Siem Reap & Angkor

Following our lovely trip to Battambang we’ve headed to Siem Reap, tourist capital of Cambodia and home to the famous temples of Angkor.  Most people who visit Cambodia normally just visit Siem Reap to do the temples and never explore the rest of the country.  As a result the entire city is built up to cater for tourists of all shapes and forms- from streets full of mid-range hotels to backpacker central near the aptly named “Pub street”, high priced boutique hotels and everything in between. This place is built to cope with tons of tourists.

Surprisingly though, there isn’t much to do (other than the temples). There’s plenty of restaurants and bars of varying quality, and plenty of places that will offer draft beer for 50c.  But if you’re not eating or drinking, there doesn’t seem to be much else to do so far!

This hasn’t been an issue for us yet as we’ve been busy doing the Angkor temples.  In the 11th and 12th centuries the kings of that time went on a massive building spree, building temple after temple in the Angkor area.  All the temples have switched between Hindu and Buddhist in that time too. As a result you have a condensed area with absolutely tons of amazing architecture in various states of decline, from fully renovated to taken over by the trees.

The most famous of the temples is Angkor Wat; We made the effort to see it at sunset and sunrise (which meant a 4:30 start!).

We spent 2 days cycling around the temples; there’s a big loop (37km) and an inner loop (16km) which meant we got very sweaty: temperatures hit the mid thirties which meant we were devouring water at a rate of knots.

There are too many temples to talk about without being overly boring, so I’ll just mention my 2 favourite ones.  Bayon is famous for it’s many faces- decorative stone columns with huge faces carved onto them.  We came here straight after sunrise, about 5:40am, and had the entire temple to ourselves- very rare as it’s one of the most popular temples and normally rammed.

The entire temple is huge.  It’s unfathomable how the ancient Angkorians built such amazing structures without modern technology.  It’s an engineering feat, combined with some incredible decoration.  Both Laura and I agree this is our favourite temple.

Ta Prohm, aka the tomb raider temple (they used it in the film) has been left almost completely derelict with the exception of wall reinforcements.  The trees have been allowed to grow wild and intermingle freely with the structures.  These aren’t just little trees, but monster ones which have been allowed to grow for centuries.

After two days we’re both templed and cycled out.  Fortunately it’s our anniversary, and we’ve checked into a nice hotel with a pool to celebrate and relax.  We’ve still got a day left on our Angkor passes though, so who knows? Maybe we’ll go see even more temples!

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