Published: June 14th 2009June 13th 2009
After cycling up to the Angkor temples (seems further when cycling) we arrive absolutely sweating in 36 degree heat. We decide to look at Angkor Wat first - the capital city of the old Khmer Empire. All of the temples in Siem Reap were built between the 8th and 12th century and the temple ruins are the remnants of the Angkorian capitals and represent the pinnacle of the ancient Khmer architecture , art and civilisation.
Angkor Wat is a massive 3 tiered pyramid crowned by 5 lotus like towers 65m from ground level. As we strolled around we realised just how huge this temple is (and also how unbearably hot it had become) We started out at the moat which surrounds Angkor Wat and the exterior walls. The visual impact at first is amazing and as we pass through the outer gate and get our first glimpse of the main temple it almost appears in 2D. The temple walls are completely covered with bas reliefs and carvings creating galleries of all the marvellous works- all depicting stories and characters from Hindu mythology and historical wars. We spent a good few hours wandering around, inside and also outside, climbing up narrow staircases,
observing part of a wedding taking place here and just getting a feel of the history. However, the sun really took its toll and as we wandered past the “Reflecting pool” we grabbed some nearby chairs and just sat downing litres of water. We really were templed out for the day so took a leisurely bike ride back into town, rehired our bikes for tomorrow and then went for a quick stroll around the night market.
Like the mad people that we are we had decided to cycle up to Angkor Wat for the sunrise....so whilst everyone else seemed to have a coach taking them from their hotel complexes, we found ourselves up and cycling up to the temple at 5.00am in the morning. With the sunrise imminent we cycled like possessed demons in order to get there on time...no way have we woken up this early for nothing! We did not look a pretty site when we got there as we were dripping sweat, our tops could be literally wrung out but hey we made the sunrise....just!! Pretty amazing to see Angkor Wat silhouetted against the rising sun, something that will be pretty hard to beat on our
Most people go back to their hotels for breakfast after the sunrise but we decided to take advantage of the fact that it was the coolest part of the day and also there would not be so many crowds and tour parties around. We cycled over to Angkor Thom, a 3km² walled and moated royal city, the last capital of the Angkorian empire. Having passed through the South Gate we reached the Bayon, set at the centre of the city. There are 37 standing towers, most but not all supporting 4 carved faces. These giant stone faces peering out proved very eerie in the early morning light, especially with the morning mist rising behind them in the nearby jungle. It was wonderful to be one of a few people here at this time and we were really able to explore without all the hussle and bussle of tour groups.
From here we moved onto the Terrace of the Elephants (an impressive 2½ m tall, 300m long terrace wall adorned with carved elephants and garudas) followed by the Terrace of the Lepar King, a double terrace with deeply carved demons and mythological beings. Stopping briefly at the Victory Gate, Wat
Tang Tok and Thommanom we pressed onto Ta Prohm as the sun was getting very hot and also loads of tour buses were starting to appear.
Ta Prohm is one of the strangest temples as it has huge fig and silk cotton trees growing from and through the temple towers and corridors -it has to be seen to be believed (this is where Lara Croft -Tomb Raider was filmed) It really is incredible to see how some of the brickwork has remained standing with the roots of the trees completely entwined in and around them.
After a very long cycle ride home (getting lost on two occasions) we treated ourselves to a body massage...totally relaxing and well deserved!
There are more photos below