Angkor Wat's the big deal?


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December 25th 2016
Published: December 25th 2016
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Looking forward to some real adventure I left Koh Rong with some friends heading for the highly anticipated Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, the main reason I came to Cambodia.







First though we had a quick stop off in Battambang, Cambodia's second most populated city behind Phnom Penn. We arrived around 6AM after one of the bumpiest bus rides of my life, we literally jumped out of the bed at one point!



We were met with the usual immediate onslaught from tuk-tuk drivers wanting to take us to our hostel and around for the day.



At this stage we didn't know what we wanted to do or see and just wanted to sleep. Being on the receiving end of a hard sell at 6AM isn't the best way to start the day.







We arrived at BTB hostel ($3 p/n in a 12 bed dorm) and managed to get some sleep in the lobby before venturing out for the day. Battambang is surrounded by temples older than the ones in Siem Reap and caves.



Knowing we would probably be sick of temples by the end of Angkor we decided to check out the main one and then head to the “bat cave”...no, this isn't where the Cambodian Batman resides.



The temple was really cool. Perched on top of a hill we had to ascend A LOT of steps to reach the top, but it gave a certain magic to the temple.



Then we headed to the bat cave for sunset, where 6.5 million bats live and all leave at sunset to venture into the darkness of night.







Siem Reap



I'd been looking forward to visiting Angkor Wat since I heard about it a few years ago. Regarded as “the 8th wonder of the world” and standing since 1150AD, it was actually quite underwhelming.



We took a three day pass into the temple area for $40US. The area has around 13 main temples still standing, all built under different dynasties of the Khmer empire, one of which was the scene for the 2001 Tomb Raider movie with Angelina Jolie.







The first day we hired a tuk-tuk for $15 for the day, the driver was really knowledgeable and got us 50%!o(MISSING)ff in the restaurant.



We checked out the “smaller” temples first on the outskirts of the temple area. One of which was my second favourite, it was in complete ruins and the jungle had begun to reclaim it. Trees and moss grew all over the temple, and not just small trees...proper trees reaching 20 metres into the air!







The second day we again hired the tuk-tuk and set off at 4.40AM for sunrise at Angkor Wat, the main attraction.



The sunrise was beautiful and seeing Angkor appear from the darkness certainly had a certain magic about it, it would've been a perfect moment had it not been for the 100s of tourists all taking pictures and talking...not that I can talk being one of said tourists.



Compared to the temples we'd seen the day before it wasn't all that impressive, except for the shear size. For something labelled the 8th wonder of the world I expected to be wowed almost as much as seeing the Taj Mahal.



The most impressive temple in the area by far was Angkor Thom. This is THE best temple I've ever seen. There's 54 heads of Vishnu carved into pillars poking up into the air! It most certainly must have been designed under the influence of some psychedelic drugs.







The Tomb Raider temple was also really cool, again the jungle has begun to take back over and there's trees growing all over it. The temple is 700 years old and there's a tree 500 years old growing through one of it's walls!







On the third day we hired an ebike and headed to the temple ourselves. Having used the ebikes in Bagan (Myanmar) to get around the temples I was really looking forward to the freedom. We re-visited some of the better temples from the day before and planned to head to Angkor Wat for sunset. Unfortunately the ebike wasn't sufficiently charged and we ended up pushing the bike about 4km and leaving it next to a temple and hitching a ride back with some other tourists in a tuk-tuk.







The Khmer Empire had trade routes with the Pallava empire from south India and inherited Hinduism from them, along with the inspiration for the design of their temples. The striking similarities between the temples in Mamallapuram and the ones at Angkor are uncanny. I'm glad I saw the ones in India first, and to see the fusion of Buddhist and Hindu carvings at Angkor was awesome!







Next me and my friend have decided to hire a scooter and drive to a remote temple on top of a mountain bordering Thailand called Prasat Preah Vihear. The Cambodian and Thai governments have fought over it for years and it did once belong to Thailand.

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