Have you ever visited a tourist attraction and thought how cool it would be to get the whole place to yourself? In early 2020, we were lucky enough to experience Angkor Wat during pandemic. This is Angkor Wat without tourists.
We love avoiding crowds but also love visiting the big tourist attractions. They are popular for a reason, right? Oftentimes when we visit the big tourist attractions, there are a million people and the experience is entirely different than if you had the place to yourself.
Just before the pandemic shuttered the world in March of 2020, we were in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and visited Angkor Wat. Most everyone had already stopped traveling and very few were hitting up tourist spots. That meant we had nearly the entire complex to ourselves.
This post is all about Angkor Wat during pandemic.
Tourist-Free Tourist Attraction
Deemed one of the “8th Wonders of the World,” the Angkor Wat temple complex is a large and extremely popular tourist destination. On a normal day during their peak season (November to March), you may find thousands of people passing through the grounds.
However, when we arrived in March 2020, we saw closer to only 100 to 200 people all day.
Cambodia Hit Hard by Pandemic
The reason we experienced Angkor Wat like very few ever have, or ever will, is simple. We arrived in Cambodia just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.
COVID-19 was already spreading around the world when we visited, but Cambodia had very few cases. The world had not yet shut down all international borders for travel. Although, the world was “open,” people were already wary of travel. As a result, that meant very few crowds anywhere we went.
Many locals that we spoke to in March of 2020 were constantly commenting on how empty it was compared to normal. They were desperate for business and grateful for anyone who was there. Even as the worldwide spread of Coronavirus grew.
Ghost Town of Angkor Wat
Have you looked at those articles online that show popular tourist destination pictures, “expectations vs. reality?” The ones that show a picture-perfect place with nobody around, but then show what it is like in real life and it is a swarm of people making it seemingly impossible to get said first shot?
Well, it was exactly the opposite for us. We heard the “horror stories” of thousands of people crowding the lakes for the sunrise but when we got there, we were completely shocked.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat
There was hardly anybody there. The sunrise is usually a complete zoo and people packed together to try to get as close to the ponds as possible. No social distancing whatsoever, not even a thought. But for us, we had maybe 40 people around and plenty of room to socially distance. Heck, we could have brought a whole picnic.
Picture Perfect Opportunities
There were maybe thirty people there at sunrise and everybody got some great shots. Better yet, everybody got the experience of a lifetime. Never again will we be able to experience Angkor Wat, or any tourist attraction this empty. At least we hope.
Grateful for Our Time at Angkor Wat
Needless to say, we are honored to see Angkor Wat almost completely tourist-free. It is surreal to imagine those temples being built so long ago. And incredible to imagine what they looked like, felt like, and smelled like when they were inhabited and hustling and bustling. Go see them, you will not regret it.