Day 9: Siem Reap
This morning we woke up, assessed our health, and decided we were feeling well enough to have some breakfast and go see the temples of Angkor. We hired a tuk-tuk and headed off into the (blazing) midday sun.
Basically, this place is massive. Of the hundreds of temples that make up Angkor, we started at Angkor Wat (‘temple that is a city’). The most famous temple of Angkor is also the best-preserved as it was never abandoned to the elements. To reach the actual temple, you first must cross a huge rectangular moat and pass thru an outer wall, encompassing over 200 acres of land where the city that supported the temple once existed.
Angkor Wat contains three stories, each enclosing a square of intricately linked galleries. Surrounding the outside of the first story is an amazing series of bas-reliefs, which describe important events in Khmer history.
We wandered through the galleries and made our way up to the second story; unfortunately we weren’t able to climb the steep staircase up to the third level. Crowds were incredibly light – we practically had the grounds to ourselves.
Everywhere you look there is incredible detail carved into the stone; Angkor Wat features over 3000 apsaras (heavenly nymphs), complete with 37 different hairstyles. 🙂 Thousands of myths, legends, signs, and symbols are seen around the temple, some serving as protectors or purifiers. Many of the carvings were damaged by previous attempts to clean the temples with chemicals in the 1980s, but a large restoration project is underway.
Overheated (why did we decide to come here at noon again?) and still a little wobbly from our tummy issues the day before, we weren’t feeling the best but decided to press on to another one of the area’s highlights: the tree-locked temple of Ta Phrom. The most atmospheric of all the temples of Angkor, it has been swallowed by the jungle, its towers and walls consumed by the vast root systems of the gigantic trees that surround it.
After an abbreviated tour of Ta Phrom, our shaky state of health deemed our day of touring over. We shuffled past the many children selling bracelets and postcards at the temple entrance, found our driver napping under a tree, and drove back to the hotel for some much-needed air-conditioning and pool time.
Feeling better, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the hotel’s cafe before doing some more shopping at the nearby night market.
We didn’t see as much of Angkor as we wanted today, so here’s hoping we feel well enough to head back out tomorrow on our last day in Siem Reap!