

    1. totally agree that cycling is the best way to see the temples, slow pace and you get to see so much more. love the new cycle tracks that they have installed recently!

  3. When i visited Angkor Wat there were hundreds if not thousands of other tourists, so the opportunity to visit again without the crowds is something i would love to do.

  4. What a wonderful depiction of Angkor Wat. The photos are absolutely stunning and along with your words made me feel so emotional. Memories of previous visits, and a longing to return to a magical place where you will always find something ‘new’ to see.
    Although I am no photographer, and these days, only ever use the camera on my iphone, I would love to have an opportunity to join a tour with Angkor Photography Tours.
    Such good news to hear that the country is opening up to overseas visitors.

    1. thank you Eileen, we feel blessed to have Angkor Wat in our ‘back garden’ and certainly make the most of that fact! hope you can manage to visit soon, it will be even more amazing than last time!

  5. SO true!

    The Temples have truly been spectacular during this time and it would be a once in a lifetime experience to enjoy them as they are right now.

    Every Wednesday I am at Angkor Wat doing sunrise and I am practically alone (bar one or two others) it is incredible and wont last much longer!

    1. thank you for taking the time to comment David, much appreciated. those of us that live here have truly had the most remarkable opportunity during the past 18 months and i’m desperate for others to visit now that it’s possible as i just know that they will love it too. #privatetempletours

  6. Beautiful photos. They really capture the unique nature of the Angkor Wat complex. I’ve been lucky enough to be one of those 6,000 or so visitors and have thoroughly enjoyed cycling around/through the forests. Some great “off the beaten” track spots like Ta Nei that you mention.

    1. indeed the photos are excellent, much better than mine which is exactly why i asked the team from Angkor Photography Tours to use them! you’re right about the ‘hidden spots’, i’m still finding new ones every week…

    1. we just love our #privatetempletours and want others to have the same experience. next few weeks (and months) are going to provide a true once in a lifetime experience for those that head to Cambodia…

    1. cheers Sammy, since your visit 13 years ago, the temples have got busier and busier so this ‘respite’ has been much needed in some ways. the jungle has thrived and there are way more animals coming out to explore now that the tourists are absent, we love it!

  7. Well done Paul ~ that was a really enjoyable read. Sounds and looks like a beautiful, peaceful and amazing place. Your meaningful words and the Angkor photos are a perfect match!!

  8. Great piece Paul , and great photos . I’m sure in the next year or two we will come back and re visit the magnificent Angkur Wat temple and have a catch up with you.

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