Angkor Wat was the original reason why I wanted to go to that part of the world. The temples had such a mystique to me and I needed to see them for myself. I grew up with my father playing Tomb Raider on PlayStation and I needed to be her, and explore through those ancient caves with desert eagles strapped to my thighs. Obviously, that didn’t happen for me but I didn’t give up my desire to see the temples and I made it an immediate goal of mine.
That morning, we were up early and grabbed a continental breakfast at our hotel before meeting our cab driver that took us to our hotel from the airport out front. Sorn, the driver, was again extremely informative, he know the background history of the Temples well and proceeded to give us a quick overview of what we were to expect. We drove for about 20 minutes outside the city until we hit the temple grounds. We purchased our day passes and then Sorn dropped us off at the entrance for Angkor Wat to explore for ourselves. The entry way into Angkor Wat is called The Pathway to the Heavens because it connects the human realm with the realm of the heavens and as you walk the pathway you make the journey to the gods.
The Angkor Wat temple was massive and took us nearly 2 hours just to get through that one temple, and it was magnificently beautiful with so much detail in the carvings in the statues and walls on the property. After we got through Angkor Wat, we moved onto the even bigger complex, Angkor Thom which houses a multitude of different temples all built between 800-1200 years ago. The first temple we visited in Angkor Thom was called Bayon Temple which was relatively small on scale but extremely detailed with giant buddha heads carved into the peaks of every tower. Interestingly enough, all these faces have different facial expressions signifying the different moods of the gods. (cover image)
After Bayon Temple we walked about a quarter of a mile to the next temple called Baphuan Temple. This temple wasn’t very large but it was extraordinary. There was a long bridge that connected the temple to the main road and it was situated between two large man-made ponds (supposedly containing sucked buddha heads). The temple was around 7-8 stories high and extremely detailed. There was a stone labyrinth situated the north of the temple which immediately caught my attention and we ventured deep into the maze, which thankfully connected out on the other end.
Once out of the labyrinth, we ventured back to the main road where our driver Sorn was there to take us to the next location. In the car, we drove over the old bridge which our driver stopped to let us take pictures with the demon of the old bridge -an outgrowth in the tree that looks like a horned demon from the right angle.
After the bridge we drove winding roads through the jungle for about 10 minutes until we came upon Ta Prohm Temple. Ta Prohm is the tomb raider temple, where they filmed the movies. It was absolutely incredible to be able to wander through the temple. This one was by far the most green of the temples and by far the most decrepit. The ruins were caving in on themselves but there was visible work being done to slow the decay of these incredible structures. Ta Prohm featured numerous hallways all stretching on for ages, and tons of intricate statues and murals. There were was a local band set up in one of the courtyards playing traditional Khmer music so it made the whole experience seem like it was out of a movie. It was surreal and absolutely breathtaking. I got to play Lara Croft for a day.
The final temple we viewed for the day was the oldest temple in the Angkor Thom complex. The temple, called Prasat Kravan was by far the smallest of the temples that we had seen and the bricks that were used for the construction were small red bricks similar to the ones that we still use today instead of sand stone and lava rock like the other temples were built of. This temple featured 5 towers, the tallest being in the center and all featured detailed carvings of goddess within them.
All in all, seeing those temples and being able to experience them for myself was #1 on my bucket list and I checked it off before I ever imagined too. However, that doesn’t mean that I won’t return to see them again. Out of the 3000+ temples that reside in Cambodia, we saw a total of 8. There is still plenty of exploring to do, and I my friend, will be exploring the rest those temples before my dying day. It was too magical of a place to not go back.
As the sun was setting on the Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat complexes we returned to our hotel to shower before catching a quick dinner at our new favorite Cambodian restaurant Wok Republik. Of course, we got more of that delicious Tom Yum, but we also got some Pineapple Duck and the lost amazing beef loklak we’ve ever had. Oh and I can’t forget that delicious, crisp Angkor Draft. We ate and drank our fill and stumbled back to our hotel in pure exhaustion from such a magnificent day.