Cambodia - Encore Angkor

Trip Start Sep 16, 2005
Trip End Mar 17, 2006

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Siem Reap

This is the town most people go to from which you can explore the temples of Angor. Every traveller you meet who has been to here and seen the temples is always full of superlatives, so we had high expectations and were hoping we wouldn't be disappointed.

Angkor Wat

We hired a tuk tuk driver for the three days at a rate of $10/day. Our first temple was Angkor Wat, mid morning after all the tour groups who were there for sunrise had left. Firstly, you cross a walkway over the huge moat (at least 100m wide) to approach the outer gates. The first thing we noticed, apart from the huge scale of it all, was the fact that every inch of visible stone work is covered in some sort of carving. Bearing in mind that there are several km of walls this in itself is very impressive. Through the main gate you can see the famous outline of the central temple in the distance. The sun was beating down and we made a beeline for the shade, stopping to take in the view over the pink lotus flower pools just in front.

The carvings are even more impressive on the central temples - every inch covered in depictions of dancing girls, war scenes, temples scenes etc. Many of the carvings are still in excellent condition despite being around 800 years old. The central buildings are on several levels and we plucked up the courage to climb the innermost level, up very narrow steps at an alarmingly steep angle. The views out were marvellous as again were all the carvings although the stupas were more damaged here.

The main thing that impressed us both about Angkor Wat was the size of the thing as well as the many beautiful carvings.

Other Temples

Although the most famous, Angkor Wat was not the only temple in the area. In fact, there are many - probably in the hundreds, all of different sizes and in different states of preservation.

The next most famous is probably Ta Prom - where some of the first Tomb Raider was filmed. This is the temple where trees are slowly reclaiming the buildings back into the jungle. Impossibly large trees with amazingly weird root systems seem to grow from the very walls of the temples and bit by bit the temples appear to be crumbling. Despite there being quite a few people there when we visited we both loved this temple - it has a very serene atmosphere and the trees and their roots are unbelievable.

We also visited a temple famous for its faces. The king who built the temple has his image put on the side of every stupa and wherever you are within the temple he gazes down on you. We also saw a small but wonderful temple a bit further out from the main comlexes. Banteay Srei is covered in beautiful, well preserved carvings from top to bottom - apparently some of the finest stone carvings in the world. The central temple is surrounded by a small moat, which in turn is overhung by lovely trees. Despite the fierce heat, this ranked as one of our favourites.

Overall, we were not disappointed with Angkor. Much of the time we were there it was quite overcast and we were more than grateful for this since on the last day there were no clouds at all and walking round miles and miles of sandstone scultpures in full sun is no easy task.
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