Angkor temples mini circuit

Siem Reap Travel Blog

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Bayon, within Angkor Thom

Our Tuk Tuk driver met us at our hotel and insisted that we call him Jackie Chan which is probably just as well as we had several attepts at trying his real name but never got it right to his satisfaction. The temples of Angkor are much more that just Angkor Wat there are complexes spread across a vast area with at least 50 sites to visit possibly many more. The tuk tuk ride out to the temples takes 20 to 30 minutes and we strongly recommend taking sunglasses and a scarf to protect your eyes, nose and mouth from the considerable clouds of dust thrown up by the traffic. On the way into the reserve you have to stop at the checkpoint where on your first day you will be required to pay for your pass ($40 for a three day one) and have one of those digital photos taken which always manage to make you seem fat.

One of the many faces of Bayon
Passes in hand our first visit was to the Bayon which is one of the most impressive sites in a complex called Angkor Thom. There are 39 towers of varying sizes and in various states of decay with faces carved on each side aligned to the cardinal points of the compass. To tour the site you have to literally clamber over the fallen pieces of carved masonry which is scattered around in seeming chaos. The walls of the complex are carved with reliefs telling stories of ancient battles and everyday life in the ancient Khmer civilisation and they are fascinating. That is if you can get anywhere near them through the hoards of organised tours from China, Japan and Korea. I can never work out why people from those counties prefer to do the whole organised tour thing rather than independant travel but it's a worldwide phenomenon.
Apsara dancer bas releifs at Bayon
Go to any tourist destination in the world and you will see an oriental tour guide holding up a flag with a throng behind them rushing through and ticking off another thing seen. It's the same with the photo taking, in our experience most westerners take a photo of the object itself whereas the thing in oriental circles seems to be that you have to be in the photo standing in front of the object being photographed often with two fingers up in a victory sign. Our theory is it's a sort of trophy-ism to prove they've actually been there, a simple photo isn't good enough. Whilst we are told that significant restoration and protection is being done it seems at odds with allowing people to walk and climb all over the place. In fact there are large banners throughout Siem Reap congratulating Cambodia on attracting over 2 million visitors in 2007, a figure sure to be exceeded in 2008, and you wonder how much damage the countless millions of footsteps are doing to the temple sites.
Thommanom
Despite these concerns we likened it to scratching a mosquito bite, deeply satisfying in the short term but you know that in the long run it's making things much worse.

Frustrated with the tour group crowds which are currently even worse than normal as it's Chinese New Year, we moved on hoping to get in front of them and next stop was a pair of temples opposite each other. The first called the Thomanom was in much better condition than its opposite number Chau Say Thevoda. You might be forgiven for thinking that it would be a case of seen one temple seen them all but they all have unique characteristics and styles which make no two the same. The building of temples went on between the 9th and 12th centuries and construction techniques, materials used and carving methods all changed and developed during that time.

Chau Say Thevoda

The next site was called the Ta Keo involved a crazy climb up the steepest and most narrow steps imaginable. The very helpful sign at the bottom stating that we climb at our own risk said all that was needed to say. The climb though was totally worth it as it was a lovely view from the top and some really nice carvings of dancing girls which were in good condition. As is always the way the climb down is worse than the climb up as you can see how far you can fall but we made it intact. In fact during our whole three days we didn't see a single person fall and if that sounds like dissapointment it probably is as there were alot of very annoying people around.

After Angkor Wat, probably the most famous temple in the Angkor complex is Ta Prom which is where the Tomb Raider film was shot.

Ta Keo and its many tiers of treacherous steps
It has been intentially left unrestored and has huge trees growing through, over and around the temple walls and complex. It gives a real sense of time that care of these temples was neglected for and provide some amazing photo opportunities, if you can shoo the orientals out of the way for a second. The common misconception is that the temples were lost to the forests for centuries and rediscovered by europeans in the 19th century. A typically arrogant western notion as Angkor Wat itself and many other temples have been continuously inhabitted by monks at least since their construction.

