Visiting the magnificent temples of Angkor, we discovered a whole new world.
06.01.2006 30 °C
We arrived in Cambodia slightly nervous as so many people had told us it was a slightly dodgy place at times. The road in didn't help matters! It had to be on of the worst roads ever 'built', and featured a range of potholes, mud and assorted slow traffic that our driver insisted on vearing across to pass other vehicles. Thankfully, though the bus arrived in one piece - but only just I think! We also heard one horror story from the day before where a bridge had needed repairs, causing the usual 8 hour (sore bum after that), to take 18 hours... Thankfully we missed that!
Our first day, we headed into the temples bristling with excitment after seeing a documentary on Discovery the night before. We had 2 mopeds - the preferred form of 'taxi' here - and after buying our passes - $40 for 3 days - we headed straight to Angkor most famous temple, Angkor Wat. It was amazing actually being there! The place is truly magnificent, and everyone should go and see it if they get the chance! We wandered freely around in the temple, climbing the stupidly steep stairs - worse was to come though.
Next, our drivers took us to the ancient capital of Angkor Thom, where we saw our favourite temple, Bayon. The main feature of this is that all of the towers have 4 faces, facing the 4 points of the compass. But what made it even better was the hap-hazard way it's been built, creating a labyrinth of passageways.
After wandering around the rest of the capital, we moved onto Ta Keo which is an unfinished temple. The towers are squared off, with no decoration, and even steeper steps than before! Coming down them was quite frightening, but worth the effort for the fantastic view it afforded from the top!
Next, we went to Ta Prohm, which in my opinion was one of the more interesting temples as the Jungle has started to reclaim it. Trees are growing out of and on top of the buildings, creating an almost alien landscape within the temple.
We finished the day off, watching the sunset from the top of Phnom Bakheng - the only hill in the area. Sadly, it seemed most of the tourists in the area also watched the sunset.
The next day, we went further afield - and sitting on the back of a scooter for an hour on dirt tracks is very painful! We started with the waterfall at Kbal Spean, which mainly features some ancient carvings and butterflies (a lot of them!)
Next, we went to Banteay Srei, which is one of the smaller temples, but also the most intricately decorated and intact of them all. After lunch, we then moved onto East Mebon - sorry, but by this point I was starting to get templed out. Next came Neak Pean, which was different as it featured a shrine set in the centre of a resevoir, surrounded by 4 smaller resevoirs.
Our final temple was Preah Khan, which blew us away. First of all for it's shear scal and complexity, and for the state of the disrepair it's in. This one hasn't so much been claimed back by the jungle, but age is taking it's toll on the structures, making it a great place to wander around inside and get almost lost.
Siem Reap and the ruins are amazing, and I can't recommend going there enough!