Monday, September 19, 2011

Siem Reap

Siem Reap exists only because of the massive World Heritage site of the Angkor Wat Temples. We met no one, we didn't particularly have time.  Our entire two and a half days there revolved around our temple visit. Angkor Wat is technically the first temple in this massive temple complex and it's become the name for the collection of temples, there each one has it's own name.
This is a map.  Also available for through this site.
Upon arrival we went to our hostel and then out to Angkor Wat to buy our tickets for the next day.  By purchasing our tickets the night before we got a free hour to walk around from 5-6pm.  It was a nice introduction to the temple of Angkor Wat, and it meant we wouldn't have to wait in the morning.
In town was a disappointing dinner of Amok, fish and veggies steamed in a banana leaf with a bland curry sauce.  We had a couple beers and went to bed in preparation for a 4am wake up. 

We did successfully wake up for sunrise, though it wasn't to be had.  It proceeded to rain for eight of the next ten hours.  We arrived at the temples in near utter darkness.  We moseyed around until the sky began to lighten.  I expected there to be hundreds of visitors all packed into the same area.  Aside from the main walkway, over the bridge and into Angkor Wat, that wasn't the case.  As we made a right turn to circumnavigate the temple, we were alone.  The corridors were quiet but for our conversation.  The side corridors contain carvings that tell a story panel by panel. If one didn't walk around the center to the outer wall, one would miss all the intricacies of the carvings.
 After a wander around Angkor Wat and a coffee we headed on to the Angkor Thom area, starting with the temple of Bayon. This is tied for my favorite.  It's much smaller than Angkor Wat but there's more vertical space.  I literally climbed all over this temple.  The rain was bringing fine bits of dirt and mud into my sandals and it was rubbing my feet raw so I went barefoot. This temple is easily discernible by the large faces on the top points. 
There are two faces up there.

Here's the face in close up.

Next was Baphuon (no idea how to pronounce it). It's been deemed by some the world's largest jigsaw puzzle.  A French restoration team started disassembling the temple to clean and restore it before the Khmer Rouge took over.  When the Khmer Rouge made it too dangerous to continue, the team left and their notes and plans were destroyed.  The temple couldn't be fully reconstructed. There are still blocks lying all around. 

Pieces everywhere.
We wound our way through a few small temples and alters, including Phimeanakas, which I swear should be in Greece, the Terrace of the Leper King and the Terrace of the Elephants on the way to Ta Keo.  Ta Keo was one of the taller temples.  Just check out all those stairs.

Last was Ta Prom, aka the Indiana Jones temple. The authorities are allowing the jungle to slowly reclaim this temple, as it would with all of them if not for the groundskeepers. There are large trees growing out of and around most of the structures. This is the last major temple on the generally followed route.  It's set farther back from the road and has a very quiet approach through a stock of trees. There was water all throughout the temple and was one of the busiest places.  The only downside were the throngs of vendors out the far side.
I went barefoot at this temple too, and a guide noticed saying "Like Cambodia" and pointing at my feet.  He giggled at the bule carrying her shoes and enjoying the soft mud.
There are three options for temple visitors: a one day, a three day or a seven day pass.  Due to our time constraints we opted for a one day pass and both of us found that to be enough. After a while it all starts to look the same and even with the help of a tuk-tuk to ferry us between the temples, we walked a ton.  It was definitely worth the seven hour long bumpy bus rideseach way from Phnom Pehn. 

No comments:

Post a Comment