Templed out in Angkor Wat

Angkor, the former capital of the mighty Khmer empire, once boasted the population of around 2 mln people when London was a small town of less than 50 thousand. Now we can only imagine what it could be like but for foreign invaders and the devastations of the civil war.

Now it remains the spiritual soul of Cambodia and the 8th wonder of the world, the main tourist attraction and the destination for millions of pilgrims from all over the world.

The temples of Angkor built around 1000AC are the only vestige of the county’s glorious past, since all other public buildings, palaces or common people’s houses did not survive as they were made of wood. And the right to construct the buildings of brick or stone was reserved for the God-kings who were in the course of history desperately trying to surpass each other in architectural design, size and scale which culminated in the construction of the largest religious structure in the world – Angkor Wat.

We couldn’t help tasting the fresh palm juice that we had never heard of.

Angkor Wat was the first temple on our route, though all the guides recommend reserving it for the end of your tour as it is considered to be the most beautiful temple, but we personally don’t share this opinion. We don’t want to disappoint you but we didn’t really experience this spine-tickling moment when we passed through the causeway, went downstairs, then looked back and the temple emerged before our eyes for the first time. It’s just our personal point of view: may be because we simply didn’t have more room for impressions after the visit to the floating village the previous day or because we had already seen smth similar to Angkor Wat in Khajuraho, India but even prettier and better preserved. Anyways, we found the other temples that we visited more attractive and extravagant in their beauty. We spent most of the time inside the walls of the fortified city of Angkor Thom, surrounded by a moat which was once inhabited by savage crocodiles for better protection from the enemies, we guess 🙂 We entered Angkor Thom through one of its giant gates with a long row of stone statues leading to it…

…and started exploring the town which was once home to more than 1 mln people. Pretty big, huh? But don’t worry, you will never get lost if you follow the signs that precautious Khmers put all over the place…

…if you have that possibility, of course 🙂

Walking around Bayon, the central temple of Angkor Thom, we had a strange feeling of constantly being watched upon, as hundreds of enigmatic faces were staring at us from different angles, around 10 at a time, either full-face or in profile…

What we also liked about Angkor Thom is that there’s a lot to see besides numerous individual temples, like the central square surrounded by stone terraces or stone pools and some unknown religious structures.

↑ elephant terrace ↑

↑↓ Baphuon ↑↓

↑↓ Inside the Leper King Terrace ↑↓

If you are tired of templeseeing – have fun with local monkeys who have been living here for ages…

…or just read a few more pages of Lonely Planet 🙂

All in all walking around Angkor is an enjoyable experience, especially in winter…It’s still hot, around +30 C, but not stuffy or humid like in the tropical Malaysia or Singapore, and you can easily manage the heat with some refreshing exotic fruit that will be peeled and cut into bite-size pieces specially for you so that you have nothing else to do but put them into your mouth and find yourself on cloud nine…

Our next destination was the atmospheric Ta Prohm immersed in the jungle. What makes the temple so extraordinary is the vast roots of the trees interweaving with the structure of the temple itself. And if all the other temples of Angkor are the result of the victory of a man over the forces of the nature, Ta Prohm on the contrary shows us how the nature might fight back. So instead of manicuring it the Cambodia’s officials just decided to leave it like that, the way they appeared when the first Western explorers discovered them. And that’s precisely what makes this temple so unique…

After visiting Ta Prohm we felt kind of «templed out» and decided to head back to the guesthouse, as we saw lots, lots of temples that day…the ones we described here is just a small or the nicest part of what we saw, as we’ve filtered out the best of the best for you 🙂 Honestly, after 7-8 hours of «templeseeing» you stop telling one from another as they start looking pretty much the same, at least to us. 🙂 So if you are very much into this ‘temple culture’, the great idea would be to stay in Siem Reap for a week or so and explore these hundreds of temples by small portions. Cycling around Angkor and soaking in the ancient atmosphere of these sandstone structures would be the best option if you have enough time. But if temples are not the priority of your journey one day will be more than enough no matter what guidebooks say and taking a tut-tuk for the whole day and being driven around is what you need.

P.S.: Our next temple destination will hopefully be Machu Picchu in Peru, the ancient Inca site located high in the mountains and now considered to be one of the World’s seven wonders. So if you decide to go for a good hike, let us know and we might want to join you!

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3 Responses to Templed out in Angkor Wat

  1. Beata says:

    as for me i’ve never thought ’bout cambodia as a travel destination maybe ’cause it always seemed not safe enough for me… but it’s AMAZING! go on guys!!!

  2. Alexander says:

    And before having fun with monkeys don’t forget to play with stone tits!
    Sorry, guys.. just kidding:)
    Personally i’m impressed by the fact that Cambodians are still kind and hospitable people in spite of all sufferings they have met with.
    Thanks for great share!

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