Phnom Bakheng is a temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park near Siem Reap, Cambodia. The temple is located on top of a hill, thus from the temple one can get a nice panoramic view of the surroundings, including Angkor Wat not far away from there. This temple is one of the oldest in the area, being built in late 9th to early 10th century. Today it is becoming a popular place to go especially around sunset time. Given its age and the high volume of visitors, it is among the most threatened monuments in Angkor.
We went to visit Phnom Bakheng right after finishing our tour in Angkor Wat. It was a pretty short distance to go from Angkor Wat to the base of the hill where Phnom Bakheng was located. From there, we joined hundreds of other visitors hiking up the hill (about a mile or so) towards the temple. When we get to the base of the temple, our tour guide Vanna told us that he would wait there while Kristi and I climb up to the temple. He’s been there many times, and there were so many people going up there that he said it’s better for him to just wait there while we go up and enjoy the panoramic view.
The steps to climb up to the temple were quite steep; we had to go up very very carefully. Once we got up there, we saw so many people already waiting for the sun to go down. We followed suit and just waited, and took photos around the sunset time just like everyone else. I lost my directional bearing while up there and couldn’t really locate where Angkor Wat was, as I was hoping to be able to see Angkor Wat complex from higher elevation. Only later on after I got back to my hotel and looked at the area map that I realized most people were so focusing on the sunset in the west, that not many people were really looking at Angkor Wat that was located southeast of Phnom Bakheng.
After the sunset was done, we continued with a careful stepping down to the base of the temple. Again, it was quite steep, and with many people trying to go down around the same time (before it gets too dark), it was quite an interesting experience. I understood then why Vanna didn’t want to go up there…
The photo below was taken around sunset time when everyone was enjoying the view of a beautiful sky and the sun setting in the distance. I decided to take the photo to include the people around me taking photos. It was impossible to get just the photo of the temple and the sunset without the crowd; having them as part of the photo actually gave it a ‘sense of place’ that helps tell the story about the experience up there with other folks at sunset time.