This is a post by David.
We are currently on the Andaman coast in southern Thailand. We’ll be hopping around to different islands around here before heading to Bangkok next week. Southern Thailand is amazing, but first let’s talk about Siem Reap, Cambodia.
We were in Cambodia last week and kept very busy by taking a cooking class (of course), a pottery class, riding horses through the countryside, and much more. Despite how delicious the food is (similar to Thai but less spicy – lots of curries) no one goes to Siem Reap solely for a cooking class. The thing to do is visit the stunning temples of Angkor.
The temples of Angkor were once capital of the Khmer empire from about 800 AD to 1431 AD when they were abandoned due to aggression from the Thais and lack of water and other resources. They laid hidden in the jungle for five hundred years, all the while being slowly consumed by nature. At the end of the 19th century the French came across the ruins and began mapping them out and restoring them. Restoration is still underway.
It is impossible to convey the scale and grandeur of these ruins, but this might help to put it in perspective:
- We spent three whole days at the the temples and we didn’t even see a fraction of them
- Angkor Wat (the name of one of the temples) means “temple that is a city.” The moat around it is 2.2 miles long
- Angkor Wat is the largest religious building in the world
- During the height of the Khmer empire, over one million people lived and worked in Angkor. London, on the other hand, had a population of 50,000
We started our visit by going to Angkor Wat at 5:00 AM to see the sunrise. We hired a guide for the first day which turned out to be a smart move. Our guide was knowledgable, friendly, and spoke English well.
We really liked the murals at Angkor Wat, especially the one titled The Churning of the Sea of Milk. It is a Hindu creation story where all the gods and all the demons use a giant snake and a giant mountain to stir up the celestial sea and create the world.
Bantaey Srie is another famous temple. It’s name means “Temple of Women.” Local legend is that the temple was built by women because the carvings are so exquisite that no man could have made them.
Ta Phrom is the quintessential temple in the jungle. It was also the setting for the movie “Tomb Raider.”
We really enjoyed Preah Khan which is a smaller temple that has been taken over by the jungle. It wasn’t too crowded so it we had the place to ourselves. It was really magical to wander around these ancient ruins in silence with the late afternoon light streaming through and the jungle enveloping you from all sides.
We hired a tuk-tuk for the other two days of our visit because the temples are so massive it just wasn’t possible to walk between them. Here are some other images from around the complex.
The temples of Angkor are a pretty unique and magical place. They can be very hot and over crowded at times, but absolutely worth a visit.