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temples of angkor

angkor wat at sunset, originally uploaded by maliayosh.

anyone who comes to cambodia comes to see angkor wat. it’s just one of those things that you cross off your to-do lists of “sights to see,” and after having been there i can definitely say it’s an amazing temple. it’s the world’s largest religious building, and it is huge! i’m definitely glad that i got to see it, but overall it was a very hot, tiring, and underwhelming day…

bryan, emily, and i hired a driver to take us out to the temples and we started out with prasat kravan, which was built in the year 921. it was cool to see such an old building with so much history, and the carvings and details inside were – like many of the temples we’d visit that day – very intricate. it was cool to imagine how many people it took to build them and how long it would have taken without modern building tools, etc.

carvings @ prasat kravan
engravings at prasat kravan

kravan was small so we did a quick run through, then headed to the temple of banteay kdei which is a large monastery grounds. again, very old, very cool, but not quite as amazing as we were expecting… once again “underwhelming.”

building up to angkor wat, our next stop was ta phrom, the temple where angelina jolie filmed tomb raider. this temple was amazing! it was by far my favorite of the ones we visited… it was so cool to see these huge tree roots which had overgrown the ruins. as you walk up to the large, quiet buildings, you can almost imagine what it would have been like to be the person to discover the abandoned temple in the middle of the forest.

ta prohm (tomb raider temple)
ta phrohm ruins, the temple where tomb raider was filmed…

by the time our driver stopped at the temples of angkor thom, it was hot and we were tired and losing steam… we made a quick pass through the temples, stopping to admire the huge stone faces carved atop the bayon temple. then it was finally time for angkor…

with our energy lagging, we decided to take a hot air balloon ride which gives you an arial view of angkor wat. it was pricey ($15), but when else would we have the chance to say we’d had a bird’s eye view of a world wonder? again, sounds cooler than it actually was. underwhelming was the word of the day, apparently. we did get some cool shots, and it was nice to have the cool breeze and moment to sit down before making our way to the finale – angkor wat.

angkor wat - siem reap, cambodia
finding a quiet moment at angkor wat… away from the crowds!

we walked through the gates, and while its hard to deny the size and splendor of the ancient buildings, it was also very crowded and extremely hot. there were religious ceremonies going on at the temples inside, marred by the throngs of tourists rudely snapping photos. we walked around searching for the best view for sunset and were disappointed to learn that access to the top towers has been closed! we settled for a sunset view with the temple mirrored in the ponds in front – the classic “postcard shot”.

i definitely don’t regret going to see angkor wat, but if i could do it again i’d definitely spend longer at temples like tha phrom. they say that you can’t do everything in one day, but i think in the case of these temples, its BEST to do it in one day, even in half a day if you can. otherwise you get “templed out” – hot, tired, sweaty, cranky, and unable to appreciate the true beauty of these ancient buildings, so full of history. if you really want to see more, i’d suggest spreading it out over a few days. it’s rather expensive (a one day pass is $20, three days is $40, a week is $60) but i think you appreciate more if you aren’t trying to cram it all into a limited itinerary. and whatever you do, avoid the tour group buses, unless you want to be herded around like cattle. we negotiated with a friendly english-speaking tuk tuk driver named tip to take us around to the sites all day for just $15, and there are tons of drivers around siem reap just waiting for your business. find someone who speaks good english and can tell you about the history of the temples.

our tuk tuk driver for the day, "tip"
tip, our smiling tuk tuk driver for the day

oh well, at least it makes for good photo opps…. =) you can see all the pictures from the temples and from siem reap here. for a complete guide to the history of the temples of angkor, check out the angkor guide.

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One response to “temples of angkor”

  1. Mom says:

    What great memories and pics and I am definitely jealous of the hot air balloon ride—one thing on my list of things to do before I die! Enjoy the moment! Love, Mom

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