15.08.2009 - 17.08.2009 30 °C
The Khmer and Thai people have a long history of fighting each other. Siem Reap means literally Siam defeated and is the location of the Angkor temple complex, which was constructed during the height of the Khmer empire. Nowadays it is a small town with a lot of hotels and Guest houses that lives primarily from the tourists that visit Angkor. I arrived by bus in the early afternoon and got a bed on a terrace of a Guest House for 1$ a night. The same Guest House was renting out bicycles for 1$ a day, so I decided to go to watch the sunset at the temple complex (tickets are valid from sunset to sunset). Even though I had seen the maps of the place I was still taken by surprise by how big the area is. The entry to the temple complex is quite a way out of town and the temples are dispersed many kilometers one from each other. But this evening I just wanted to go to the one temple I had chosen to watch the sunset. Here's a picture of the Pre Rup temple:
The sunset was totally anticlimactic, so I didn't take any pictures of it. In the end I made 30 km on a one-gear bicycle for nothing, but at least I knew the next day would be very tough. My ass was hurting badly already.
The next day I woke up at 4am so as to be at the gates at 5am, when they open. It was definitely worth getting up early. Here are some pictures I took of the sunrise:
This is a view of the sunrise behind the huge moat that surrounds the Angkor Wat around 5:20am.
Here's a view of the sunrise at the Sras Srang lake, at 5:45am.
Shortly after 6am I arrived at the rear entrance of the Ta Phrom temple. This is the only temple they left with trees all over it and the place where the famous scene in the movie Tomb Raider was filmed. This is by far my favorite temple in Angkor. Since it was so early I was completely alone in the temple for about 30 minutes. Bliss!
After one hour at the Ta Prohm, I went towards to the imperial city, climbing the Ta Keo pyramid on the way:
Who in his right mind would design such steep stairs?! Imagine how many accidents this crazy architect is responsible for over all the centuries. I hope he was sacked...
Some unnamed ruin along the road.
There are some modern temples scattered around that are still in use.
The Victory Gate, one of five entries to the Imperial City
The Elephant Terrace. The kings used to hold speeches from here (maybe). The statue of the Leper King is at the edge of it.
The Bayon is a massive and very imposing building in the middle of the imperial city.
One of it's token features are the many towers with faces looking towards the four cardinal directions.
One of many examples of how vegetation reconquered this area during the past few centuries.
Some carvings at the Bayon.
And finally the Angkor Wat, the most famous of the Angkor temples, and (some say) the largest religious building ever built. It is very impressive and so large there are no good picture to take from up close. One would have to come with a helicopter to take good pictures.
This is a view from the second level. The third level was being renovated (financed by Italy, I wonder what happens to the 20$ per day people pay to come here...) and closed off.
The "Churning Of The Sea Of Milk", a carving along the outer wall of the Angkor Wat, representing the gods and demons churning the primordial sea.
At this point it was 12:30 and I had been bicycling around for over 8 hours. I was exhausted and went back to the Guest House. I would advise people to pay the extra 5 dollars and rent a tuktuk for the day. It's one of the few cases when they are probably worth the money after all. I slept around 12 hours and went back to Phnom Penh the next day. Here's a picture of the driver changing a flat tire (yes, this happens relatively often).