- Travel Topics
Like everybody else who comes to Siem Reap, we were there to see the famous Angkor Archaeological Park.
With hourly rising temperatures and 9 months of temple hopping behind us we knew we only had the patience for one full day of temple exploring so we decided to get as much out of it as possible. We hired a driver and a guide and headed out before sunrise (hoping to beat the crowds and the afternoon heat).
Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and a perfect way to finish up our temple tours in Asia. Initial construction of the temple complex began in the 12th century during the reign of King Suryavarman II and was built as the king’s state temple and capital city. Though the temples started out as Hindu, in the 13th century the temples moved to Theravada Buddhist (which they still are today).
The temple reflects the classic Khmer architectural style and has become the symbol of the country, even appearing on the flag.
With only one day it was impossible to see all the temples in the area, but we honed in on three, the Angkor Wat Temples, the Angkor Thom Temples, the Ta Prom Temple (also know as the Tomb Raider Temple) and a series of smaller temples and monuments.
We arrived in time for sunrise but left the real exploration of Angkor Wat until mid day – per the guide’s suggestion that we would have better light later in the day and less tourists as everybody would be out to lunch.
So we continued on to the Angkor Thom Temples.
We had ourselves quite the guide. He was always carrying around his iPad tablet loaded with historical references and maps of the ancient temples. Numerous times he would take us aside to show us very interesting maps and files on his gadget and overall did a great job providing the background of everything we saw. Man did he love that iPad though!
We were even lucky enough to happen upon a traditional Cambodian wedding.
From there we made our way to the Ta Prom complex – the one imprinted in everyone’s minds through Angelina Jolie’s action scenes in the Tomb Raider movie.
This area is truly magical. With the trees growing in and around the temple structures themselves you simply can’t tear your eyes away. It is the most beautiful fusion of man made structures and nature living on together in harmony.
I was simply stunned here.
The way the trees entwine and swallow up the walls, but still without crushing the structures completely is truly unique.
Not only that, but the trees themselves are like no other. The long trunk and neverending roots make you see just how alive they really are, and the power that they have. I instantly imagined the scene from the Lord of the Rings where the forest comes alive and the trees attack. The cob-web like trunks seem to melt off the side of the wall like something out of Dali’s painting.
To finish off the day we headed back to where we started – Angkor Wat. Our guide was completely right, the place was deserted. Everyone was at lunch or had started the day with the Angkor Wat temples. As we walked along the perimeter, through the hallways, aside from a monk or two we were the only people there.
In these moments I could truly feel the grandeur of these structures and the peace and tranquility that they evoke. Without hoards of tourists to fight through I could really absorb the atmosphere and as cliche as it sounds I truly felt at peace.
The Angkor Wat temple complex and the ones surrounding it are truly amazing. In one day you cannot see everything but for us it was enough. 1, 3 or 7 day passes are available and there are different options for touring the temples; self guided bike tours, hiring a tuk-tuk driver, hiring both a driver and a guide or just joining an organized tour.
We hired a guide and driver for the day and it was the right decision for us.