The magnificent temples of Angkor

Day 68
Siem Reap, Cambodia

With some of the world’s most significant sights — the Great Wall of China, the Aya Sofya and the Pyramids of Giza — already under my belt, my expectations for the Temples of Angkor, not only the symbol of Cambodia but also what many consider the eighth wonder of the world, were high. But our sunrise tour of this astounding architectural feat did not disappoint.

We met our guide a little after 5 a.m. and made the short drive to Angkor Wat, commissioned by the powerful King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as the holy capital city. The overcast skies didn’t take away from the dramatic picture of this temple reflecting off its moat.

Our next stop was Angkor Thom, a walled compound built by King Jayavarman VII (1181 – 1219) as his royal palace. Not having to battle the crowds, we found the Bayon, the King’s state temple, even more impressive than Angkor Wat. There are 54 towers here with 216 carved faces.

We walked past the Terrace of Elephants, an intricately carved wall, en route to Ta Keow, a half-completed 10th century temple that was abandoned after it was struck by lighting. We climbed the well-worn stairs up a very steep incline and then slowly made our way back down.

Ta Prohm was coined the Tomb Raider temple after Angelina filmed a portion of her movie of the same name here. Built in the 12th century, it has been taken hostage by tremendous spung trees whose gigantic roots grasp its pillars and walls.

For us, it was the most dramatic and amazing spot, and therefore warranted an obligatory prom photo.

By 11 a.m., the sun had burned off the morning fog and our shirts were drenched. We had the car bring us back to the hotel where we ordered a couple of club sandwiches for lunch, napped and hung out at the pool.

Later, we made our way back into town to visit the Psar Chaa, an old market, as well as Psar Kandal, the central market. Both had goods for sale that ran the gamut — from mini Angkor Wats to live eels. We passed on both before having some dinner at our favorite spot on Pub Street, the Red Piano. Our motivation for a post-dinner beer was sapped after a rain started, so we grabbed a tuk-tuk and headed back for bed.

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