If you really want to discover Angkor, then you will have to stay in Cambodia a week or longer. The preserved temples are layered with history, the rule of kings and an interesting blend of Hinduism and Buddhism.
The temples themselves are a visible interpretation of the holy world. The whole of the temples represent the home of the gods, Mount Meru, which is often surrounded by a moat symbolizing the Cosmic Ocean. Due to the heavy influence from India, there are many statues of Shiva's linga situated in yoni, Vishnu in his various incarnations and multi-headed Naga protecting the entrances.
Bayon is known for the mysterious faces that decorate its towers facing all directions while Ta Prohm is famously overtaken by heavy strangler fig trees. Different temples are constructed from different elements ranging from lava rock, laterite, sandstone, red clay and more. Some walls are burnt black from fire or green with moss. You will find images of female Aspara, elephants, gods and bas reliefs relaying holy stories while others share everyday life that are, to us, centuries old.
The history and stories are endless, the architecture combined with nature truly awesome, with details always left undiscovered by travelers who even stay for months on end. You can still escape the throngs of visitors by waiting for the guided tours to pass and then take the opportunity to take a photo in the temples as if you and/or your companions were the only ones present.
Highlights from Angkor
- Catch the sunset or sunrise at Angkor Wat
- See the many faces of Bayon
- See nature and history entangled at Ta Prohm Temple
- Travel to the outlying temple Banteay Srey (North) by mid-day to see the red clay glow under the sun
- Travel even further to Beng Mealea Temple to see the ruins of battle and time
Hints and Tips for Angkor
- You will be turned away from some temples (or even some sections within temples) if you are wearing a sleeveless shirt or shorts/skirts the guards deem unacceptable for temple attire.
- You will be haggled by children selling books, scarves, hats, postcards, flutes and all sorts of items. The books that are sold near the temples are usually of good quality and very informative if you are in need of a guide. Even the individuals handing out incense will ask for money (for themselves, not for the prayers to Buddha).
- Watch out for adults (even if they are authoritative figures) and children who attach themselves to you and act like guides without any previous arrangement. They will demand payment and though some can be quite helpful and are worth tipping, others are trying to scam you for money.
- Landmines tend to be a non-threat to tourists travelling in well-known areas, but heed any warning signs and exercise caution in rural areas where landmines may still exist off the beaten path .
- Some areas of Cambodia have higher incidences of Malaria, Dengue and Japanese Encephalitis, so use mosquito repellent to be on the safe side.