3. Siem Reap, CambodiaThe temple ruins of Siem Reap are a photographer’s dream. They represent the architectural and cultural pinnacle of the ancient Khmer Empire that existed between the 9th and 12th centuries in an area that is now known as Cambodia. While the most famous of these ruins, Angkor Wat, was the creation of King Suryavarman II, it was King Jayavarman VII who is recognized as being the most prolific, building hundreds of monuments over a forty year period. Jayavarman’s death in 1220 marked the end of the building boom; and following its neglect over the centuries, Angkor was re-discovered by French naturalist and explorer Henri Mouhot in 1860.
If you only have time to see and photograph three temples, then Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm must be the ones. The view of Angkor Wat from across the moat at the front end is quite breathtaking for its scale, architecture and setting. Bayon is instantly recognizable by its giant stone faces while the unrestored Ta Prohm complex presents a most eerie scene with giant fig trees extending from the bowels of its temple buildings.