While some people choose to spend several days exploring the many beautiful ancient constructions strewn across the archeological site of Angkor, we opted for one day, which in the sweltering heat was plenty for us.
Depending on which website you visit, Angkor Wat is either one of the seven wonders of the world, an honorary eighth wonder of the world or a new seventh wonder of the world. Regardless of its official ranking, it’s pretty easy to see why this place is regarded as one of the most fantastic places on the planet.
What a lot of people (including us) don’t realise before visiting is that Angkor is a huge archeological complex in which there are many many temples and ruins. Instead, people tend to assume that Angkor Wat, the centrepiece of Angkor, is all there is to see. Some of the ruins are in better shape than others and some are much more well hidden, but it would be a huge mistake to visit Angkor Wat without stopping in on its neighbours.
Despite rising at an ungodly hour in order to catch the sun rise over Angkor Wat and snap the infamous shot of the sun above the central gopura, we had a cloudy morning and despite overhearing a tourist ask someone “is that the sun over there?” as she pointed to a lightish bit of cloud, we most certainly did not get the shot. No prob tho because google images.
It wasn’t hard to see why tourists flock to see the wonder of Angkor Wat.
We did struggle at first to take in our surroundings, without being distracted by the huge amount of tourists, many of whom appeared to be more interested in how they looked in front of the temple rather than how the temple itself actually looked. Nothing wrong with a selfie here and there to remember an occasion but a sea of selfies…well that’s when it starts to feel a bit narcissistic. Anyway…we took off our judgemental hats and made our way around the grounds.
Not only was Angkor Wat beautiful, it was totally baffling trying to imagine how it was designed and built in the 12th century. The intricate carvings and the unfathomable symmetry on such a grand scale totally blew us away.
Once we had wandered around, climbed up and closely inspected Angor Wat, we visted the hauntingly beautiful Ta Prohm, which famously featured in the film Tomb Raider. Crumbling blocks of rock were covered in glowing green moss and trees wrapped around sections of the temple, giving it a suffocating hug which was slowly tearing it down.
In one spot, a tree even appears to grow out of one of the sections of the temple.
Wandering around the grounds of Ta Prohm was like wandering round a film set, which obviously we were, but it almost didn’t feel real. The place felt eerie in a wonderful way and once again the mastery of the builders left us totally in awe.
Our next destination was Bayon Temple which was my absolute favourite. Bayon is famous for having huge stone faces of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara which are on all four sides of the temple’s many huge pillars that rise out of the top. It is believed that the smiling faces look out in all directions to keep watch over the city. The photos of this beautiful place speak for themselves…
Our final stop was Baphuon which we literally stumbled upon just before the sun began to set. The place was pretty much deserted so he we had a peaceful and undisturbed walk around the grounds. For many years this temple was closed and restoration took place over 21 years before the reopening in 2011.
In order to make our way around the temple complex, we hired a tuktuk driver for 20 dollars (for the whole day), who dropped us at the ticket booth when it opened early in the morning and drove us to a few spots. It’s also possible to cycle around, but at the time of year we were there it was just too hot to spend the day on a bike!