Angkor Wat – nothing…..nothing can ever prepare you for a visit to the Temples of Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia. No matter what you read about in books, or see on TV, the reality of this place is simply mind boggling.
The headline temple of Angkor Wat, with its hundred metre wide moat around the outside, is the temple that gets all the headlines, not only because it’s the largest religious monument in the world – and these temples are truly massive – but also because the preservation of the temple is simply stunning.
However, while Angkor Wat is simply incredible, what really blew us away was the amount of temples, in various states of preservation, in the surrounding area.
There’s so much to see here, that in three days we only touched the surface of what there was to see.
To get ourselves around this vast area, we hired a “tuk tuk” for three days, driven by “Rotha” an 18-year-old Cambodian lad with one of the biggest grins we’ve ever seen. He was fabulous and made sure we got to see all of the important sites, but, poor thing, I think he worried about our age, as he was always providing us with bottles of water, and helping us in and out of the tuk tuk.
We saw so much it would be impossible to describe it all, so here’s a couple of our highlights, and some of our favourite pictures :
Phil’s favourite – One of the largest ever Khmer cities, Angkor Thom, with its stunning centrepiece temple “The Bayon”, with 37 towers, each tower having magnificent faces carved on each side.
Carol’s favourite- One of the most overgrown and atmospheric temples, “Ta Prohm”, maintained in a partially collapsed and overgrown state with jungle and trees interlaced among the ruins – think Indiana Jones. The Strangler Fig and Silk Cotton trees, have grown on and in the walls of the temple to the point that tree and stonework have almost become one.
Our shared favourite- “Neak Prean “ a Temple monument set in the middle of a lake, reached via a 200m boardwalk across the water, simply beautiful.
There were dozens more, each with their own special stories; we could easily fill two or three blog posts, expounding the beauty of this place, but we’ll make do with a few words and a few extra pictures.
Suffice to say if ever you get an opportunity to visit this stunning place, grab it with both hands and make it happen. For us it was easily one of the most fantastic places we’ve ever visited.
Before we left Siem Reap, there was one other amazing experience we had, right in the middle of the city. In the Royal Garden Park with busy traffic filled roads all around, there are a few dozen trees which are home to a colony of fruit bats, specifically “Lyles Flying Foxes”. In the daytime if you look up you can see hundreds of bats, with their pretty furry faces, all hanging upside down in the trees. Towards dusk, the bats start to become agitated as they prepare themselves for their night time feeding. The twittering noise level increases and then bats start to fly around within the trees making themselves ready to be off. All of a sudden the sky was alive with hundreds of bats. With wing spans up to 5 feet, they’re massive in the sky. And then off they go, in a single trail across the sky, heading off to the distant jungle and juicy fruit trees, returning before dawn to their mid city roost! Fantastic to see.
So that was our first few days ever in Cambodia and what an introduction it was. From what we’ve seen so far we really like it here, and we’re looking forward to the next three weeks, and Christmas, before we head into Vietnam.