Siem Reap Temple Thoughts and Dreams

Today was my 5 temple tour day here in Siem Reap. To manage and control the photography, I have a simple control sheet that works for me quite well. I use the Ulysses App on my iPhone but you can use google docs or a text file or whatever as well. The main idea is if you are gonna visit multiple places in a day where there may be a bit of similarity you want some control over the images coming off the camera. The easiest way is to create a simple text document and include the name of each place and then note the starting and stopping image numbers. You may have to remove the SD card since when you export images as I did using the FujiFilm Remote app, the names get munged to new names. Its easier to just remove the SD card and mount it up or look at the images and do simple math. If you have a lot, its easier to remove the card and mount it. I use a nice Type C dongle that lets me see each image.

But lets talk about temples today. The 5 temples I was privileged and excited to see today were:

These temples are kinda scattered around so it’s easier to get a friendly tuk tuk driver that knows his way and get him to haul you around. It was a beautiful day for temple sightseeing today. Temperatures in the low 30s with some clouds. I don’t mind sweating since I seem to do so much of it walking the cities and trails here. Today I did about 6.4 miles on temple patrol!

Here’s the final outcome of my wonderful day. I have the album sorted earliest first so you can see each of the temples with the ordering above. Each of the temples and the last temple complex has unique features and subtleties. One has amazing waterway courses you walk over on a wooden sidewalk or path. Another has elaborate staircases to climb to the top. Yet another temple has carvings of intricate figurines and animals. There is no way to apply a standard measurement and you would have to spend a day at each one with more detailed photography to really appreciate the subtlety and differences. Tours and tuk tuks are not meant for that.

So what did I learn? All of the complexes were built within about a seven hundred year period and represent multiple chambers with outliers in smaller buildings. Some are preserved and others are not. The building style varies greatly and the last was almost a maze of access where you walked through numbers of small passageways to reach the next gate.

To give you an idea about each temple’s setting, I linked the temple to the wikipedia entry for each one above. This should help you get the historic context for each temple. But what about a personal favorite? Everyone always sees a place perhaps like Chaco Canyon or the Grand Canyon or another natural or historic site and has a favorite. My favorite from the day is the last temple complex. I include the word complex because it is. It is the only temple I went to that has entry and exits in the 4 directions. I did not really realize this until I got lost trying to find the exit I had entered. But the real thing is the complexity of the temple and its beauty. It is intricate with carvings and smaller outlier buildings and then a foot trail to let you see it all. It makes the Preah Khan temple the best for today for me. I also felt that it had command of the geography and produced a view of river moats, statuary, and beautiful buildings which did not compromise. My subjective feeling is that this temple demanded obedience to reach its interior grounds. Walking its internal pathway leads to numerous low and high barriers to entry much like other Wats. You have to want to get in.

Those Instagram Moments…

One of the things that was frustrating were those folks grabbing their instagram moments. Young men dressed down and their companions dressed up posing at various places, holding up the progress of people behind them, the women having to get to just the right spot with hands outstretched, sitting on a temple wall. The men with their big old Nikon or Canon cameras adjusting the pose, getting her to be just right for that one moment where you get the 900 likes. I just get the feeling of frustration with these folks. Its not the temple they are there to see. Its the moment of posting it in a coffee shoppe on Instagram and seeing the attachment rate. For me, I could care less what I post on Instagram. If you don’t like it, don’t follow me. I just share my photos there. I also share out my entire albums of JPEGs straight out of the camera. I don’t edit stuff. Some end up good. Some bad. It’s the way of it.

Closing Temple Thoughts…

If you visit the Siem Reap area, I think you should get to the Angkor Museum first to get a sense of context and who the rulers were and what they did but the Angkor park does a nice job of giving you information when you are there. Some of the temples take some walking but they have done a nice job of restoration and providing access for most people. Photography can be tricky of course. My rule was to set things to automatic where I could. I used Auto ISO and will always use aperture priority to around F/5.6 to F/8 given the light available. I just let the XT2 decide which it thinks the shutter speed and ISO should be. It does better than me and I was going from darker to lighter but I felt that f/5.6 was a good sweet spot for the type of photography. If I moved to more distant shots like at the last temple I changed to either F/8 or F/11 but kept the camera on auto ISO.

Perhaps I am not a purist but what I want are the remembrances and memories. I don’t shoot photography to please anyone. I do it to learn and be happy myself with the results. There is no final goal or picture being sold. If you like one of my works take it. I don’t really care.

My closing thoughts for the day are that there are way too many temples and I will still see 4 more on Monday. Angkor Wat at sunrise and then three more. These are huge complexes so I’ll spend more time cruising them on foot. I am still going to try to limit the photography since it’s easier to manage.

So there you have my closing temple and photography thoughts after a few hours of wandering. I walked a total of 6.4 miles today to see the temples including getting lost at the last one. That was fun!

Its gonna be time for dinner soon here. Tomorrow no places to really be so will go exploring again in the city.

Author: Michael Perry

I've been blogging for over 20 years and now am living in Southeast Asia. The blog is about my slow vagabonding wherever I want to go. My home base is in Cambodia but I'm rarely there.