05.08.2011 – 06.08.2011
We arrived a Siem Reap in the middle of the afternoon, with just enough time to spare to check into a hostel, grab a couple of bikes and cycle the 10 km along a very scenic and quiet road to the entrance of the Angkor archaeological park in time for sunset. We headed to Angkor Wat – the largest temple in the park - and wandered round it for an hour or so before sitting near its very top to watch the sunset. We had the whole place practically to ourselves and, in the gathering dusk, the “city temple” was truly breath-taking.
In front of Angkor Wat
You feel small in a temple build for Gods
Two and a Wat
And of course.. the sunset from Angkor Wat
The next day we got up at 5 am and again set off on our bikes, this time however, with the intention of completing the small circuit; a 30 km loop linking the three stars of the archaeological site – Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm.
It was in the early morning light that the beauty of the park became apparent. The temples are not simply a mass of intricately sculpted stonework – instead they are very much a part of the surrounding landscape. The dark gray of their stone contrasts sharply with the dark red soil of the land and the temples are shrouded in lush vegetation and surrounded by huge expanses of water. The temples are hidden as one cycles and then all of a sudden appear out of nowhere where the jungle has been cut back.
And so we cycled past Angkor Wat, seeing it this time with the rising sun as opposed to the setting one. We then proceeded to Bayon, a temple covered in 216 gigantic (and identical) faces apparently intended to look serene.
Three of the many faces of Bayon
After visiting a number of smaller temples, we concluded with Ta Prohm – where tall trees tower over the temple and sink their gigantic roots into the stonework. It was only when I saw the size and stature of these trees, growing out from the temple walls, that I realised how truly ancient these temples must be.
After visiting a handful of smaller temples we headed back to Siem Reap, for a shower, lunch and a lazy afternoon reading in a coffee shop.
A happy lady on her way back to Siem Reap