Banteay Kdei is another huge sprawling complex in a similar style to Bayon and the as yet unseen (by us) Angkor Wat. It has also been left largely unrestored and made for excellent exploring and this temple was originally built by Buddhists only for the predominant religion to switch back to Hinduism and as a consequence the many images of poor old Buddha had there faces hacked off or recarved in the likeness of hindu deities.

Ta Prohm
Now that must be some bad Kharma. Opposite Banteay Kdei is a large Baray (the correct local term for a reservoir basically) which has a platform that looks out over it and a gauntlet of annoying hawkers and kids trying to offload rubbish souvenirs and postcards for the most expensive prices. The shouts of 'Lady you buy' or 'Mister you want something' are hard to block out and no amount of saying 'No' will deter them from keep asking. It's usually at this point that the fantasy of having an AK47 to hand creeps into our minds.

The day was wearing on and we were getting tired and (as it turned out later) we made the inspired decision to forgo visiting Angkor Wat itself today in favour of seeing it at sunrise tommorrow. We stopped off at one last temple called Prasat Kravan which was built from brick and had them carved with reliefs but not much carving remains to be seen so it wasn't really worth it especially in light of the wonders we had seen at the other temples.

Banteay Kdei

We headed back to the hotel for a swim in the pool and a coconut shake which was heaven after a dusty and very sweaty day. Make no mistake temple exploration is hard work, lots of climbs, dusty walks, dodging begging monster kids and the dangers of blocks of stone to trip over. We were exhausted. Happy hour in 'pub street' beconned and a few cheap beers and a slap up meal at our favourite restaurant the Khmer Kitchen later we felt much better. We bumped into a Canadian guy called Jason who introduced us to Bubble tea which we have become instantly addicted to (Sorry to David who has been recommending it to us forever, if only we'd listened to you!!).

marloesetman says:
Great blog! I like to read it and I want to go back to Cambodia immediately. Beautiful place to be. :)
Posted on: Feb 13, 2008
barrieandann says:
Wonderful photos. You are both certainly seeing some marvellous places.Continue to enjoy yourselves. Take Care.
All our love Mum & Dad (Ann & Barrie) xxxxxxxx
Posted on: Feb 11, 2008
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Bayon, within Angkor Thom
Bayon, within Angkor Thom
One of the many faces of Bayon
One of the many faces of Bayon
Apsara dancer bas releifs at Bayon
Apsara dancer bas releifs at Bayon
Thommanom
Thommanom
Chau Say Thevoda
Chau Say Thevoda
Ta Keo and its many tiers of treac…
Ta Keo and its many tiers of trea…
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Banteay Kdei
Banteay Kdei
Adam groping a Naga at Sras Srang
Adam groping a Naga at Sras Srang
Steph at the second-to-top level o…
Steph at the second-to-top level …
Us at the top of Ta Keo (finally!)
Us at the top of Ta Keo (finally!)
Bas reliefs at Bayon
Bas reliefs at Bayon
Bayon Temple statue with an uncann…
Bayon Temple statue with an uncan…
One of the many faces of Bayon
One of the many faces of Bayon
Steph along a wall of bas reliefs …
Steph along a wall of bas reliefs…
Outside Victory Gate of Angkor Thom
Outside Victory Gate of Angkor Thom
Bas reliefs at Thommanom
Bas reliefs at Thommanom
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Adam inside one of the trucks of T…
Adam inside one of the trucks of …
Bas reliefs at Ta Prohm
Bas reliefs at Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
Prasat Kravan
Prasat Kravan
Steph at Banteay Kdei
Steph at Banteay Kdei
Banteay Kdei
Banteay Kdei
Steph and a few Apsara bas reliefs…
Steph and a few Apsara bas relief…
Lion and Naga statues at Banteay K…
Lion and Naga statues at Banteay …
Siem Reap
photo by: genetravelling