Not far from the gorgeous town of Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat sits in the jungle as it has for countless years. Having seen the images of stunning temples online for years, we decided it was time to see them in person.
We ‘splashed out’ for our stay in Siem Reap at the Golden Banana (in their Superior Hotel) which was a bargain at USD40 a night for a gorgeous double-storied room with a rooftop shower and bath. Only in South-East Asia! From our accommodation, the walk into town was easy where we enjoyed the market and a number of (very tasty) dinners in town. Siem Reap has a lovely, relaxed atmosphere and although it didn’t look much like Chiang Mai in Thailand, it has a similar feel about it.
A relatively short tuk-tuk ride from town will get you out to the entrance of Angkor Wat… you’ll want to arrange a driver to stay with you for the day (but don’t worry if you come out of the temple to find your driver’s taken up a better offer as we presume ours did!) You’ll also want to make a move relatively early, in a bid to avoid both the crowds and heat of the day.
These temples are recognised as being amongst the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. They were home to the Khmer Empire between the 9th and 15th century (that’s right, as far back as 800BC!) and the sense of history was unlike anything we had experienced before. We had visited temples elsewhere (in Indonesia and Thailand) but the size of these temples and the visual differences between each of them really blew us away.
How are the temples different? Which ones should I visit?
We decided to spend one day exploring the temples in the area and found a day enough time to cover Angkor Wat, Bayon and Preah Khan (which were all recommended to us by locals). Of course, much more time can be spent really immersing oneself, but a day was enough for us to get a good sense of the area and to enjoy the experience without being rushed. It’s definitely a good move to visit multiple temples as each offers distinctly different things.
Angkor Wat, with the most photographed entrance way, has striking pinnacles and intricately carved walls and by far, covers the most ground.
Bayon is stunning with its beautifully carved faces and perfectly square stone doorways – be sure to keep an eye out for the monkeys as you enter this part of the park too! There’s a great spot to stop and have lunch, but be careful with what you order – I think my lunch might have been the hottest I’ve ever experienced (Nathan was luckier in his choice)!
Our final stop was Preah Khan, which is instantly recognisable as one of the locations used in the Tomb Raider movie – the roots intertwining with the stone is really a sight to behold.