Temples of Angkor
Trip Start Feb 22, 2011
51Trip End Ongoing
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After taking a day off to regroup, we set out to begin our 3 day tour of Angkor and the surrounding temples. This magnificent "Temple City" is tucked in the jungle just north of Siem Reap and to get there you can bike (ouch), take a taxi (expensive), book a tour (rigid), or take a much more fun Tuk Tuk ride. These motorized rickshaws / three-wheelers are by far the preferred method of travel around Cambodia and we loved our chauffeur and Tuk Tuk extraordinaire, Dorn. He spoke little English, but his laugh was infectious, his smile generous, and we came to really enjoy seeing him. Especially when he whizzed us around the in shade and breeze of his Tuk Tuk after coming out of our hot and humid temple explorations!
On the first day, we headed straight to Angkor Wat - the world's largest religious building. It's a massive complex that was built back in the 12th century as a Hindu state temple and capital city. Later converted to a Buddhist religious center, this is a very difficult place to fully absorb in just one day - especially during one of the hottest months of the year. Thankfully upon exiting the Wat we discovered a glorious restaurant - the Blue Pumpkin - that provided cold air-conditioning, refreshingly cool mint towels and tasty ice cream ingeniously placed just across the street. It quickly became our required afternoon oasis during the hottest hour of the day. The remainder of our first day was spent exploring surrounding temples including the popular Ta Prohm or "Tomb Raider temple" and ending with a sunset at Pre Rup.
On the second day, we opted to leave for the temples at 5:00 in morning to secure a spot at Phnom Bakheng for Sunrise. Situated on the top of a mountain the temple required a 20 minute hike before beginning a slow ascent up two flights of temple "stairs". These sandstone stairs, like most temple stairs ascending to "heaven", were very steep and required us to walk up them sideways one foot at at time or literally climb up them on all fours - a test for anyone who might have a fear of heights. The views were well worth it though as we watched the sunrise over Angkor Wat in the distance. After enjoying the place to ourselves, the crowds started trickling in and we pressed on to enjoy other great temples including the impressive bas-reliefs and face carvings of Bayon.
On our third and final day, we set out at 8:00 to see more of Angkor Wat but this time with three other backpackers and a "tour guide" we found at the temples entrance. Tour guide is a bit of a stretch as it was obvious the guy only new some English and a limited number of facts on Angkor, but he was far cheaper ($3/person vs $25 for an official guide) and we happy with the additional information he provided about the temple design, history and significant details. Given that the average income in Cambodia is about $20 a month he seemed pretty happy too. After a return the Blue Pumpkin, hee hee, we made our way around to several of the remaining temples. The last had a gorgeous tree climbing over one of the ancient gates and we agreed it was one of our favorite stops.