After a very, very, very bumpy ride to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh, we made it in time for sunset. We purchased a 3-day pass that allows you into the park at sunset the night before it starts. To get around the city. People typically hire a tuktuk or ride bicycles. We went the tuktuk route and had a great time with the air blowing through our hair as we went to nearby places and also explored some of the farther out temples.
First stop – Angkor Wat. It was probably the largest temple by land mass and had a large moat around it. There were multiple entry points and walkways. During our stay, we saw both sunrise and sunset. While it was wonderful to experience these, I wouldn’t necessarily consider them mandatory. Although it is pretty funny to watch hundreds to thousands of people all holding up their cellphones to take photos instead of experiencing it for themselves and not through a screen.
Angkor Wat is the national symbol of Cambodia and is on the flag. It is a symbolic representation of Mt. Meru, the Mt. Olympus of the Hindu faith. It represents heaven on earth.
The Bayon temple was by far my favorite temple of all the ones we saw. It featured 216 faces and was very fun to explore.
Baphuon temple had a very long walkway leading up to a temple that looked like the Mexican temple of Teotihuacan.
Nearby was the Terrace of the Elephants which had three elephants side by side. It seemed to be inspiration for the t-shirts with the three elephants on them that are all over Cambodia.
The East Gate of Angkor Thom was used in the movie Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie, as was Bayon and Ta Prohm temple. Due to its prominent role in the movie, Ta Prohm is typically referred to as the jungle temple or simply Tomb Raider temple. It was wonderful to see and very interesting as the jungle took over parts of it.
In doing the restoration of these temples, they had to work with and around nature. It’s fascinating to see the temples where nature has taken over. It gives them a wonderful dynamic.
We chose to do a tour of some of the more distinct temples. We started out at Kbal Spean aka “The River of a Thousand Lingas.” We hiked into the jungle a few kilometers and came upon the river. Lingas represent phalli and yoni represent vaginas. See below for a picture.
This river bed only had Lingas but there were a lot of depictions of both in the other temples. The in gas seems to have diminished in size a bit due to water erosion but it was still quite an interesting site to see. A waterfall nearby only added to the beauty.
Banteay Srei is another temple, whose name means “Citadel of the Women.” It is thought to have been built by women as the stone carvings have been deemed to elaborate for the hand of man.