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downundergal Siem Reap - A travel report by Kerrie
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Siem Reap,  Cambodia - flag Cambodia -  Si«m Réab
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downundergal's travel reports

Amazing Temples of Angkor

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The temples known as the City of Angkor are simply mind-blowing. Not only for their individual size and grandeur but for the sheer number that are found here and the large area that they are spread out over.

Some of the enigmatic faces of the Bayon in Angkor Thom
Some of the enigmatic faces of the Bayon in Angkor Thom
Angkor Wat is actually the collective term used to cover the numerous temples found in the Siem Reap area. Surrounded by a huge moat Angkor Wat is one of the major temple complexes found here but there are also many others. These include the walled complex of Angkor Thom that holds the Bayon with its huge enigmatic faces, along with the Baphuon, Phimeanakas and the Terrace of the Elephants. Then there is also Phnom Bakheng that offers one of the best spots to view the sunset over Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei with its beautiful carvings and the jungle choked Ta Prohm that was featured in Tomb Raider. That is just to name a few of the major sites. There are many more. How much you see all depends on how much time you have, how many take your interest but mainly how long it is until you suffer temple burnout. The Temples are scattered around an area of about 40 miles (a little less than 70kms) around the small township of Siem Reap (Siem Reab) that is used as a base for exploring. Depending on your schedule you may need to choose which ones interest you most. We found that we could cover two per day one on the morning and one in the afternoon but it was seriously tiring. Lots of walking over rough terrain and climbing up steep and crumbling steps. Comfortable walking shoes are a must. When we visited in May it was really hot with the temperatures hovering around 40 degrees. Invest in a local scarf called a krama - well worth the money. Many of the temples of the Angkor Wat complex are not that far out of town but others are further afield. You can take a moto to Angkor easily enough but for the others especially Banteay Srei and the Roulos Group you need a driver. When we were there it was so hot and dusty it was a relief to step back into an air-conditioned car. I just couldn’t imagine cycling as many people do, by the time you finish exploring the ruins the last thing you feel like would be to cycle home.

Favourite spots:
Going into battle. A section of the carving from of the Bayon.
Going into battle. A section of the carving from of the Bayon.
Also we found with a driver he knew that it was best to take in Angkor Thom in the morning and Angkor Wat in the afternoon. He also gave us a summary of the history about the next temple that we were to visit and then gave us pointers on which direction was the best to take along with what to look out for. Angkor Thom is a walled complex that holds the Bayon. This was one of my favourite temple complexes and the most amazing thing was that from a distance it looks just like a pile of rubble. It is only as you are about to enter that you realize that all four sides of the fifty four towers are carved with an enigmatic, smiling, face on each side and that these faces also vary in features as well. The experts generally agree that there are four main types of faces, but you really have to see it is really amazing. When you first enter you need to turn to your left and follow the gallery along a mesmerizing sequence of stories. Although they may not be in technicolour

What's really great:
Some of the detail found within the temple. Aspara's and the false decorative windows.
Some of the detail found within the temple. Aspara's and the false decorative windows.
the carving and the events depicted are so detailed and graphic that you feel that you are watching a movie unfold before you. There are armies of soldiers rowing war canoes into battle with giant crocodiles snatching an easy meal and fierce warriors facing off while holding on to their fighting pig dogs and many more. When you have reached the end of the gallery double back a little and enter the section of the temples where the towers are. Each of these approximately three stories high and are hollow and in many are small offerings and statues with incense burning. No matter where you are there will be a face looking down on you, turn and enter a doorway and there is a face looking back. The sheer scale of carving also extends to the various pillars or columns upon which each has two or three dancing Apsara (heavenly nymphs) over a bed of lilies all delicately carved and full of movement. Every lintel is ornately carved each with an arch way of more intricate

Angkor Wat with a local boy sleeping.
Angkor Wat with a local boy sleeping.
carvings of deities and the like. Hardly a surface remains that has not been decorated. When you have finished with the main temple area holding the towers continue towards the Baphuon which is currently being restored so could not be accessed. Around this area you will come across local kids that start to chat and offer to explain the history of the temples that they know by rote. They will then ask for money for school books. It’s up to you what you do they normally scamper off when you turn to enter the complex of Phimeanakas. This complex holds the royal bathing pools but you probably won’t spend much time here. You then pass the Terrace of the Leper King and lastly you come to the Terrace of the Elephants in the Royal Square. It is easy to imagine the King standing on his platform in full command. The front face of the podium being carved with giant elephants and the front section is carved so the trunks of the beasts jut out from the actual podium. Very dfficult to photograph.

Looking up to one of temples at the top of Angkor Wat
Looking up to one of temples at the top of Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is so amazing and huge in both area and height. Try to visit after 2pm. Keep your eyes peeled for the families of monkeys on the side of the road just before you reach Angkor Wat. They make a great photo op.
When you first arrive you enter through a long causeway over the moat into the temple complex itself. We opted to walk on into the centre of the main temple complex first. If you do this remember that the gallery in the outside wall holds some of the most amazing bas relief carvings including the famous Churning of the Ocean Milk. These extend around the interior of the wall about 1km in total. If you arrive amidst a flurry of tour buses come back later after they leave as you won’t get a look in otherwise. They are so beautifully carved again it is like watching an epic story unfold before your eyes. They need to be followed counterclockwise to follow the story.

