Every day, high season or low, tourists start the trek up Bakheng Hill around 5 p.m. to wait for sunset. It’s the place that all tuk tuk drivers recommend for sunset views of Angkor Wat, and as such, it’s crowded evenings year-round with visitors looking to get the perfect shot.
A few months after I arrived in Cambodia in 2010 I had a friend from California come to visit. We went to Siem Reap together, and despite a fair amount of research, ended up on Bakheng Hill for sunset on our first night. And it’s true, the views of Angkor Wat were spectacular, but the place was absolutely overrun with people crowding to get photos.
Phnom Bakheng is actually a couple of centuries older than Angkor Wat and is one of the most threatened temples at Angkor due to the incredible daily traffic for sunset photos.
I always think it’s funny when people try to take photographs to make it appear as if they were the only person at the massively busy place they are taking photographs of–they carefully frame the photo to cut out the hordes of tourists and patiently wait for the backpacker to move out of the shot. When they go home, they can remember their visit to Angkor as they wish it had been–peaceful and empty.
On this trip I decided to go the other direction and instead of taking photographs of sunset at Angkor Wat, I took photographs of tourists snapping pics of Angkor Wat.