Angkor Temples

Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Angkor is spread over a vast area and on reading and talking to people it was going to take me longer than one day to go round it all. I decide to buy a three day pass which I can use over a one week period costing $40 and cycle out in the evening to buy it in advance, this means that I can get into see Angkor Wat for sunset for free then start using my ticket the following day. I love my first experience of Angkor Wat and have a quick nosy at Angkor Thom too before heading back and watching a beautiful sun set across the lake in front of the temple, I can't believe that I’m here. I manage some exploring and nice pictures before it’s dark and time to cycle back to the hostel excited to have seen the temples and looking forward to a few days exploring.

Next morning I decide to head out to Banteay Srey which is a further 37km from Angkor Wat and visit the land mine museum on the way back, it’s a hot day and a round trip of around 100km but well worth it. I head into the Angkor Wat complex first of all and visit Prasat Kravan, Banteay Kdel, Pre Rup and East Mebon before heading out of the complex and out to Banteay Srey. These temples are all different and because I am heading away from the crowds I find it pretty quiet which lets me take some 'tourist free’ pictures. It’s a flat route and it’s nice to have no luggage for a change, on the way I stop for a cold drink at the roadside and sit beside a young family who are fascinated with me. The babies are running about in the buff while a couple of the older girls talk away asking me my name and where I’m from, they’re cute as, with beautiful big smiles and wave me off when I’m leaving.

Banteay Srey is called ‘Citadel of Women’ and built from red sandstone, it’s actually quite pink in appearance with delicate and intricate carvings which are thought to have been done by women as they are so fine and is really beautiful, I am glad I made the effort. On the way back I visit the land mine museum which I have in interest in with my recent experience of the ‘Danger! Mines!’ sign I came across while camping. The founder of the museum is Aki Ra, who went from laying land mines to disarming them using a stick and a pair of pliers… nowadays he works for the UN and is not allowed to use these methods, instead is fully protected using the latest body armor and helmets however, it sounds like he still goes AWOL from time to time.

The museum houses shells that he has disarmed and tells his story, from being orphaned in a Khmer Rouge camp where his parents were murdered, to being conscripted by them around the age of 10, being given a gun as big as him at this age, to being captured and made to fight for the Vietnamese army while still a child, before returning and fighting for the Cambodian army and later working for the UN to clear land mines many of which he had probably lain. He has an orphanage at the museum which houses many children he brought home from mine clearance areas which had been injured or abandoned, with Aki and his wife taking them in and treating them as their own.

Next visit, I go to Angkor Wat for sunrise and more exploring before visiting Angkor Thom and the surrounding area properly following the Mini Tour. The face carvings are a highlight for me and sum up the temples, I enjoy looking around, visiting the temple inside, watching people being taken round by elephant and meeting local dancers in their traditional dress, although this time there are many tourists around with the usual big groups of Chinese following some guide with a flag as they quickly snap away before rushing onto the next place, I find this hilarious to witness and it happens everywhere they go!

Once I’ve finished I head onto Ta Promh which I’ve been looking forward to and has been made famous for the Tomb Raider movie with the temples covered in the roots of trees. I end up making friends with a young monk called Phai, and it’s funny with me taking a photo for him, then him taking one for me and so on plus a few people take pictures of the both of us, which is a nice momentum for my day. He loves all the carvings whereas I’m drawn to all the trees, and in one of the temples we go into, people are banging their fists against their chests and the noise it makes is really loud echoing through the stone and upwards, both Phai and I try this and I’m delighted when it works. By the time we’re done exploring Ta Promh I’ve had enough for one day, and Phai has to go off to meet friends so we say our goodbyes after an enjoyable day.

Last day for the temples and I visit Lolei and the Rolous Group around 15km out of Siem Reap before taking on the Grand Tour and I have to admit that I was expecting lots of it to be the same but actually I find all the different temples really unique with my favorite one today being one of the last I visited Preah Khan which had a huge stupa in the middle of it which looked like it was on fire by the sun pouring in a crack in the stone above. Another, Neak Pean was surrounded by water and was more of an island so once again very different.

You can see the rest by my photographs which I will try and name (and not post too many) but it really is an incredible place to visit, if I was only a proper photographer to actually do it justice…
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Malcolm Surgenor on

One day, one day...

new_lands on

I'll look forward to your photos Malcolm ;)

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