Amazing Angkor

We arrived at 9h30 in the evening at the very new airport of Siem Reap. There were ten immigration officers (no kidding) issuing and handling Kevin’s visa on arrival (basically 3 taking the passport, 3 putting the visa in it, 3 stamping it and 1 returning it). They don’t check anything about you but only ask for 20 dollars visa-fee – it’s what we call job creation and getting hard currency. The Prohm Roth Guesthouse was our lovely home for the next 4 nights. Once more we experienced the friendliness of local family run hostels.

As we both had visited the temples of Angkor before we were quite excited to go back to this amazing place. Changes we noticed were that Siem Reap as a town was much more developed than some years ago. Surprisingly we saw a lot of Korean tourists (it was the same case in the Philippines) and it looked like that the Koreans replaced the Japanese tourists from a few years ago. Sadly a taxi driver told us that the Koreans own their own hotels and that even the tour guides they use are Koreans and so not that much money actually stays in Cambodia.

Cambodia is still a developing country compared with its neighbors. The GDP per capita is only 930 USD a year compared with 1527 USD and 5678 USD in Vietnam and Thailand, respectively.

The next morning we rented two bicycles and cycled the seven kilometers to the temples. Well to be correct we headed to the main temples as there are over a thousand temples spread over several hundred square kilometers. Actually some temples are even in Laos rather than in Cambodia.

The amazing temples served as the seat of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th century AD. They are in many ways unique in their sophistication (for example alignment to the stars) and their richness of decorations.

Our first stop was Angkor Wat the “main” temple of Angkor (yes, the one you always see on postcards). According to a lot of sources it’s the biggest religion structure in the world (first devoted to Hinduism and later to Buddhism). As in many temples you can still see impressive details such as wall carvings and old relict. As so often when traveling a picture is worth more than a thousand words and so please have a look at our selection below.

As you might imagine time, rain and the steady flow of two million tourists a year leave their mark on the temples. Restoration work has been ongoing continuously since the 1930s (Angkor was rediscovered by the French in the late 19th century) and it’s probably a real piece of Sisyphus work (i.e. you probably will never finish).

The next stop was Angkor Thom with its many faces who were looking at us from all directions. The feeling of standing in the temple was just amazing and hard to describe – it almost felt unreal to a certain extend. On our way back we stopped to watch a group of monkeys who had good fun stealing food from some locals and even had a go at a bike. We ended our first day with some nice Khmer food and a well deserved beer.

The next day we opted for the bicycles again – despite of feeling our back-sides from the first day. What we saw:

  • Prasat Kravan – which looks like made of Lego.
  • Banteay Kdei – one of the less restored temples where you can see that nature tries to retake the temple again.
  • Sras Srang – not much left of this temple but a nice view of the artificial lake.
  • Ta Prohm – one of the most famous temples of Angkor where some gigantic trees are growing on top of the roofs. We could only imagine what would happen if you leave the temple to nature for a few years. It felt a bit like in an Indiana Jones movie.

After leaving Ta Prohm we got into a heavy rain shower – one of these rain showers you only see in Asia. Kevin quite enjoyed the shower (it was still nice and warm after all) while Hazel opted to put on the rain cover (in hindsight the right move as Kevin got very dirty from all the mud – but then who doesn’t like to behave like a small kid sometimes).

Once the rain lightened we reached the Elephant Terraces with its nice elephant wall engravings.

As an end to our second day of templeing we climbed up to Phnom Bakeng for some more photos of nearby Angkor Wat.

Happy but very exhausted we went back to the town where we had a very nice dinner at the Old House Restaurant.

The next day we had enough from our bicycles and decided to hire a tuk tuk to see some more remote temples (okay, Hazel also threatened to kill Kevin if they went biking again).

And so we enjoyed the ride through the Cambodian country side to the following temples:

  • Pre Rup
  • Kbal Speam – technically not a temple but rather some amazing carvings in an old river bed which can only be reached after a 45 minutes climb (quite a good exercise given the 30 degrees and the humidity). We were again very amazed that there were still so many details visible after so many hundreds of years.
  • Banteay Srei – one of the temples with the most detailed engravings. Also reminded us of a similar temple we had seen 2 years ago Pakse in Southern Laos.
  • Prasat Komnap – a lot of small temples inside a big temple.

Another nice dinner (at Traditional Khmer Cuisine) concluded our last day in Siem Reap. Once again we were really fascinated by the Temples of Angkor. It’s just such a mind blowing place with all its details and culture. Just amazing to see what they were able to built more than 1500 years ago. We would say it still is one of the best culture sights in whole of South East Asia.

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