Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

Approaching Angkor Wat from the west

Approaching Angkor Wat from the west

Today we began our 3 day tour of the area, and we hit the ground running with a visit to Angkor Wat to kick us off. Our guide, Sopheap, and our driver, Pasit (sp?), took excellent care of us, ensuring we certainly got the most out of our time, and that John had some excellent vantage points for photographs.

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I know that Angkor Wat is an UNESCO site, and seems to be on everyone’s ‘bucket list’, but I was still not prepared for the majesty and scale and sheer beauty of the ancient temple. How did the people of this time create such an astonishingly, aesthetically pleasing, highly artful, detailed and creative series of structures? It completely took my breath away, and I am so happy that I have had the privilege of seeing it.

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From there we went to Ta Prohm, famously known as the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’ – even the guides call it ‘Tomb Raider’! The way that nature has ‘taken back’ these human made constructions is awe-inspiring…and very beautiful to look at! The tourists all line up to have their picture taken at the base of the most famous tree, just like any other famous site (apparently easily recognisable from the film – I have yet to see it!). It looks as though these muscly hunks of flora are slowly strangling the stone structures, and they have gone limp in the ogre’s grip. It was a welcome relief to be wandering the ruins in the shade of these trees – a brief respite from the heat of the day.

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If we thought that Angkor Wat was large, it has nothing on Angkor Thom, which was built a century later and is 3 square kilometres. Our focus of this tour was The Bayon – the state-temple at the centre of the gigantic walled city, dominated by large faces on many sides of the 37 towers (apparently over 200 faces in all – the purpose of which, no one is certain). This was a very impressive temple! According to the guide books it is possible to approach the gates on elephant (as with a few other attractions), but we didn’t see any such action – we must’ve missed their short operating hours.

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Phnom Bakheng is the first monument to be built in the Angkor area and was dedicated in 907 at the heart of the first kingdom of Cambodia. It was the perfect vantage point for watching the sunset in Siem Reap, and we did a fast walk climb to the top of the small mountain, much to the amazement of our guide, Sopheap. He seemed a little disappointed that there were clouds obscuring the sun as it dipped below the horizon, but John was having a fabulous time. There is now apparently a limit of 300 people allowed at the top of the hill at any one time, but there appeared to be many more than that there at sunset.

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Dinner was at the restaurant AHA in The Passage with new friends made on our Jahan cruise. This restaurant is funky and new and exciting to visit. We didn’t stray from the tapas options, because there were far too many that enticed us! (The vegetarian trio was particularly exciting, and not just for us, but for the meat eaters in the party.) There was a decent selection of wines and we spent a lovely couple of hours with our friends, excellent service and food that we could not fault. It was a shame there were not more people there (although it was a Sunday night).

Tour guide information:

Sopheap BremAngkor Sopheap Guide Service, Email: sophiapprem@yahoo.com or brensopheap168@gmail.com

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About bontaks

Nic is the the 'Bon' part of 'Bontaks.' Together we are Nic and John - two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

One Reply to “Siem Reap and Angkor Wat”

  1. I did sunset in the tethered balloon in 2006, everyone loved it, except me who spent most of the time hyperventilating on the floor with my camera over the edge of the basket taking blurry photos 😉

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