So for anyone that read this previously, sorry, somehow this got posted before I was finished with it! Here’s the final version…
Siem Reap is our last stop in Cambodia and it is definitely the gem of Cambodia! There is a great feel to the city here. Everyone told us that we needed to see Angkor Wat at sunrise, so the first morning we woke up at 5am for our sunrise visit. It was kind of magical as we walked there in total darkness and slowly you could see more and more detail of the temple. It is AMAZING! We had planned to do a full day tour of Angkor Wat the next day, so we decided to see some of the other temples first. As we rode in our tuk tuk away from the main temples, we found ourselves among large fields and rice paddies with grazing cows and water buffalo!! We drove through a number of beautiful little villages where there were people stirring over large pots of palm sugar and sewing all sorts of little handcrafts.
We visited Banteay Srei, Ta Som, Neak Pean, and Preah Kahn all of which were very interesting in their own way. Banteay Srei, which means Citadel of Women, is named based on its size and the intricacy of the details in the temple. The figures look like they could almost step out of the wall and come to life. Ta Som is another beautiful temple surrounded in an area with lots of trees. Neak Peak in a very unusual monument and everyone says that if there was ever anything here to be recreated in Vegas, this would be the layout for the hotel lobby. There are four pools, each which feed into the main pond through the mouths of the horse, ox, elephant, or lion. Many of the sculptures are now barely there, you can just make out the horse in the picture below. This lake was famous for its miraculous healing powers. Preah Kahn was a temple but also thought to be a Buddhist university as well as a considerable sized city. This temple is very dense and intricate and we could have spent many hours exploring here!
The next day we set off with Sum our bike leader and tour guide to visit Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider temple). Angkor Wat was once a city that had over one million people living here! Temples here are always raised so that your head is never higher than the Buddha. The main temple at Angkor Wat rises up 11m above the second level. The original steps leading up to the temple are very short and incredibly steep as they wanted people to take it slowly and think about what they are doing before they would get to the temple to pray. We had a very informative tour of Angkor Wat, but could have spent at least a few days exploring everything and unfolding stories of what happened here in this amazing place. Next was Angkor Thom, meaning Great City. This was one of the largest of all Khmer cities and where the Bayon is located. There are five entrances to Angkor Thom each with a tower with four faces pointing in each of the cardinal directions. The Bayon has numerous face towers which create a stone mountain of ascending peaks. The temple is very complex and around every corner there is a new face tower to be seen. Our last stop was Ta Prohm, better known to you at the Tomb Raider temple. This temple was chosen to be kept in its natural state as an example of most of Angkor looked when it was discovered in the 19th century. There are beautiful, large strangler fig and silk-cotton trees intertwined with the structure of the temple. It’s a bit of a balance now between letting the trees continue to grow while also preserving the state of the temple.
We enjoyed walking around the local market where they sell lots of interesting fish, birds, other meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables. The Cambodian women are perched on their tables squatting, hunched over working on whatever it may be they are selling. And because we are westerners, they sell us things at about 10 times their price, so with a little bit of bargaining and a smile on your face, they will be happy to sell it to you for just 5 times what it’s worth.