I had the privilege of visiting many temples and palaces all over the mainland of Southeast Asia, but out of all the ones I’ve seen, none of them holds a candle to the biggest of them all, Angkor Wat. This is where Rob and I were headed to next.
We had the choice of leaving early to witness the sunrise or leaving a little later to see the sunset. We both chose the sunrise and woke up at 4 am and got ready, while trying to remain quiet so we wouldn’t wake the other people in our dorm. Yesterday, we hired a tuk-tuk driver to pick us up this morning to drive us all around the temples all day. You’d be crazy to attempt to visit Angkor Wat by foot! Angkor Wat isn’t just one temple, it’s actually a series, or a city of complex temples
spread over around 400 square kilometers of forests and land! That’s huge! Actually, Angkor Wat is the name of the biggest, main temple within the complex. It was there where we would see the sunrise. It was pitch dark when our driver picked us up, but before we set out, we asked the driver if he could make a quick stop at the local store nearby so we could pick up some water and snacks for the day. It’d be cheaper here than buying within the complex. After about twenty mintues, we arrived to Angkor, where we crossed over a bridge spanning about 350 meters long, past the moat that surrounded Angkor. Rob and I found the perfect spot, right in front of iPad welding tourists and waited. Soon enough around 5:20 am, the sun began to show, and we marveled at how absolutely stunning the landscape revealed itself to us. We went camera crazy.
As soon as we got enough photos, we made away further along the bridge, inside the actual temple. We decided not to get a tour guide and just explore on our own. You guys know how I get with tour guides. Yawn fest! Instead, we wanted to take some great shots without pesky iPad tourists in our way. Just like in Buddha Park in Laos, all of the ancient buildings and statues looked “climbable” and very “accessible”. Breaking the rules always makes for a fun day and Rob was more than happy to be on board. Yes there were signs saying you can’t climb this, you can’t access that, you can’t sit there, don’t touch that, blah blah blah, but…I just couldn’t help myself. We went to the highest point we could get to, pass the barricades and snapped away. Guys, you won’t see any Angkor photos anywhere else on the web like this.
Tourists looked at us and couldn’t help but laugh. Some even started to follow our bad example! A lot of times, guards would tell us to get down or stop what we’re doing. From then, we would just move on and keep on. And of course there were other areas that we were allowed to go in that were equally impressive.
I suppose I should go ahead and tell you a little about this place. Angkor Wat means “City of Temples”. Angkor was built during the 12th Century under the rule of a king by the name of Suryavarman. It’s an extremely symbolic Hindu (and then later Buddhist) site that’s been cherished for years, even still to this day. The temples functioned as a place of worship, with some of the temples being built as mausoleums solely for the burial of one of their kings or lords. After the 16th century, Angkor was neglected but never completely abandoned. Part of its preservation is due to the moat that surrounds it which impedes growth from the jungles of the outer boundaries. It’s quite religious and locals of today go here to pray and worship to the many scattered statues amongst the city. To explain the grand magnificence of Angkor Wat in words is almost impossible. To see it with your own eyes is the only true way to experience how far back in time you feel you’ve traveled. I’ll try my best to explain with photos.
Whenever we were finished exploring a temple, our driver would be waiting for us to take us to another. Along one of the routes, our driver stopped the tuk-tuk for a bit where suddenly wild ravaging monkeys attacked our ride!
🙂 Actually, these monkeys were mighty friendly, were used to people, and were harmless. They just wanted some attention! Just don’t touch their babies or things could get ugly! It was little unexpected situations like these that made this trip extra special. Whenever we left a temple to and drove to another one was like a much needed break. As usual, it was super hot and the sun was showing us no mercy, so the rides on the tuk-tuk were nice cool down sessions. But the sun wasn’t a big deal because each and every temple was different from each other. Eventually, we reached Ta Prohm, more famously known as the “Tomb Raider” temple. It’s famous because it’s instantly recognizable from the movie that was filmed here on location.
Rob and I were fortunate enough to avoid the packs of tourists by skipping out on breakfast at the beginning and going straight for the temples. We had our snacks to hold us over until lunch later on which for me was stir-fry rice and a coke. After that, more awesome temples!
In some temples, there was no other people in sight and at times I felt like an explorer, lost in an ancient tomb, unraveling the mystery of a much sought after treasure. What that treasure was? I don’t know but I was willing to find it! Snap back to reality Daniel.
It was nearly 2 pm and we were worn out. We’ve been up trekking through these massive temples since five in the morning, so we decided to call it a day. We went back to our hostel, I took a shower because I was smelly from the day, and we both passed out! It was a much needed nap, because that night we planned on meeting up with Kevin and Björn and hitting up pub street. It was going to be their last night in Siem Reap before they headed back home to Germany, after four months of some serious traveling. Impressive. Their bus would come pick them up at 7 am the next morning, but I told them I will wake up by then to give them a proper send off. If you don’t remember, I met these two way back in Pai, Thailand. We stuck together there and then split up afterwards, but then regrouped back for the majority of Cambodia. I know I will see them again because (spoiler alert), part of my trip I have planned for next year will lead me to Germany. At least thats the plan anyways. You guys take care of yourself and I can’t wait to try your country’s Brot. I hope it’s as good as you guys say it is or else… 🙂 Auf wiedersehen!
Most people do the Angkor thing for two or three days, because it’s so massive. Rob and I felt like one day was enough. We didn’t have a tour guide and were constantly on the go, so we packed a lot in. Besides, we only had a few days in Siem Reap and wanted to do other things as well. So tomorrow, we shall rent mountain bikes and do a little exploring!