Sunset watching at Bakheng Mountain is always a fun thing to do, especially when traveling. But at Angkor Wat, watching the sun going down is a very interesting event. Not because the sun looks prettier from there, but because there are so many people gathering for it.
Where do these people gather? At a temple called Phnom Bakheng (a short distance from the Angkor temple), and this place has been famous for a while now as the spot for sunset watching.
Some people think Phnom Bakheng is overrated and too crowded, while others think it's only so-so. But I found Phnom Bakheng to be a great place for an Angkor Wat sunset!
1. It is a great place, because the temple is on top of a hill. That way you'll get an unobstructed view of the sun as it goes down.
2. It is also a great place, because what could be more Cambodian than watching the sunset from an ancient Cambodian temple?
3. As a bonus, you'll also get to see the Angkor Wat complex from a distance, and at high elevation.
4. And finally, when you are at the top of the Phnom Bakheng temple, you have the enviable position of being able to see all 360 degrees of the landscape just by walking around from one corner to another. And the view is really pretty.
So, sunset or no sunset, Phnom Bakheng is indeed a cool place to be!
But, despite all the good things I mentioned above, I do have one minor 'objection' about this whole set up on sunset watching. And that is, the sun does not set behind Angkor Wat, which is what I have envisioned when I heard about Angkor Wat sunset ( I am sure other people did too). Now, wouldn't that be a magnificent photo op?
If there is another temple that can afforded sunset view of Angkor Wat, I'm sure that place will be an instant hit.
Another unique fact about sunset watching at this ancient temple is the volume of people who turn up. It would seem as if every tourist that is in Siem Reap goes to watch sunset at Phnom Bakheng. When we went there, maybe more than 1000 people turned up.
This place is that famous. So it does get crowded, and has the possibility of getting too crowded.
Rather than see this level of popularity as a bad thing for Phnom Bakheng, you could think of it differently.
I thought the sight of so many tourist and travelers from all different countries were really interesting.
It is amazing when you see how one great site can attract so many seemingly different people.
Plus, if you don't see many tourists during the day, you will enjoy the sight! =) I rather thought the tourist crowds are really part of what makes Angkor Wat sunset at Phnom Bakheng special.
As always, tuktuk is the transportation of choice while in Angkor Wat and Siem Reap. It should be around $5 if you’re going from your hotel in Siem Reap. You can just say to your driver that you want to see sunset at Angkor Wat, and the default location will be Phnom Bakheng (doesn’t that show you how famous it is?).
The driver will drop you at the entrance to Phnom Bakheng, and he will wait for you until you come down. Looking for your driver after you get down can be confusing too! There will be so many tuktuks lining up, and in the dark, you can not make out clearly which is yours.
It would be a good idea to ask approximately where he will park, or agree on a meeting point so he can wait for you there.
For an Angkor sunset, it is best to arrive a little bit early to beat the crowds , and also to get a premium sitting spot, and to have plenty of time taking pictures.
Plan to leave for the temple around 4, so you can be at the temple at 4:30. And then, you will need another 30 minutes or so for the hike up to the temple. At 5, you'll be all ready with your camera to take shots of the whole 360 degrees view.