The Big Hitters
Siem Reap Travel Blog› entry 131 of 174 › view all entries
Yesterday the boys and I set out for the big hitters, namely Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat, as well as a few others in their immediate vicinity. Since we spent virtually half of Wednesday on the road, we were looking forward to closer sites, meaning not being jostled in the back of a tuk-tuk for hours on end. It also meant we could sleep in and have a more leisurely start, which turned out to be a good thing, as Allan and Dave reportedly stayed out until the wee hours weren't so wee anymore.
Our first stop was Banteay Kdei. Off the beaten track (relatively speaking), Banteay Kdei was quiet and peaceful and exactly what Dave needed after having one too many buckets of booze (quite literally drunk out of a bucket).
From Banteay Kdei we did Ta Phrom, the temple overgrown with trees. Ta Phrom is more famous than Beng Mealea, the Indiana Jones temple we visited the day prior. I imagine this is because it's both closer and has had all the rubble cleared out and some restorations made, thus presenting a temple overgrown with trees to wander through, rather than rubble overgrown with trees to clamor over.
Next up was the Elephant Terrace, which is basically a long raised platform, and resembles a fortified wall from a distance. Apparently it was solely for the king's use, and is directly in front of the old palace. We took one look at the crumbling palace and the crowds beneath it and took a pass. It was too soon to be "templed out;" we'd rather save our energy for elsewhere.
It was then onto Bayon, aka Angkor Thom, the temple everyone recognizes due to its often photographed faces. (Bayon is actually the temple, Angkor Thom is the fortified city within which Bayon can be found, but the latter's name is thrown around incorrectly.) When we first arrived it looked like you could only walk along the bottom of Bayon and through the various hallways, but not up anywhere near the faces, which are way up on the tops of all the towers. I started bitching about how much that sucked, how all the pictures make it seem like you come face-to-face with these massive faces, and how it was fraudulent advertising. (China's Terracotta Warriors, anyone?) Eventually we found a very old, steep, crumbling staircase and climbed up and found that you really can be face-to face with these bad boys, the only problem is everyone else is too.
And finally, last but not least, the grand finale: Angkor Wat. Needless to say, Angkor Wat didn't meet any of our expectations. Amazing? Very. Far too much hype about this place? You better believe it. It also goes without saying that the crowds at Angkor Wat are INSANE. Where do all these people come from?? And why were none of them at any of the other temples? Do people really hit Angkor and peace out? I should hope not.
Angkor Wat is the largest of all the temples within Angkor Archaeological Park, but it was smaller than I had imagined.
Once you get over your expectations and the hype, Angkor Wat really is great. I probably liked it the least out of all the temples I visited, which is more praise to the others than it is critique against Angkor. All in all, Angkor Archaeological Park is phenomenal. A must-see. Just do yourself a favor and make it your business to check out the others. They're what make this place so special.