Charming Siem Reap, majestic Angkor Wat

One of the most inspiring place in South East Asia! (even though touristy) Rent a bike or scooter and go explore the temples of Angkor and stunning surrounding nature. I would recommend to spend at least 5 days to feel the energy of this charming city.

Siem Reap

After a long bus ride from Phnom Penh (5h-6h), I had no idea where to spend the night so I jumped on a random moto taxi and asked him to take me to a guesthouse a bit away from the busy area. I ended up in a newly built guesthouse on the right side of the river, few minutes walking distance to Wat Bo. The temple look like abandoned from the outside but it seems to hide some mysterious spiritual treasure in its heart.

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The Frangipani trees in the garden brings life to this sleepy Wat.

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The next day off to Angkor temples with a 3 days pass

PRICE: 40USD

 

Temples hop on hop off…

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Angkor Wat

The most iconic of all temples is indeed impressive and…. a bit overwhelming.

A glimpse of the sun finally after waiting for an hour with tons of other tourists… and this is when I realise I had no more battery left and had to switch back to a disposable Kodak camera…

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I spotted these 2 little monks hidden under a blanket observing visitors. Funny!

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Even if you have no talent in photography, pictures of the temples will still look gorgeous and cliche.

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Perspective to show how big…

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How mysterious …

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How cliche (but you still want to take that pic)

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Bayon

the second most visited temple after Angkor Wat, also know as the “Faces temple”, is one of the most recognizable images of classic Khmer art and architecture. Most of the tour groups come in timed waves so just sit somewhere while they invade the attraction and then the temple is yours for a short while.

Walk around the ruins where you could spot beautiful deep purple vegetation that contrasts sharply with the different shades of grey stones. You will have better light in the afternoon as the temple is surrounded with jungle.

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Preah Khan

The most memorable moment of the whole trip, I just stopped for hours watching this impressionist landscape. A river of fully blossomed fuchsia lotus flowers.

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More about the temple:

“Preah Khan, meaning ‘sacred sword,’ is a huge, highly explorable monastic complex, full of carvings, passages and photo opportunities. It originally served as a Buddhist monastery and school, engaging over 1000 monks. For a short period it was also the residence of King Jayavarman VII during the reconstruction of his permanent home in Angkor Thom. In harmony with the architecturally similar Ta Prohm that was dedicated to Jayavarman VII’s mother, Preah Khan is dedicated to his father. Features of note: like most of Jayavarman VII’s monuments, the Buddha images were vandalized in the later Hindu resurgence. Some Buddha carvings in the central corridor have been crudely carved over with Bodhisattvas, and in a couple of odd cases, a lotus flower and a linga. Also note the cylindrical columns on the building west of the main temple. It is one of the only examples of round columns and may be from a later period.”

Ta Prohm

Very popular but for a good reason (Tomb Raider doesn’t really count for one). You would be amazed by this temple surrounding flora; the green river and the giant fig trees would make you feel tiny.

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More about the temple history:

“Of similar design to the later Jayavarman VII temples of Preah Khan and Banteay Kdei, this sprawling monastic complex is only partially cleared of jungle overgrowth. Intentionally left partially unrestored, massive fig and silk-cotton trees grow from the towers and corridors offering a ‘jungle atmosphere’ and some of the best ‘tree-in-temple’ photo opportunities at Angkor. Ta Prohm is well worth an extended exploration of its dark corridors and open plazas. This temple was one of Jayavarman VII’s first major temple projects. Ta Prohm was dedicated to his mother. (Preah Khan, built shortly in the same general style, was dedicated to Jayavarman VII’s father.) Ta Prohm was originally constructed as a Buddhist monastery and was enormously wealthy in its time, boasting of control over 3000 villages, thousands of support staff and vast stores of jewels and gold. Of the monastic complex style temples, Ta Prohm is a superior example and should be included in almost any temple itinerary. “

Neak Pean

Charming little temple nestled in a pond. I loved the chilled atmosphere of this temple.

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“A small island temple located in the middle of the last baray to be constructed by a Khmer king in the Angkor area (Preah Khan Baray or Jayatataka). The central temple sits at the axis of a cross or lotus pattern of eight pools. Originally known as Rajasri, Neak Pean took its modern appellation, which means ‘coiled serpents,’ from the encoiled nagas that encircled the temple. The temple is faced by a statue of the horse, Balaha, saving drowning sailors. Though originally dedicated to Buddha, Neak Pean contains several Hindu images. Neak Pean may have served an absolution function, and the waters were thought to have healing properties. During the dry season when the water is low, check out the animal and human headwater spouts at the outside center of each pool. Neak Pean is most photogenic in the wet season when the pools are full.”

Phnom Bakheng

Very crowded if you want to go watch the sunrise/ sunset, I decided to visit during the daytime, and it was very calm. A steep climb to the top rewarded by a panoramic view of the Angkor park.

“The construction of this temple mountain on Phnom Bakheng (Bakheng Hill), the first major temple to be constructed in the Angkor area, marked the move of the capital of the Khmer empire from Roluos to Angkor in the late 9th century AD. It served as King Yasovarman I’s state-temple at the center of his new capital city Yasodharapura. The foundation of Bakheng is carved from the existing rock edifice rather than the laterite and earthfill of most other temples. Bakheng’s hilltop location makes it the most popular sunset location in the area, offering a view of the Tonle Sap Lake and a distant Angkor Wat (upper right photo.) Quiet the rest of the day. Elephant rides up the hill are available for sunset. Always overcrowded at sunset, so much so that authorities are now limiting the number of visitors at sunset. Consider a alternative sunset location.”

Ta Som

It took me some leg effort to reach the place, I ended there in the late afternoon and the light was really making it happened. Calm, few tourists, beautiful carvings it’s worth the trip if you are getting tired of the crowds.

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“Small, classic Bayon-style monastic complex consisting of a relatively flat enclosure, face tower gopuras and cruciform interior sanctuaries much like a miniature version of Ta Prohm. Many of the carvings are in good condition and display particularly fine execution for late 12th century works. Take note of the devata carvings which show an uncommon individuality. A huge tree grows from the top of the eastern gopura. It is destroying the gate but it is a photo classic. Best photographed in the afternoon. Ta Som is the most distant temple on the Grand Circuit.”

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