Exploring Angkor Wat

So as I alluded to in the previous post, I fulfilled one of my goals for this trip and went to Angkor Wat!  It’s one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Within the archaeological park there are the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, dating from the 9th to 15th centuries, and Khmer art was developed here and had a large influence over much of South-East Asia.

Most of the group (minus Joanne – granny roommate) sleepily climbed onto a bus at 5 a.m. and made the short drive to the outer wall to see the sunrise. It was a very surreal feeling walking in the darkness with hundreds of others, climbing over unseen rocks and hearing all sorts of mystery animals chirping a morning hello.We parked ourselves in front of the temple, sitting on the steps of one of the libraries, and waited. And waited. An enterprising fellow brought over coffee and tea – genius – so we waited some more, with beverages. As a sidenote, while I have been proclaiming my love of coffee with condensed milk, this magic does NOT translate to tea. At any rate, 6:30 a.m. rolled around and there was still no sun, but dark, ominous rain clouds. We sadly decided to retreat to the hotel for breakfast and return in a few hours for the tour.

Thanks (for once) to the rain which was on and off, the humidity and heat were reduced to tolerable levels and we didn’t melt too much while exploring. It is a MASSIVE place, full of history, and was only rediscovered about 150 years ago when a Frenchman stumbled through the jungle (I may or may not have made that part up, but the way I imagine it was that he was literally stumbling around the jungle as it makes it more interesting to me). Our local guide told us all about the different kings that had modified the temples to follow their religions (Hindu and Buddhism), the reason for multiple entrances (one for the king, one for others, one for elephants), and pointed out areas that had been damaged by poor restoration efforts or the Khmer Rouge (bullet holes are visible throughout the main entrance). Even though we had to stop every five seconds due to questions being asked (repeatedly), it was still fascinating.

After a few hours we moved on to our next stop – monkeys!

You can buy bananas from locals to feed them, or you can just watch them play in the water. Option B is cheaper (realistically I probably would’ve eaten the bananas anyway as they looked quite tasty) so I just watched. They do get scared fairly easily so you have to watch them quietly but it’s a cute sight to see.

We then passed through one of the entrance gates:

Which was on the way to Ta Keo temple:

This temple has steep, steep steps and has five sanctuary towers. It was never completed, and was a bit dicey to get around in spots but quite interesting to explore.

Then lunch. Spicy, spicy lunch. I was a bit suspicious of the ice in my drink so I pretty much inhaled it in one sitting to ensure none of it melted. An hour passed and I was still okay! My paranoia would return a few hours later when I accidentally swallowed half a swimming pool after face-planting while laughing.

Our final stop was at Ta Prohm, aka the Tomb Raider temple. Unlike other temples, this one has been left largely as found and restoration efforts have focused on maintaining the…unrestored look. There are crumbled ruins, numerous trees growing out of walls and you have to walk through a jungle to get to it. It was hot, there were mosquitos, but I think this was my favourite temple as I loved the feel of the place.

It was a long, tiring, sticky day that started early and went quite late (as outlined in the previous post), but this was one of my favourites as it combined history, archeology, and using my neglected legs to get around. An absolute highlight of my journey throughout South-East Asia, and a place that I highly recommend visiting. If you do plan on seeing it, passes cost $20 a day and it’s useful to have a guide – we only went to a few of the temples, but you could easily spend a few days exploring everything and having a knowledgeable expert would only enhance that experience.

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