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Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

May 31st, 2009

Our first stop in Cambodia was the small town of Siem Reap, a small touristy town built up as a result of its proximity to Angkor Wat and other Angkor temples.

Having spent about 9 hours travelling we arrived fairly late in to Siem Reap so essentially spent the first evening having a look at the various markets before having a spot of dinner and then a beer.

We were up early the next morning (20-5-09) so that we could take in the view of Angkor Wat at sunrise, a view that Charles, our tour leader, had assured us was well worth the 4am start. Cameras ready we headed to the temple and then down in front of a pond, one which has been specifically put there for reflections in photographs. Anyway, around 45 minutes and a hundred or so photos later we all decided that we had got as good as we could and walked on in to the temple.Angkor WatOur guide, who I think was called Samet, was very enthusiastic although had a tendency to go on a little. 45 minutes in to his first talk this was all too evident, but he did provide some good bits of info when he wasn’t repeating himself. Angkor Wat itself is the only temple in Angkor to face west (all other temples face east) as the king wanted easy access from his palace. The temple is certainly amazing, being fairly massive and impressive. A slight disappointment was the fact that we were unable to visit the very top of the palace as tourist access is still being developed; although an offer from two Khmer guys to “show me the top” was tempting, if not a little worrying. After Angkor Wat we headed back for breakfast before going to the ancient capital of Angkor Thom, a 3km by 3km town enclosed by a 100m wide moat as well as defensive walls. The first temple here was the Bayon temple located almost centrally within Angkor Thom. In my opinion this temple is actually more impressive than Angkor Wat, not for it’s size but for the intracacy of the temple itself.  Bayon Temple in Angkor ThomTo the northwest of the Bayon temple stood the site of the old palace, now completely gone: it was made of wood?! However, the site also housed a temple and the elephant terrace; a viewing platform for the king to watch sport. It’s believed that a snake lived at the top of the kings temple and that every night it took the form of a beautiful young girl. The king had to climb the steep temple every night to sleep with the girl in order to prevent a curse on his family and people! Some people will do anything to get away from the wife!

Following lunch we then headed off to Ta Prohm, a temple recently used in the Tomb Raider movie, but more interestingly one of the temples that was fully lost to the jungle and as a result is full of large trees; the lower ones having been removed.

We finished the trip to Angkor with a climb of the only hill for miles. Phnom Bakheng didn’t get a great mention from Charles or our guide but was in fact well worth it. A 10-15 minute walk up the hill then puts you in front of yet another temple. It’s not amazing but is pretty steep to climb up which makes it all the more fun. Once at the top you get a view of all of Angkor plus the surrounding area.

Being Steve’s birthday we finished the day with a meal, a few drinks and a bit of dancing. All in all a bloody good start to the trip.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
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