Wat up Angkor?

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Asia » Cambodia
December 17th 2011
Published: August 9th 2017
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I don't think there would be too many people who have been to Cambodia that would say they didn't go to visit the world famous Angkor Wat. Spaced over a huge area, the temples were built in the 11th and 12th century by different kings which make all the temples unique in size and design.
We arrived in to Siem Reap via Phnom Phen on a 6 hour bus in which we ran in to two Germans who we had known from the slow boat down the Mekong river when we first entered Laos, turns out their trip is exactly the same as ours and they fly out just the day after us.
We arrived in to our guesthouse by nightfall and sorted out how we would go about seeing the temples. There are a few options available as the temples are sometimes quite far apart and quite a number of kilometers from Siem Reap.
One way is to hire a bike for $1, but on top of a lot of cycling there is also a lot of walking in temples, also factor in the heat during the day can make for an exhausting but nice way to see the temples. The option we took was to hire a tuk-tuk driver at $7 each per day. We chose the tuk-tuk driver that picked us up from the bus station and started at 8am from our guesthouse.

After a brief line up for the $40 three day pass we were on our way, following the small circuit route.
Our tuk-tuk driver gave us a little history lesson as we stopped in the parking lot for Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the largest temple and where that famous shot with the reflection comes from.
We spent about 1.5 hours walking around and enjoying the amazing detail and ancient craftsmanship backed up with nice views of the surrounding landscape.
The unfortunate thing is that because of the sheer age and the amount of rain, the two combined have deteriorated the temples to the point where they are constantly falling apart or in need of propping up. Some are having restoration works so we unfortunately had an ungraceful green netting in front of the main temple.
Certain temples are restored by certain countries, eg France, India and Thailand.
Inside the temples were fine too, not as busy as I thought it would be, but because of the size of the grounds then everyone is spread out. Of course the most annoying are the big tour groups, mostly Chinese.

Next area was Angkor Thom and Bayon, a totally different style of temple with 216 faces protruding from 54 spikes within the temple. It was a lot smaller than Angkor Wat but equally as impressive.
Some of the buildings had collapsed and had been restored, but it made it look even more horrible than it would be sitting in piles on the ground. I think because Angkor Wat is important to tourism that they are trying to restore these temples. Some restorations looked alright but others looked horrible with brand new grey blocks merging with 900 year old blocks.
The faces were great and the detail of the carvings in the wall were absolutely amazing.

The whole day was fantastic and the difference in temples made it more interesting. Another temple that is famous is the "Tomb Raider" temple or Ta Phrom, with the big tree roots covering door entrances or winding through fallen pieces. We had a small chat with an older French couple who had been here 10 years ago and said there was more damage to the temples and more tourists, but strangely the entrance price was still the same.
This temple was pretty cool, I love that kind of "tree roots wrapping around stuff" thing. Although we had to wait for some time while a big group of Chinese took there photos, one at a time, patience Hugh!!
We finished the small loop which included a further three temples and arrived back to the guesthouse by 4 pm.

We decided to take the following day off to relax and do some shopping and then do the sunrise and big loop the following day. We grabbed some breakfast after a bit of a sleep in at the one and only restaurant we ate at for our time in Siem Reap, only because the food (for me) was pretty good and filling and also cheap. Then we hit the market across the road.
Bargaining in this market is easy, all the shops sell pretty much the same thing. We finished up with quite a few things by the end of the day.
Even my sneaky attempt at buying Anna some earings that she liked proved successful until she was on the verge of buying the same pair the next day so I had to concede defeat and tell her.

The next day we had arranged to be picked up at 5am for the sunrise at Angkor Wat. I was pretty astonished at how popular it was and the small patch of dirt in front of the pond was packed. It was a little cloudy but it cleared later in the morning. As we had already done the main temples and it was still very early in the morning, we had the privilege of visiting the next temples almost by ourselves.
We were doing the large circuit which included quite a few small temples but at further distance from each other. I knew we would be finished early. We visited a further six temples throughout the morning. We were already pretty tired by the end of it and it warmed up quite early so I thought the timing was perfect. We arrived back to the guesthouse by 10 am where we spent the rest of the day relaxing and doing some more shopping.

The following morning we were headed to Bangkok and after cramming people in with bags ready to fall on our heads at the slightest touch of the breaks we were headed for the border. The border crossing was one of the worst I have encountered, it took us around three hours before we got in to the mini van to Bangkok. Lots of waiting in queues and restaurants.

Siem Reap is quite a nice town with good shopping opportunities and a stone's throw away from some of the most amazing temples in the world. Leaving Angkor Wat till the end of our trip was a perfect way to finish and summed up the entire trip.
Lots of photos and memories to last a lifetime...

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