Steep steps leadingdown from the temple mount.
Steep steps leadingdown from the temple mount.
Within the main temple complex there are many more carvings of the Asparas and other relief’s. I really loved the way nearly every window opening had these beautifully carved small stone pillars, I don’t their technical name but some were in false windows for ornamentation and other forming a semi curtain over actual openings.
You then need to climb up the towers, be warned the steps are very steep and not for the fainthearted. There are many more chambers with offerings and you do receive a fabulous view of Angkor and the surrounding countryside.
One of the nicest things about Angkor Wat is the large number of monks that you meet whilst wandering around, all keen to practice their English and meet travelers from various parts of the world, happy to be photographed and very photogenic at that.
We also had a young girl start scampering behind us, after some time she became less shy and once we coaxed her out with some gummy bears that was it she was with us for our whole visit.

Cashew nut seller. I never knew that the fruit were so large for but one nut.
Cashew nut seller. I never knew that the fruit were so large for but one nut.
Don't miss Ta Prohm site of the movie Tomb Raider. It is one of the most atmospheric temples as it has been left in its natural state with the giant fig roots slowly crushing it. Nearly totally in shadow from the trees it gives the feeling of being an intrepid explorer wandering along the dark passageways and inner courtyards.
Banteay Srey – Delicately carved from a beautiful rose coloured sandstone the style of carvings differ as they feature a more decorative style of flower and stylized leaves. I think we nearly the only tourists here as it is located about 38kms from Siem Reap. The drive gave us the chance to see some of the countryside and a glimpse of the locals away from tourism. You pass many roadside stalls. It was also the first time that I had ever seen the cashew fruit. Such a huge fruit similar in size to an apple in either yellow or red for one tiny cashew nut.
Pre Rup – beautiful and but crumbling in parts it offer some beautifully carved false doors and views.

The atmospheric Ta Prohm that was featured in Tomb Raiders.
The atmospheric Ta Prohm that was featured in Tomb Raiders.
One of the best vantage points for a sunset over Angkor Wat is Phnom Bakheng. This temple is more famous for its sunset views than for the temple itself. Most people don’t even look around. It is a very steep route to the top with the pathway crisscrossed with gnarled tree roots – I would imagine very slippery in the wet.
There are elephants that can take you to the top for $15 but to be honest most people taking this option could have done with the walk. Because of the heat and the smoke in the air it was really hazy. Angkor Wat was still bathed in a pink glow but not the spectacular sunsets that you would see at other times of the year.

**Accommodation, bars,clubs etc of Siem Reap will be covered in another report.**

Other recommendations:
Monkeys on the way to Angkor Wat.
Monkeys on the way to Angkor Wat.
You need to purchase a pass that covers entry into all the temples in the area. We bought a three day pass for $40US dollars. If you buy it after 4pm this allows you to use it that afternoon for the sunset with day 1 being the following day. You buy this at the checkpoint on the way to the temples. Bring your own passport photo to speed up the process. If you have a driver make sure you clarify if this afternoon trip is an extra charge. We went to the sunset and then did two full on days at the temples from 8am – 6pm with a lunch break. On the third day of our pass we rose very early and took a moto out to Angkor Wat for the sunrise. We then opted out of more ruins and spent some time looking around the town and spent some down time by the pool recovering from the heat and all the walking.
You are unable to buy water inside the temples so make you sure you buy it either in town or at the entrance. It is so hot it is a must have. In town it is 50 or 60 cents, at the ruins $1 - $2.

Published on Wednesday October 12th, 2005

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Sat, Jan 14 2006 - 06:33 AM rating by mj2004

Incredible - what vast culture we have and need to still explore!

Sat, Nov 12 2005 - 06:26 PM rating by alfonsovasco

I am enjoying this evening reading your GOOD reports! I do not need TV.

Sat, Oct 29 2005 - 03:16 PM rating by miguelmarchi

This title is wrong. Should be: Amazing report about temples of Angkor!

Thu, Oct 27 2005 - 09:30 AM rating by isaacmolina

Kerrie, this report is a masterpiece! I would like to vote it as the Report of the Month in October!

Wed, Oct 26 2005 - 02:52 PM rating by magsalex

I loved Ta Prohm - atmospheric.

Mon, Oct 17 2005 - 07:16 AM rating by bear495

This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing with us.


Sat, Oct 15 2005 - 09:27 PM rating by gloriajames

Hiya Kerrie!
Loved your report and thanks! Now it will be easier for me once i visit tomb raider country end Oct. Cant wait to read the continuation of your adventure. 5*

Thu, Oct 13 2005 - 11:46 PM rating by ardelia

Lovely. Really amazing. I was reminded of my sweet journey there...


Thu, Oct 13 2005 - 07:51 PM rating by ravinderkumarsi

excellent report

Thu, Oct 13 2005 - 12:00 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Superb report, superb pictures and superb well written!

Thu, Oct 13 2005 - 11:09 AM rating by eirekay

Kerrie, this looks like an AMAZING adventure! The photos are stunning! Great Report!

Thu, Oct 13 2005 - 01:16 AM rating by davidx

Wow! What a place - and a report worthy of it!

Wed, Oct 12 2005 - 06:12 PM rating by bootlegga

Fantastic! What a great report on a fascinating place.

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