Angkor WHAT?!?!

Trip Start Jan 16, 2012
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12
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Trip End Jun 07, 2012


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Where I stayed
Angkor Star Hotel

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Friday, March 9, 2012

20th March - we took the bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, which, by Cambodian time should have taken 5 hours, in reality it took 8! We arrived at the hotel and were quickly upgraded to a suite room, which was HUGE!

21st March - our first day of exploring the temples of Angkor Wat. We hired a tuk tuk (and driver of course) for the day. We kicked off the grand temple tour with Bantay Srei a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, which was located 32km north east of Siem Reap. Our first foray into Angkorian temple design blew us away, it was completely unlike any of the other temples we have visited thus far. It was cut from stone of a pinkish hue, and was incredibly ornate, featuring various guardian deities. As with many of the other temples we were harassed by people trying to sell us various things we didn't want the first time, nevermind the fifth! Our second temple was Phnom Bok one of the less famous and consequently less busy temples. It was virtually empty when we arrived and had quite an aura about it. It was great fun to explore with its high walled walkways (we felt like we were on a set for Indiana Jones)! Our next stop were the Roluos Temples, a group of temples which pre-dated their more famous cousins at Angkor Wat. They were much smaller and more basic but were quite interesting as we could see the development of many of the architectural features, particularly at Bakong, used on the more famous temples like Bayon and Angkor Wat. By this point we were really struggling with the heat and made a hasty retreat back to the airconditioned comfort of our suite.

22nd March - we woke early to view sunrise at Angkor Wat, along with the rest of Siem Reap. We sat directly in front of the temple and were entertained by many tourists (mainly western men taking pictures of asian girls)! As the sun rose we were able to see the temple's stunning reflection in the lake. Following sunrise we walked around the massive structure and climbed to the third level where we saw the famous central  tower. We followed Angkor Wat with Ta Prohm (where Tomb Raider was filmed), a large temple complex which is rapidly being reclaimed by the jungle, many of the towers and walls have enormous trees and foliage growing out of them. Ross did a pretty good Lara Croft impression, scaling the walls and sticking his chest (moobs) out! Naomi did a very passable Harrison Ford impression (from the latest Indiana Jones film) hobbling around the place and acting her age. This was one of our favourite finds. That afternoon we lazed by the pool and went out for a very nice Indian meal that night.

23rd March - kicked off with Banteay Kdei, a smaller, more intimate (and crucially less busy) version of Ta Prohm. Following that we passed Sra Srang (a huge man made lake) on our way to Pre Rup, a huge temple built into a mountain, which towers over the surrounding landscape. Very impressive. Next we visited Ta Som (another temple in the process of being reclaimed by the jungle), and Preah Neak Pean (a tiny temple in the middle of a large square pool, surrounded by four smaller square pools, fed by ornamental spouts in the shape of an elephant's head, a horse's head, a lion's head and a human head).
Our last stop before the massive Angkor Thom was Preah Khan, a large complex which once housed more than a thousand teachers. We had great fun posing behind the decapitated statues, pretending to be guardian deities. Finally after a long and intense day of temple hopping we arrived at Angkor Thom, an absolutely vast fortified city, 10 square kilometers in size, which once housed a population of 1million at a time when London housed only 50,000. The city has five 20m high gates decorated with stone elephant trunks and crowned by four massive faces, in front of each gate stand statues of 54 Gods and 54 Demons. It truly was epic! Within Angkor Thom we visited the Bayon, (its 54 towers famously decorated with huge smiling faces), Baphuon (called by many the world's largest jigsaw puzzle), and the terrace of the elephant's. To round the day off we went to see sunset at Phnom Bakheng, again fighting off the tourist hoards in the quest for the perfect picture (we got it)! So ended our time at Siem Reap, and the beginning of some serious beach crawling!
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