As we flew from Myanmar back to Thailand we had a quick pit stop in Bangkok where we treated ourselves to clothes, pedicures, massages and a tattoo. Why do we always forget we are on a tight budget here? Before we spent too much money we booked ourselves onto a bus to our fourth country, Cambodia! The border between Thailand and Cambodia is notoriously bad for scams so to avoid this we got e-visas and on the government run bus. The journey to Siem Reap was surprisingly smooth as long as you ignore everyone trying to “help” you at the border. When we arrived at the bus station we had a tuk tuk driver waiting for us with a “Miss Zoric Miss Guest” sign. It is the best sight after an 8 hour journey. The driver was Mr T and he offered to be our guide around Angkor Wat the following day too.
We decided to do Angkor Wat at sunrise the following morning as its supposed to be pretty special and Lonely Planet said it was one of the quietest times to go. Umm, don’t know if LP has ever got it so wrong! There were so many tourists there ready to catch a glimpse of the Angkor Wat lit up by the sun rise. Unfortunately there were a few clouds around that particular morning so it wasn’t quite so spectacular as it could have been. After the show was over we wondered around the 12th century Khmer capital. It was very large, and very grand but to be honest we weren’t that impressed. It had nothing on Bagan in Myanmar. One bonus was that we ran into some friends we met in Laos so we spent most of the time there catching up on each others stories.
Fortunately there are many more temples in the area and these we enjoyed a lot more. First up was the ancient city of Angkor Thom with the temple of Bayon at its centre. We found this one really interesting as it has the face of Buddha built into the towers and walls of the temple. There was a lot more exploring to be done here with hidden statues, carvings and staircases.
As we made our way to the next temple it started to rain. It wasn’t cold rain but it was fairly persistant for the next hour while we looked around Baphuon. I enjoyed the gardens of this temple a lot more than the temple itself. It has a secret garden feel to it where the trees have started to take over the stone structures. This is a common theme for a lot more of the temples we would see later. On the way back to Mr T we also passed the elephant terrace, and Phimeanakas temple all in the grounds of the Angkor Thom city walls.
Next was the Preah Khan Temple. I think this was my favourite. Just saying. It was originally a Buddhist temple but later was adapted to a Hindu temple with additions on to the one storey building. The site has largely been left unrestored with nature gradually reclaiming the area. As we arrived the rain stopped and with the clouds lifted everything was steaming which certainly gave this place an enchanted atmosphere. As you get absorbed into the space you can’t help but imagine what it must of been like in its hey day.
And last but not least was the temple of Ta Prohm, or better known as the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple. This was where Angelina Jolie shot some opening scenes from the Lara Croft film. Because of this it has given this particular temple its fame and so with it more money to help restore it. However this popularity is a double edged sword as this temple was heaving with tourists eager to get a shot with that famous Tomb Raider tree and so takes away what was special about this in the first place. We didn’t dally here too long but this temple was another filled with huge trees growing out of rocks which is pretty incredible to see.
That was all we had time to see whilst we were at Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. However, there are plenty more to be found especially if you take the time to hire out your own moped. My favourite temples here were the ones which had started to be reclaimed by the surrounding jungle. Although the Khmers have always known these temples have existed, these temples had been lost to the modern world until being rediscovered and popularised in the 1800’s. It’s definitely worth a visit but I suggest visiting before Bagan in Myanmar as we found that ancient temple complex more spectacular.