Angkor Wat was impressive due to its size and intricate stone masonry but the temples in the jungle blew me away. I felt like I was in another world.
Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century and was the capital of the Khmer empire and home of the Khmer King. It was originally built as a Hindu temple but was converted gradually into a Buddhist temple by the end of 12th century.
We decided to take a three day pass to explore the Angkor archaeological site at our own slow pace. We also hired a scooter so we could have a flexible itinerary.
We woke up early to see the sunrise and to capture the postcard shot of Angkor Wat but actually had to wait for the second day for the latter.
The huge sandstone monument was masoned with intricate ornate narratives of elephants, demons and important people shaded by umbrellas with the number of umbrellas implying how important they were.
The bright coloured dress of the monks in and around the temple we quite striking and would make great photos if no one else was around. Beth and I explored the different levels of the Angkor Wat and clambered up the extremely steep staircase to the top, which represents climbing to the holy peak, Mount Meru, some 750,000 kms high.
The most impressive sights are the smaller temples in the jungle. You feel like you’re discovering the temples for the first time.
You walk through the jungle with a buzz of anticipation created by the cicadas. The temple appears in the distance dwarfed by the 80m silk-cotton trees. The exposed surfaces of the temple are patched with light green lichen. The contrast of the green grass, trees and patchy lichen against the stone is so picturesque. As you get closer still you see the strangler fig tree that seem to erupt from the rubble stone blocks but it is in fact the trees that have caused the stonework to collapse around them. The trees appear to melt down the stone walls with a web of roots stretching down to the soil. It was truly mesmerising and a sight not to be missing. Add Angkor Wat to your bucket list.
With temperatures in the mid thirties and approx 60% humidity it felt more like 40 degrees. We enjoyed the scooter rides through the jungle amongst the tuk tuks and sitting at the top of the temples in the breeze and shade watching the swifts and red breasted parakeets.
Entrance to Bayon was lined with stone Buddhas and the gate towers had faces looking out over the surrounding area. The photos would have looked so much better on a sunny day with a blue sky but unfortunately it was cloudy most days we were there.
Ta Prohm was our favourite temple followed by Ta Som and Preah Khan each being embedded in the jungle dwarfed by huge silk-cotton trees and rooty strangler fig trees. The eastern archway of Ta Som is particularly picturesque being taken over by the strangler fig.
Angkor Thom was also good to explore with the highlight being the elephant terrace and the open area opposite with a few temples and several whopping trees.
Thanks Mum and Dad for Beth’s birthday money! It’s paid for our 3 day passes for Angkor Wat.