Today can be described in the following words: unbelievable, spectacular, insurmountable, wow. I have been waiting for over a decade to visit Angkor Wat, pretty much ever since I saw Tomb Raider (even though it was actually filmed at Ta Prohm, a nearby temple.) It was the first place/thing that was ever on my bucket list, or what became it, and since I decided I was going to travel, it was the bit I was most excited about. The day had a lot of pressure lumped upon it.
Angkor Wat delivered.
After waking up at 4am and getting ont a bus to the temple complex for 5am, I was tired, hungry, too hot, and not able to see anything. Not a good thing when negotiating ancient stone concourses flanked by a moat. We followed our guide into the walled area, and could faintly see the outline of the temple against the sky. He directed us tot he best locations to get pictures of the sunrise, and accompanying water reflection, of the temple itself. Even though the sunrise was disappointing, the site was just stunning. It really did live up to all the preconceptions I had of the place.
After hearing a lot (possibly too much) about the history of the temple complex, we got a chance to look round and see some of the finer intricacies that the image searches of the temple don’t display. The carvings and artistry on display was brilliant, and depicted some interesting religious and societal scenes that I didn’t even realise were part of the temple. We got some lovely photos as a group, especially one on the steps up to the temple’s second level.
Climbing the temple made me realise just how big, and impressive, it was. And slightly made me feel like I was in Indiana Jones, which is never a bad thing. It may have been a hot and sweaty day, but it was absolutely worth it to see everything there. It was strange to do something so interesting, and then return to the hotel for breakfast, but I am really glad we got the opportunity to see it at sunrise.
I’m going to stop describing breakfast here. They like to eat rice and noodles, no matter the time, so I am getting used to the idea now. We had a good hour before we returned to the temple area, so had a dip in the pool. Such a good idea.
After preparing for more temple adventures, we drove past Angkor Wat and went to see two other lesser known temples: Bayon and Ta Prohm. The former is a similar, but less impressive structure, to Angkor Wat. The tour guide explaining that the guy who commissioned it when a bit OTT on building things, and to be fair, you could tell. It was in a much less pristine condition, and had none of the decorative merit that Angkor Wat had. It still had it’s own charm and beauty.
Ta Prohm was a land temple, where the previous two we had visited were mountain temples, which meant it had next to no stairs, only one level, and few towers.It was like a maze, completely different from the other temple’s we saw and visited. There were trees and plants growing under, in, and on the temple structures. It was fascinating to see, no idea how it happened, but it looked almost like it had been built that way. I can see why they chose that temple to film Tomb Raider. When walking to the temple it had the feel of a place that belonged in an adventure/discovery film of that style. We got another group photo, and some single ones, in front of the tomb raider door, obviously.
All the walking, sweating, and moaning in the immense heat was definitely worth it. I think it may be the best single place I have ever visited. It should be on everyone’s bucket list! When we got back, I could have crashed and napped quite happily, but we decided to chill in the pool for a bit, because the epic day was not over. In the evening, some of the group booked to do an ATV (all-terrain vehicle – a quadbike) tour of the local area. I am really glad I did it, not only because I have never done anything like that, but because we got to see a different side to Cambodia, and we got to see the sun set over the rice-fields. Sunrise and sunset in one day, I told you it was a long one!
After we got back from there, it was a quick turn around before heading out to a meal, which featured entertainment in the form of tradiational Cambodian dancing. I’m still embracing the local cuisine, but was less than impressed by the dancing. We all had a couple of drinks and went to look at the night markets. Some carried on to a Cambodian night club, but one quick look, and I knew it wasn’t for me. I headed back tot he hotel, and ended up having a lovely midnight swim with a couple of people from the tour while I waited for Jade to return home.
The longest, most jam-packed day of the trip so far. I think it will take some beating!