Guide on how to enjoy the sunrise at Angkor Wat

Ah the sunrise at Angkor Wat, the most famous time to visit the temple ruins of the ancient kingdom of Angkor.

Generally, it’s on everyone’s ‘to do’ list when they’re in Cambodia because it’s absolutely a beautiful sight to behold. But be warned, being in a mass of people at 5am in the morning can really test the most patient of souls; just imagine what is does to the least patient.

We took it on and lived to tell the tale; if you want to get the most out of this bucket list experience, you might want to follow our guide on how to enjoy the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

1. Take headphones

Is it just us that thinks you should be quiet as the sun rises (and sunsets too for that matter)?

Apparently so.

The sad truth is that the beautiful spectacle of the sun rising over the largest religious monument in the world, is a rather noisy affair due to the culmination of the following:

  • Digital camera ‘shutter’ noises that click repeatedly as snap-happy people take the obligatory 4 million photos of the sun coming up.
  • People who tell other people (in a loud voice) what they were doing in their hostel at 2 am the previous night.
  • Tour group leaders shouting to tour group members (and tour group members loudly passing the message around to each other (did we mention they do this loudly?).
  • People instructing other people to retake photos of them, over and over and over…

A simple pair of headphones will happily cancel out the noise of these inconsiderate folk.

As we sat soaking up the noise pollution of a hundred or so chatters, clickers and shouters; we spotted a guy sat blissfully enjoying the sunrise with his noise cancelling headphones clamped firmly to his ears.

If only we had thought of that before

That man has 2 cameras, that's twice the annoying clicking noise, but don't worry, it was drowned out with irritating chat and loud shouting from others.

That man has 2 cameras, that’s twice the annoying clicking noise, but don’t worry, it was drowned out with irritating chat and loud shouting from others

2. Turn right, not left

When you get to Angkor Wat, most people turn left before the entrance in an attempt to get the ‘money shot’ of the temple reflection in the pool of water in front. Most guides take people here on their tour and everyone follows along not considering what is on the other side.

Guess what?

If you turn right, and not left, there is another pool of water with a reflection of the temple in it.

In fact, the pool on the left was decidedly more of a puddle when we were there before the rainy season kicked in. The pool on the right however, was full of water being pumped into it which made for a lovely shimmering photo (and there were significantly less people there).

Month 15 & 16-15

See? We took this photo after turning right, to see the sunrise from the less popular side

3. Take your own food (not in a polystyrene tray).

Don’t be that person eating a limp sandwich packed in an earth polluting polystyrene tray provided by your hotel.

We repeat, just don’t be that person.

Go to the market and buy yourself a bit of fruit to take with you or make yourself something if you can. You can even order food from one of the local restaurants in front of the temple (for just a few dollars).

There are few things more depressing in life than people eating anaemic looking excuses for food. We find it’s always best to follow the rule that if your food looks the same as the planet polluting container that it’s served in, then it probably isn’t really worth eating.

Make a fruit salad from local mango, dragon fruit and fresh coconut, or  just  take a limp ham sandwich (un)lovingly made by your hotel?

Make a fruit salad from local mango, dragon fruit and fresh coconut, or  just  take a limp sandwich (un)lovingly made by your hotel?

4. Don’t let your travel experiences become about the photo

Unless you are a professional photo journalist on a paid shoot, try to take a moment to appreciate what you are looking at using your actual eyes, rather than a camera.

If you are using a camera, try not to be so obsessed with getting your perfect shot that you inconsiderately mount your tripod in front of 50 other people, ruining each and every one of their views in your single act of selfishness.

Just be nice and think of others; maybe take a few photos and then let everyone enjoy what they’ve come to see. Doesn’t seem too unreasonable does it?

One man single handedly upsetting everyone behind him with his giant tripod.

One man single handedly upsetting everyone behind him with his giant tripod.

5. Stay until the sun actually rises

Gosh this is a simple tip. It’s funny really but after having got up at stupid o’clock in the morning to arrive in good time to see the sunrise, most people left before the sun has fully come up!

We kid you not; in their hurry to get inside Angkor Wat faster than the thousands of other people who also want to crack on with their sightseeing agenda for the day, the majority of people just stay for a bit of the sunrise and then follow their guides into the temple before the best bit.


There’s always a bit in a sunrise where there’s a lull in the awesomeness and then all of a sudden it cranks up a notch and it changes to amazing incredibleness. Take your time, enjoy the moment. What’s the hurry?

Stay around just a little bit longer and you get the whole place to yourself... plus it's really pretty.

Stay around just a little bit longer and you get the whole place to yourself… plus it’s really pretty

So there you have it, our definitive guide on how to enjoy the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Despite having to get up when it’s still the middle of the night and having to share the experience with a heaving mass of tourists from around the globe, it really is as beautiful as people say it is.

You just need to tweak the experience a little to cope with everyone else there, but then this is sort of just like life isn’t it?

Check out a selection of other Cambodia vegan travel blog posts…


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  1. Stefan June 22, 2015 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    This made me chuckle a lot. The headphones is so so true!

    But when we turned right there was no water, only ugly grass marshland (it dried up) but they did have 2 horses there grazing which added interest to the photos.

    We are definitely victims of our cameras and spend perhaps a bit longer than we should on them then on enjoyment. Nonetheless is made for some great footage for our Cambodia video.

    • Vegan Food Quest June 23, 2015 at 9:09 am - Reply

      Ah they must have filled the lake after you left – there’s been such little rain here this year! The water in the right pond was much more full when we went thanks to a giant hose.

      It’s hard to get that balance between taking photos and experiencing something isn’t it? I don’t have too much of a problem with people taking a lot of photos as long as they aren’t too selfish about it, after all – we wouldn’t have your cool video if we didn’t spend a bit of time behind the lens. And as we get older and our memories fade, it’s lovely to see old pictures of our adventures. I’m lucky that Paul like to take pictures and I can just sit and soak up the experience 😉

  2. Maaike - June 24, 2015 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Great tips! Unfortunately I wasn’t there to see the sunrise, but it’s not hard to imagine that there was a big croud with people and clicking cameras everywhere (it at wasn’t any different during whatever random moment during the day). I was wondering myself during my visit what that amount of people that visit every day does to the temples and the natural environment of the place. Of course I contributed to it by being there myself, but still. I had some mixed feelings visiting Angkor. Maaike

    • Vegan Food Quest June 26, 2015 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      It can be hard visiting beautiful places like Angkor Wat only to feel you might be putting it at some kind of risk because of the huge numbers of people that visit. The local area has certainly undergone huge changes in recent years as ever increasing tourist tourist numbers swell but there have also been so many positive things happen for the local economy. Its amazing how the temples stand up to so many visitors who come to admire them… I hope they continue to be looked after so others can share in this truly amazing place!

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