Let me first admit my ignorance about Angkor. I had seen photographs of Angkor Wat. Sure, it was beautiful and a must see for a tourist. But I had no idea before this trip that Angkor Wat is only one structure, among 70+ other temples and palaces that have survived since Angkor’s fall from prevalance in 1431. They are both Hindu and Buddhist in flavor. The Angkor ruins are a must see and well worth the crazy $40, 3 day pass admission fee.
We decided to take a tuk tuk with driver on our first day, to catch sunrise over Angkor Wat and then some of the ruins that are further away. On our second day we rented bicycles from our guesthouse and cycled around the complex. Here’s a quick overview.
First – sunrise over Angkor Wat. We hate mornings but this was magical. We joined about 150 other people, cameras pointing east, and I tried to grab some interesting shots by changing the settings on my camera.
Angkor Wat, sun just beginning to rise
Pre dawn over Angkor Wat
We hopped in the tuk tuk and Mr. Naray took us out to Banteay Srei, a temple 15 miles from the main complex. The carvings at Banteay Srei are particularly detailed. It is called the “Citadel of Women” due to the intricate carvings.
We also went to Pre Rup, East Mebon, Banteay Samre, Ta Som, Neak Pean, and Preah Kahn.
Carvings of Aspara dancers like this are all over the ruins
“Ruining” is hard work. Actually, the sun and all the climbing up and down and over ruins is exhausting. Lucky for us, we found the best guesthouse in Siem Reap: Sam So Guesthouse.
We’ve stayed in a lot of places during our travels and Sam So and his family were the nicest people we’ve encountered (outside of friends and family of course!). We spend a couple evenings chatting over cold beers with Sam So and his family. http://samsoguesthouse.com/
One other night we tried this $3 BBQ place across the street from our guesthouse. They brought a little grill with a steamer top to our table and we cooked lots of squid, noodles, and veggies. Yum.
DIY BBQ place
On day two we rented bicycles and explored the main temple complex. It took about 40 minutes to get from our guesthouse to Angkor Wat, going at a leisurely pace on our single speeds.
Brandon with our bicycles!
We cycled first to Ta Prohm, most famous now for its appearance in Tomb Raider. It used to be the home of 12,000+ people.
A tree has ‘eaten’ this building (Ta Prohm)
We stopped at Ta Keo, a temple that’s not as popular with tour groups but pleasantly surprised us. The climb to the top was super steep and the climb down was not for those with fear of heights!
Ta Keo – those are steep steps
We also went to the Terrace of the Leper King, the Terrace of the Elephants, Thommanon, Phimeanakas. Pictures on Flickr!
Our last two stops were the two most popular: Bayon and Angkor Wat.
Bayon is the temple with all the faces. They are stunning but also a little creepy. There are 216 faces in Bayon – some day its the face of the King Jayavarman VII, other say its the face of the Buddha of Compassion (it’s worth noting that the currently Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, Avalokiteshvara).
Going for a perfect circle, we ended the day at Angkor Wat.
By that time, our butts hurt from the cycling (it’s been a while!). What better way to fix that than spending a couple hours at the Blue Pumpkin, an awesome cafe with big couches where you can lean back, legs reclined, and catch up on some communiques!
Wifi-ing at the Blue Pumpkin