The area around Siem Reap is called Angkor and is made up of several temples scattered throughout the forest. The temples are a mix of Hindu or Buddhist depending on what religion the King was at the time. The first temple, and the most famous we visited, was Angkor Wat. Built in the 12 Century and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. The whole area is surrounded by a massive moat and crossing a bridge you get the first impressive view of the temple spires. Unfortunately it wasn’t that impressive for us as the sun was shining behind so you couldn’t see any of the detail from afar. But the silhouette was beautiful.
Once inside the temple was very impressive with long corridors covered in intricate carvings and internal temples with steep external stairways leading up into the buildings. It was a beautiful temple yet it didn’t really have the catch your breath moment for us. I think we would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t a zillion degrees and so humid I was sweating as much as Tim…. Well not quite.
We headed back out and enjoyed the cooling tuk tuk ride to the next temple complex Angkor Thom. We entered via an ancient gate and headed towards the Bayon Temple. Now this one really had the wow factor for us. It was a craggily hodgepodge of stone temples with beautifully carved faces protruding out at random. It was quite magical with the faces seeming so lifelike you wouldn’t be surprised if they suddenly spoke. You could walk inside which was a maze of narrow corridors which eventually lead to a kind of second level where you could get close up to some of the sculptured faces. But the outside view was definitely the best. This temple was built by the Buddhist King Jayavarman VII.
We then walked the few hundred meters to the next temple called Baphuon. By this stage we were well and truly hot. Which may have affected our views on this one and the fact we couldn’t be bothered to climb the steep steps up to the second and third floors. The interesting fact of this temple was that archeologists took the whole temple apart to clean it and meticulously numbered all the rocks with a corresponding map to put it all back together. Unfortunately this was destroyed in the time of The Kumar Rouge so they had to guess when they finally got to put it back together. One part is finished but otherwise there are a few hundred stone blocks lying around the outside yet to be put back in place.
We stopped off for a cooling fruit shake before tackling another temple. Again not much to write home about and this one was being restored, well more rebuilt, with grey concrete blocks. This looks a little ludicrous to my eyes when you have these concrete blocks in between hundreds of year old stone that has weathered and cracked over time. I am all for restoration yet this just seems a little more like recreation.
The last temple we visited was Ta Prom. Picture Indiana Jones running through a crumbling temple covered in tree roots in the middle of a jungle. It really was pretty cool seeing parts of the temple being slowly overtaken by trees and we got some fantastic shots but the sheer number of people filtering through just made it a little less impressive.
We headed home after that for a well deserved swim and relax.
As our original view of Angkor Wat had the sun in the wrong position this morning, we decided to head back to get a better view. We are really glad we did because it was very impressive when you could see the detail on the temples along with the beautiful colour of the stone. Well worth the second trip out.
Feeling like we deserved a beer by this stage we headed back to Siem Reap for another fantastic night of great food, cheap beer and night markets. S
Some of the nymphs that were sculpted throughout the temple.
An internal view of the temple. Theses would have been bathing pools back in the day.
One of the external staircases leading into the upper part of the temple. Unfortunately the day we went the upper area was closed to the public.
The temple was ringed with a covered corridor which housed some amazing bas-reliefs. Certain parts had been destroyed but most were in beautiful condition.
View from the backside of the temple.
Some of the bas-reliefs.
Walking back from the covered corridor into the main central part of the temple.
One of the first views of Bayon.
I love the way the faces just seem to emerge from the rock.
Up on the second level you got to view them a little closer.
The giant jigsaw puzzle that was Baphuon.
Ta Prohm with its trees devouring the temple.
View from inside.
I love this shot but keep expecting some scary monster to jump out from the tomb and attack me.