Home > Cambodia > Angkor Wat – one of the wonders of the world!

Angkor Wat – one of the wonders of the world!

Sunset at Phnom Bakheng

The four of us (including Dave and Katie) set off for the Angkor ticket office around 5pm so that we can get in for the sunset – many people don’t realise that if you buy a ticket for the next day, you can get in the night before! So we asked our tuk tuk driver to take us to Bakheng Hill, on top of which is Phnom Bakheng – remains of a temple. From here we watched the sun set over the monument, the jungle and the lake beyond. It was a mesmerising site and though there were a hundred other people who had cottoned on to doing this, the site was large enough to feel the jungle around us.

Next morning we jumped into our tuk-tuk early to make sure we get to a few temples before the heat (38-40 degrees) of the day. Luckily, a pot-pat in Kampot had given us excellent advice to visit the temples in an anti-clockwise direction as the tours go clockwise. This meant we found ourselves as the only visitors at some of the major temples complexes.

The first thing we noticed in the jungle was the din – though totally deserted this early, the jungle was alive with noises of insects, birds
and animals – none of whom we could see. Though we did spy some monkeys and apsaras (!) later on. I was surprised to find that the entire Angkor Wat temple complex represents Hinduism, but
given how old it is, this makes sense as Buddhism came later. Many of the structures were built around the 12th century. All made with sandstone and many still standing against the elements.

We visited 9-10 temple complexes all day but three or four stood out. Preah Khan was the first around 7am. This place was totally deserted except us and was really rather large. The main structure was in the shape of a cross with dozens of doors leading in from all four sides into the centre with a huge lingam (Symbol for Shiva). The structure was still standing impressively though hundreds of large stones lay about which must have fallen during the last 700 or so years. All stones have carvings and all carvings are intricate, telling a
story from the Ramayana. We couldn’t help but go into each of the nook to see what we could find especially as we were alone in the entire place. Of course the boys found the bats and clapped to attract them to fly around! We later learned this site is one of five top sites in the entire complex.

Next we were taken to a temple which was a pond with a monument in the centre – though obviously ancient and important in it’s own right, this wasn’t quite so impressive and Dave suggested we look at our list of temples and consult with the tuk-tuk driver so as to not miss the important sites around the complex. This was a good idea because all in all there are three dozen places you could stop at and it would be impossible to do all in one day (Dave and Katie only have one day but we’ll go back later).

Soon, we were passing the smaller sites fulfilling our curiosity with a quick glance. We had to make a toilet stop at Pre Rup, and though not on our list, we decided to go in anyway. This was a very high temple built with very narrow and very steep steps. I don’t know how the ancient people climbed up and down these easily. It had a few more tourists but at least there were no kids selling tourist tak or women urging you to buy water and soft drinks from them!

From the top of Pre Rup enormous stone lions on all four sides of the temples sat facing out at the jungle and guarding the temple. Buffaloes roamed around the pasture of the temple complex and bats flew haphazardly inside. Even though it was only just past nine am, the sun was already blazing and making any physical exercise feel like an effort. We needed to get going to see the other important temple sites before the sun did it’s worst so we got back in the tuk-tuk.

We decided to stop at Ta Prohm next which is a famous temple not just because of it’s size and importance in the Angkor period but also because it is the best place to see where jungle and architecture become one. For hundreds of years, silk trees and other vines have ambushed the temples and the roots grow up the walls, inside the temples and all over them. This provided a great set for a number of movies – Lara Croft:Tombraider being one of them. Overgrown roots clutch at the buildings as though aliens descended upon earth. This was one of the favourite sites for all of us.

By this time we were not only tired traipsing around but also sweating bucket loads. Threatened by dehydration we headed to a small restaurant nearby for lunch and quenched our thirst. Having eaten some food and wiped our brow we headed back out again.

After another couple of small temples, we headed to Bayon – a large site and another famous one for Angkor Wat images.If you google Angkor Wat or think what you know of it, you might imagine large heads of Shiva with eyes closed pointing every which way. This temple had the best of the intricate carvings depicting the Ramayana.

The sun was right above our heads now and we decided to go to see Angkor Wat – the actual centre and capital of the site. This place is beautifully preserved and actually quite large with a monastery inside. The highest point of the temple has a shrine and you need to be covered (especially f you are a woman) to enter. Nothing above the knees and they will also reserve judgement on bare arms. I find it strange because no one stops anyone in all the other shrines around the temples – perhaps this god is a little more conservative! Interestingly Angkor Wat itself turned out to be a disappointment having seen other beautiful sites beforehand!

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  1. May 28, 2011 at 12:05

    Angkor Wat looks incredible Shelley. It’s definitely one of the things I really want to see. How are you getting on? You and Craig look like you’re having such an incredible time. We’re in Costa Rica t the moment in a surf town on the pacific coast called Santa Teresa. It was a full day of travelling yesterday to get here (4 buses, 2 taxis and a ferry) but it’s worth it. Lucy has just hired her board for the next 4 days and she’s very excited. Miss you both loads and speak soon…

    Rich
    x

    • May 29, 2011 at 09:50

      Cambodia was great – Angkor Wat was amazing, and Kampot a place I want to move to. Then there was the shock of visiting S21. Just arrived in Bangkok, and within 2 hours have already fallen for it!

      • May 29, 2011 at 09:52

        Costa rica sounds so amazing – you must be having a suftastic time! We’ll head down to Krabby in a few days! So should see some interesting coastline!

  2. Rich
    June 12, 2011 at 12:01

    Cheers Shelley!
    I’ve missed out on your blogs for a while, so just catching up now. Lucy say’s that I would love Thailand and I have no doubt that i would. A place to visit for the next trip.

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