My City of Ruins

Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
Trip End Oct 22, 2012

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Thursday, August 11, 2011

After volunteering in Phnom Penh our journey continued north to Siem reap to take in the sights of Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples. Although it is said to have been 'discovered' by the French relatively recently, the Cambodian's have known of Angkor Wat's existence for centuries. The complex of temples that make up Angkor were built over several centuries, with some temples dating back as far as 802 A.D. The ancient city spans 1000 km2 and once had a population of 1 million inhabitants, when cities like London and Paris had only a couple of hundred thousand. Angkor in its prime formed the centre of South East Asia's art, religion and supremacy.

We arrived at our guesthouse 'Phrom Roth’ and organised a tuk tuk to take us to the various temple over the next 2 days. Clare had already seen the temples on a previous visit, however I hadn’t and so was looking forward to the prospect of seeing the various temples in their different forms.

We arrived first at Angkor Wat the following morning, the grand structure stood high above the tree tops, however its grandeur was slightly marred by the fact that the front of the temple was covered with scaffolding from renovation work. Although a necessary process it took away some of the mystic of the temple. Apparently though restoration work is slow, as although it costs $40 for a 3 day pass, most of the money from the ticket sales goes to the oil company that runs the ticket office.

We walked around the structure taking typical tourist photos, looking at the ‘bass reliefs’ and the temple’s many rooms and towers, we managed to photo the back of Ankor Wat though which had no scaffolding on, bonus.

Next up was The Bayon, where the faces of the ‘God Kings’ of the ancient Khmer kingdoms are carved into the temple’s towers, always watching over you with an almost smiley eerie expression.  

Next we jumped on the tuk tuk to Ta Phrom where we took pictures of the giant fig trees entwined within the temples large structures, like ancient jungle meets ancient civilisation, and since this is where the film Tomb Raider was filmed, we took the opportunity to have our picture taken in front of the famous door used in the film.

After walking around these sites all day we had the certain special fatigue of being ‘templed out’ so we retreated to our guesthouse.

The next day we went further afield to Kbal Spean temple ruins, to see the underwater stone carvings of the River of 1000 Lingas.  We had to hike through the jungle uphill to get there.  When looking at one bit of the river I had to take a step back as I noticed out of the corner of my eye a massive spider, which was a little unnerving as it was a little too close to my head for my liking!  Its web was huge and we later looked it up to learn that it was a green Vietnamese wood spider, one of the largest spiders in the world and the spider with the largest web in the world, spanning 2-3 metres. 

We also went to see Banteay Srei, a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, where we found the intricate carvings on the temple the clearest we had come across yet, very detailed, and amazing that they have all survived this long, so we took plenty of pictures as shown below.

At the end of the 2nd day we went to go and watch the sunset from a temple set on a hillside, which was near to Angkor Wat.   We found the temple was more like Piccadilly Circus with at least a 1000 people all jostling for a spot of the sunset. We left after a while as the masses grew larger, as we decided we would have plenty of other opportunities to catch the sunset elsewhere, where we wouldn’t have to share it with the world and his wife.

I can safely say I’ve seen a good selection of temples now.
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