Siem Reap and Angkor Archaeological Park

20 Jan

17th January  2013

We got up at 4.30 am to leave at 5.00 am for the trip to Phnom Bakheng for sunrise. After a surprisingly chilly tuktuk ride we arrived at the foot of the hill. Still completely dark and so needed a torch to walk up the elephant path to the temple at the top. Although a nice place to be, there were cranes working on the renovation and so any good  sunrise pictures were tricky. We left fairly quickly and found our driver asleep under a big sack in the back seat …. obviously did not expect us back yet! We were heading to Banteay Srei next and the road took us past Angkor Wat, which we were leaving for the next day. We still had a nice view of the sun rising over the Temple.

Sunrise Ankor Wat

We then had a quick breakfast by Angkor Wat and then headed north east towards Banteay Srei which was around 37km from Siem Reap through some really nice countryside.  The Temple was still really quiet as non of the big tour groups had arrived yet (mainly Korean and Chinese). The temple itself is small but very beautiful.

View across moat Banteay Srey

The detailing is incredible and where it is sheltered from the weather is really well preserved.

Carving deatil Banteay Srey

Corner detail Bantey Srei

Although the ground has settled under the temples, they have stayed together surprisingly well. They are all made of interlocking stones like a giant three dimentional jig saw. Obviously no cement used!

Banteay Srey

On the way back we stopped at the Landmine Museum which was set up to highlight the problem of the 4 to 6 million mines that still litter the Cambodian countryside. The exhibition focuses on the work of Aki Ra a former child soldier for the Khmer Rouge who started to clear mines from 1997. He also set up a refuge for children who had been injured by mines (around 36 children still live at the centre).

In addition to the landmines are tons of unexploded bombs that are dug up by farmers every day. Something like 15 people a month are still killed or crippled.

Landmines

Artificial limbs

Drop in if you can, the more visitors, the more good work they can do!

On the way back to the temples we crossed the Siem Reap River and watched the locals fishing.

Fishing near the temples

The next temple in the loop was Pre Rup.

Another Temple

Next was Preah Khan.

Small Temple at Preah Khan

Nature taking over

Alcove carving Preah Khan

In between we stopped at a number of other sites and took many pictures. It gets to a point where you need a break as you can’t take any more in. That is the time to point the tuk tuk back to Siem Reap for a shower and meal in one of the many restaurants. Maybe even a bottle of Angkor beer!

Pub Street Siem Reap 

Tomorrow we have a slower start. Tuk tuk not booked until 7.00am!

18th January

Today we headed straight to Angkor Wat. Most of today would be on what they call the Small Circuit. That is the loop with the most popular temples on. Often people do them all in one day, mainly because it costs about $20 each for the ticket to enter the park and about $15 for the tuk tuk. Two days is obviously more relaxed for people not on a backpacking budget. Traffic on this loop is definitely heavier though!

Tuktuks heading to Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is not something you can summarise in a few pictures. You need to see it for yourself! As you go inside you pass ornimental ponds full of lillies.

Water Lily

South west view of Angkor Wat

Ankor wat from outer wall

Steep stairs to temple

Cambodian girl dressed up to pose for photos with tourists.

Ankor dancer

Next we moved on to Bayon which is a temple famous for the faces on the tower, pointing South East West and North. Many are badly eroded but some are still intact.

Bayon Temple

Faces of Bayon

Next on to Ta Phrom which has been used as the set for various films including Tomb Raider. It is amazing how the trees have grown over the temples. People love to see them, but they are also causing slow but major damage.

Ta Phrom

We decided to finish there as we had seen enough temples for now.

There is a village not far south of Siem Reap that is built on the shore of the big lake. Tanle Sap is around seven meters lower in the dry season (now) which means that the houses either have to float or in this case be built on 10m high stilts.

Boat to Tonle Sap lake Kompong Pluk village Stilt house at Kompong Pluk

It was a good introduction to life on the water. We would see much more tomorrow as we are booked on the boat from Siem Reap to Battambang.

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