Mike was suspicious of the patrons' mincing, and after consulting the guide book we realised we were in another gay bar! We stayed though because the Singapore Slings were so good....
We found a guide using Trip Advisor. Our guide was great and he was very knowledgeable about the area's history. We would highly recommend him. His name is Ny Danith (Danny) and his details are phone (855) 12 589 298; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We only had 1 1/2 days at the temples so dashed through the major sights. We were both amazed by their grandeur and the incredible restoration work that has been undertaken by primarily the French, Cambodians, and Japanese. None of our pictures captured their beauty, so we took some snapshots and tried to remember each building. We have recorded below a short description of each of the temples we visited:
1. Bayon in Angkor Thom
Bayon was the first temple we visited. The most striking first impression was the majesty of the building. The second was the hoards of tourists at the site; it was very crowded. The temple is in the exact center of Angkor Thom, the ancient city built by king Jayavarman VII in the 1100s. It has 54 gothic towers and 216 enormous faces of Avalokiteshvara looking down at you. (The faces are rumored to look a bit like the king...) The lower levels have 1.2kms of murals that are carved in stone, and the upper level has the towers of faces. The photos don't capture the size and beauty of the building, which has been painstakingly restored.
2. Preah Khan
Preah Khan was also built by Jayavarman VII and has been restored by the World Monuments Fund. The temple was a major place of worship in its day, and is huge - it covers an area 500m by 600m in size and was staffed by thousands of people. Preah Khan is a blend of Hinuism and Buddhism with dedications to Mahayana Buddhism and the Hindu gods Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma; the religion of most temples changed over time, depending on the prevailing King's inclinations.
The building comprises 4 concentric rectangular walls with four stunning corridors extending from a central chamber to the north, south, east and west. The sacred sword was housed in the central chamber - whoever held the sword could claim the title of king so it was closely guarded!
3. Angkor Wat
Wow. Amazing. Angkor Wat blew us away. It is the largest monument in Angkor and probably the largest religious monument in the world. Angkor Wat is well preserved, as it was never abandoned to the elements, and has been standing for 900 years. It is surrounded by a 1.5km by 1.3km moat, which the Cambodians keep filled with water.
We walked around for hours looking at the bas-reliefs, and details of the building. We climbed 31m from the second level to the very top (thankfully some new tourist friendly stairs had opened two weeks previously, so not a scary climb!) and looked out from 55m above ground, across to the libraries and gates. Its easy to understand why so many local people make a pilgramage to Angkor Wat.
4. Ta Prohm
The Tomb Raider Temple! Ta Prohm is covered in tree roots and moss, which gives it the
appearance of a Hollywood set; Angelina Jolie filmed segments of her famous film here. Ta Prohm is crowded with towers, courtyards and narrow corridors and was built in 1186 for the King's mother. In its day, 80,000 people maintained the temple, including 615 dancers! Today it has an eerie, abandoned feeling, despite the hoards of tourists.
On the advice of our guide Danny, we had a buffet dinner at a restaurant that features tradition dancing.
The place is huge and absolutely full of tourists; we think it is the Cambodian equivalent of the "Man from Snowy River" show down the Gold Coast. We had a laugh with the Australians at the next table, and walked back to the city centre for a night cap at Molly Malones Irish bar!
We flew into Siem Reap and it looked so remote that we thought we were landing in someone's back yard! In contrast, just 10 mins drive from the airport we were greeted by an extremely busy village crammed with tourists, bars and restaurants. So we went head first into the action and had a Singapore Sling at a bar called Linga.