Sunrise and many, many more temples

Siem Reap Travel Blog

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Angkor Wat

We had arranged for the tuk-tuks to pick us up at 5am so that we could watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat.  When we got there it was still dark.  We walked across the inner causeway and sat waiting for the red disc to appear in the sky.  In the end it was a little disappointing as it was too cloudy to see the sun, but it was still worth being up early just to avoid the crowds.  Emma had a wander over to the outside of the central temple to have a look at the bas-reliefs, which stretch for 800m.  They are intricate and incredibly detailed carvings of armies and battle scenes.

We had decided to devote most of our morning to exploring Angkor Thom.  Known as the 'Great City,' it is surrounded by a wall 8m high and 12 km long, encircled by a moat.

The faces of Bayon
  Most of the stone structures within the city's walls are still standing, but the ordinary wooden dwellings have long since gone, now replaced by trees.

At the heart of Angkor Thom is the structure known as 'Bayon.'  From a distance it looks like a jumbled pile of stones, and it is not until you enter that you sense the detail and symmetry.  The feature that makes Bayon unique, however, is its 54 towers, each decorated with 4 enigmatic looking faces, staring out in all directions.  Wherever you go, there are several faces looking at you from various directions and heights.  It is quite imposing.

After grabbing some breakfast at one of the many stalls near the temples, we walked over to the nearby Baphuon, which would have been one of Angkor's most spectacular temples back in the 11th century when it was completed.

Baphuon
  It is currently the centre of what looks like a huge renovation project, with two or three cranes in the distance.  Consequently much of the temple was off limits, so we walked up to it along the causeway.  A huge retaining wall at its base gave us some indication of the temple's size.

Back in the tuk-tuks, we passed the Terrace of the Elephants (350m long, it was used as a viewing stand for public ceremonies) and made our way to Ta Prohm (after a quick stop at the temple never completed - Ta Keo), our last stop.  All the temples we had seen so far had been surrounded by forest, but with Ta Prohm you get a real sense that the forest is closing in on it.  If you can block out the tourists, it's not difficult to imagine how the first European explorers felt when they 'discovered' these temples, finding a lost, ancient civilisation.

Ta Prohm
  Ta Prohm is one of the least preserved of the temples of Angkor, and we found ourselves climbing over piles of stone rubble and creeping through stone doorways propped up with planks of wood.  It consists of narrow corridors and small courtyards, and there are several places where the temple is being consumed by the giant roots of trees soaring to well over 100 feet.  We sat for a while in one of the courtyards, trying to cool off, and being entertained by the groups of Japanese tourists passing through.  Love them or hate them, they are the most intrepid travelling nation; no corner of the globe do they leave untouched, and they roll their sleeves up and get stuck into any activity.

Back at La Villa Loti, we rested for the afternoon before making our way out for our last evening with Carol and Nicola.

The Raffles Hotel in Siem Reap - Oh what luxury!
  We decided a treat was in order, and went for early evening drinks at the Raffles Hotel in Siem Reap.  We sat by the pool, which was stunning, and imagined what it must be like to stay there!  After dinner on Bar Street, we went to the amusingly named 'Ángkor What?' bar for drinks.  We were ensconsed for the night, it was far too hot to do a pub crawl.  At midnight we  were picked up by our trusty tuk-tuk man who wanted to take us to a nightclub to celebrate the Khmer New Year.  We declined, instead attempting to learn what "happy new year'' was in Cambodian - unsuccessfully, he and several other drivers had a good laugh though!

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Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
The faces of Bayon
The faces of Bayon
Baphuon
Baphuon
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
The Raffles Hotel in Siem Reap - O…
The Raffles Hotel in Siem Reap - …
Angkor Wat at sunrise
Angkor Wat at sunrise
The bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat
The bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat
The pile of rubble looking structu…
The pile of rubble looking struct…
Siem Reap
photo by: genetravelling