For the final post in my Cambodia series, you could say that I saved the best until last. There are so many temples in Siem Reap, you are only bound by the amount of time you have. On the final days of the tour we visited Angkor Thom, Bayon, Preah Khan, Banteay Srei, Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm.
As this was not my first Cambodian temple visit, I knew to show respect by dressing modestly and covering knees and shoulders. Disappointingly, many other tourists hadn’t done the same. Understandably, covering up doesn’t seem ideal in the Cambodian heat so this is an excellent example of when carrying a shawl and/or sarong can come in handy when traveling. If you do opt to wear your short-shorts and singlet here, you may not be permitted into some of the temple areas.
Angkor is Cambodia’s extraordinary temple complex. It was built way back around the 12th century, is over 160 hectares and hosts a large moat, impressive outer walls, high towers with breathtaking views, shrines, monuments and the most detailed scenes carved into the sandstone walls. Angkor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a number of temples are housed within the complex.
Visiting these temples was so remarkable and fascinating – it’s difficult to share all of these sites in just one post. I found myself taking LOADS of photos at each temple and in looking back at the screen, the images didn’t at all come close to capturing what I was experiencing.
In a Royal buddhist city big enough to have housed a population of up to a million, Angkor Thom lives up to it’s Khmer translation of ‘great city’. A moat and outer wall surrounds the city and one of the impressive entrances has a causeway flanked with 54 stone statues – gods on the right and demons on the left – on a much bigger scale to that of the temple I visited in Banteay Chhmar. One of the popular sites inside Angkor Thom is the Bayon temple.
A beautiful buddhist temple in the centre of Angkor Thom, Bayon has 54 towers featuring 216 huge calm and smiling faces carved into stone, peacefully representing the intersection between heaven and earth.
Built as a buddhist temple, meaning ‘sacred sword’ in Khmer, Preah Khan is one of the largest complexes of Angkor. While it covers a lot of ground, the actual temple sits within a walled area of 700m x 800m.
With a striking difference due to being built mostly from red standstone, Banteay Srei is a well-preserved and small 10th century temple that means ‘citadel of women’. It’s a little out of the way but worth it a visit to see this detailed site with incredibly intricate carvings.
The most grand and opulent temple and so much bigger than I anticipated. The shot that everyone scrambles to get is of the ancient buildings reflected in the water, and many tourists get up before dawn for a sunrise visit and the chance to take that incredible photo. It was quite hazy during the day when I was there so my capture isn’t nearly as exciting but you get the idea.
The steep and small steps of the Angkor Wat towers – going up but even more so on the way back down – proved a BIG challenge for me and my fear of heights. But at such a monumental and historical site, I was grateful to reach the top as the view across the complex is quite spectacular.
Movie buffs won’t want to miss this one. Thanks to Hollywood, Ta Prohm is best known for Lara Croft and Tomb Raiders fame as the temple appears to be slowly eaten by nature, as thick tree roots grow over the old stones. It’s here that I was blessed by a buddhist nun who tied a cotton bracelet around my wrist and wished me good luck.
This part of the trip was certainly an experience to tick off the bucket list, and a great way to finish up the tour. It was a lot to cram into two days – it would be great to go back and spend more time exploring these wonderful sites and learning more about Cambodia’s rich history.
To see more of these amazing temples, click the picture below for some of my other photos.
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