Following the backpacker standard of using Siem Reap as a base, it was time for me, Dylan and Amanda to explore the ruins and temples of Angkor!!
Alex from our hostel in Phnom Penh had set us up free pick up by tuk tuk from the bus, reason being of course they wanted to be our driver whilst we visited the temples, and we were happy with the arrangement, agreeing on $24 each for 3 days. I have heard people getting it for a bit more and some for a bit less, I was content as our driver was a genuine nice guy and I felt we paid the average. A 3 day ticket for Angkor itself costs $40. You can spread it out over 7 days, though we decided to hardcore it and do 3 days straight, after taking one night to settle in Siem Reap where we checked out Harbour bar, which is a pirate themed metal bar. Siem Reap is a crazy party town largely due to the presence of pub street, which is pretty self explanatory.
First day, we started with the most famous, Angkor Wat. One of those places i’ve always known I would visit at some point in my life and I was so happy to finally do it!
We spent over 2 hours exploring the interior, including the cool Hindu mythological murals and all the amazing architecture. My knowledge of Hinduism is limited, but one large mural refers to The Churning Of The Ocean Of Milk (or Sea of Milk, i’ve seen it called both so am unsure) and features asuras (demons) one side and devas (gods) the other, working together to release the objects lost within. It features Vishnu as well. I think it’s pretty damned cool and shall be sure to research the mythology in future.
Also shout out to the badass monkey wandering around the ruins stealing people’s water bottles. Kind of surprising having been in South East Asia for 3 months but this day was the first I actually saw wild monkeys up close! The areas i’d been in previously where there had been monkeys they’d either stayed hidden or been far in the distance.
Next up was Ta Phrom, known to many as the Tomb Raider temple. It’s main appeal is how it is being overgrown by the jungle, so the trees and their roots cover parts of the temple.
Last up on day 1, the huge Angor Thom complex, which was once home to a million people! Mindblowing!!
There’s a lot to see here, the highlight for me being the Bayon and it’s many, many faces!
I also really liked the Phimeanakas, especially at the top there was hundreds of dragonfly’s buzzing around that made for a really cool sight.
A great first day of temples, I felt very content, in a good place!
In the evening I went out with hostel buddies Rob (Dutch) and Auste (Lithuanian, see her travel blog at: http://likeahedgehoginthefog.wordpress.com ) to X bar where there was a band doing pretty decent rock and metal covers. There I caught up with my friend Beckie (her blog: www.jetsetterjones.com ) who i’d met back in Pai in November! Awesome to catch up with her again!
So day 2, on a hangover! We did what’s called ‘The Grand Circuit’, travelling further than the day before and seeing 6 temples in total.
In order we visited:
Opposite the Banteay Kdel is the Srah Sang, a large lake worth taking a quick look at.
East Mebon was fun as it’s quite high so you can climb up to the top, where you can walk around and look down upon the rest of the temple and into the jungle (or at tour groups, your call).
Banteay Strei is pretty far out of the area, the longest drive to get to for sure. It’s pretty cool, smaller and more detailed than the rest we saw that day. The colour of the stone is different too, more reddish. There are phallic pillars there like those i’d previous seen in Champasak in Laos, which I know indicates worship of Shiva.
The last, Preah Khan was my favourite of the day. Large parts of it are ruined piles of stones but there is still plenty of it to see. The entrance to it is across a river, each side of the bridge is lined with statues but most of them ate headless now. Like Ta Phrom it has jungle growing all over it, and there’s some really cool sights of the trees growing up, over and through the building’s.
Just to note one of the cool things about the Tuk Tuk ride back to town is watching all the monkeys on the side of the road and the mischief they get up to!
Day 3 we headed to Angkor Wat nice and early for sunrise, which was nice but a bit cloudy so we didn’t get the full effect. We did meet an amazing playful puppy though!
After that we finished up our exploration of the temples by seeing 2 from the Roluos group, which are the oldest in the Angkor area, from the ninth century, the dawn of the Angkor era! We saw Preah Ko and Bakong. I really liked Preah Ko especially, it had a noteable different style to those we’d seen before, smaller and more intricate. Hard to explain but get a real different vibe from the place compared to that in which i’d been before.
We finished up at lunchtime and took it easy for the rest of the day, feeling pretty exhausted after hardcoring the temples in 2 and a half days! Really worth it, I feel we really made use of our time and saw a good amount.