Early start as only one full day to explore. Rented a bike and set off for the Angkor complex. All going smoothly, arrived at a checkpoint after about 10km cycling where I thought I would just buy a ticket and push on….best laid plans and all that… Turned out that I should have purchased my ticket from the central Angkor ticket office which was (you’ve guessed it) 8km back where I cam from. Reluctantly I was about to turn round when the guy said we may have a plan for you…a cunning plan… then we proceeded to barter with a police guy and for 6 USD he took me on the back of his scooter to the ticket office and back to the checkpoint! Job done and on my bike once more!
Temples of Angkor: Angkor was the capital city of the Khmer empire which flourished from the 9th to the 15th centuries. The whole site covers 400sq km. The Angkor complex was actually a megacity supporting at least 0.1% of the world’s population during the 11th century. I had read about the size of the complex and the individual temple sites but nothing prepares you for the reality; it is immense and impossible to see in a week let alone a day. Two large temple complexes are the most famous Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom which occupy one small corner of the overall site and yet there is over 4km between the two. You have to walk around the individual temple complexes but you can cycle / tuk tuk between them thank goodness! The paths between them are tree lined avenues dotted with lakes and shrines.
Perhaps the most famous and well known, Angkor Wat was built in the 12th Century from massive sandstone ‘bricks’; originally to honour the Hindu god Vishnu but converted to a Buddhist temple in the 14th century. It is an immense complex covering more than 400 acres and was designed to represent Mount Meru, the home of the gods. The whole complex is surrounded by a moat – somewhat bigger than a typical castle version – 200m wide and 5.5km around!
Bayon Temple within Angkor Thom; at the heart of this complex is the 12th century Bayon temple. It was the state temple of Jayavarman VII Cambodia’s most celebrated King. It has 54 gothic towers each decorated with 216 gargantuan smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara, a renowned Buddhist teacher and decorated with 1.2km of bas relief carvings featuring more than 11,000 figures and animals depicting life and war within the Khmer empire.
Ta Prohn Temple complex: this is undoubtedly the most atmospheric of all the temple complexes as unlike the other sites it has been swallowed by the jungle and must look just like all the sites were when first discovered in the 1860’s. It is also known as the “Tomb Raider Temple” after the Lara Croft movie.
Monkey business : As the complex lies in what was jungle ( and still is in some areas) there is a lot of wildlife in the area some of which seems to have become very used to the hoards of people trampling on their land… the third of these short videos is a hoot!