Empty Angkor Wat

When visiting Cambodia, one location is on everybody’s list: Angkor Wat. If you are in Cambodia, you must visit Angkor Wat. Often, people catch a quick flight to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat, even if they are just in other parts of South-East Asia. So, given that we were visiting Cambodia, Angkor Wat was on the top of our list. 

After visiting other less well-known parts of Cambodia like Phnom Penh, Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri, and Kratie, we took a ~6 hour bus from Kratie to Siem Reap. We were the only tourists on the bus/van, and it quickly filled up with locals (and chickens).

Bus filled with boxes of chickens (who clucked the whole ride)

Arriving in Siem Reap, we took a day to relax in our lovely Airbnb with a fancy shower and air conditioning (luxuries we have come to cherish greatly)! The husband of our Airbnb host was a tuk-tuk driver, so we arranged with him to get us a guide and drive us around the Angkor Wat complex. 

After a good night’s rest without the worry of mosquitos and malaria, we walked 5 minutes to a delicious breakfast restaurant. We had a filling breakfast and met our Angkor Wat guide, Sok. We tuk-tuked to the Angkor Wat ticket office. 42 fancy ticket booths, only 2 were open.

40 empty ticket booths

We got our pictures taken, paid our fees, and tuk-tuked to the entrance of the main Angkor Wat temple. We sat and got a little history lesson, and crossed the massive moat on a Canadian-sponsored temporary bridge (the main stone bridge was being restored by a Japanese construction company). 

Massive moat with the iconic Angkor Wat in the background

Walking up, we were in front of the western gate, which itself was quite impressive. There was a tall wall with 5 entrances, 2 on the ends for goods and common people, 2 closer to the middle for noble families, and 1 in the center for the king. Even though it was just a wall, it was covered in intricate carvings and had stone-carved nagas guarding each entrance.

Passing through the central entrance (like the kings and queen we are), we were greeted with the postcard view of Angkor Wat. 1 large central tower surrounded by 4 slightly smaller but still giant towers, with a long walkway in the front. 

We stopped briefly at one of the ancient libraries to take some pictures.

Then we headed up the stairs to visit the inside of Angkor Wat.

No random people ruined our pictures
Posing with our guide Sok in front of Angkor Wat (not a single person behind us)

Taking plenty of pictures along the way, we stopped in what was thought to be the center of the universe and took more pictures.

We climbed some steps to get to the second innermost courtyard where there was lots of restoration and construction going on, sponsored by various countries.

Restoration shenanigans

We climbed the last bunch of steps to the top courtyard with the big central tower and big towers on the corners.

Signs said capacity of 100, we saw maybe 10 total people in the 30 minutes we spent exploring the highest courtyard.

Given that there were virtually no people, we were able to pose and take countless pictures without random people ruining the picture. 

We climbed down the stairs from the top courtyard, and down another set to get to the third-highest courtyard which was a wide grassy field wrapping around the center of Angkor Wat. 

Grassy courtyard
My epic crane pose and Asher’s lame nothing pose

We headed to a corner to take even more pictures, all with absolutely no one anywhere in sight. 

View from the corner
Jump in the corner (with Asher’s lame non-jump)

We left the grassy courtyard to get to the eastern entrance. Still no one. Our guide said that before Covid, the walkway between Angkor Wat and the east entrance was jam-packed. Post-covid, it was silent and empty. 

Family picture with no one in the way

After Angkor Wat, we saw more temples in the Angkor archaeological area. 

The next morning we woke up at 5am and hopped back in the tuk-tuk to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. We walked over to the sunrise viewpoint which had the most people we had seen so far, 50. Pre-covid pictures show thousands of people, tens of layers deep, all trying to get pictures of the sunrise. We had 50. Everyone was able to be in the front row, set up their cameras for timelapse, or just sit and enjoy the sunrise. 

Front row picture-taking seat

The sunrise was gorgeous and we took plenty of pictures. 

Sun peeking through the trees
Family sunrise picture

We were certainly grateful to have Angkor Wat almost all to ourselves, and although the emptiness of all these amazing tourist sites is a blessing to us, it greatly hurts the locals who depend on tourism for a living.

One thought on “Empty Angkor Wat

  1. Coming here next month… while I selfishly hope its still quiet so I am not amongst hordes of tourists I also know the local people must be suffering badly without income.


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