5/25 – Half an hour north of Siem Reap is a collection of ancient temples known as Angkor. They are actually different cities, built in different centuries (between the sixth and the twelfth) by different kings. When rediscovered by the French in the late 1800s, it was thought that the temples were so intricate and advanced that they must have been built by the Romans. They were built as Hindu temples, and some of the later ones were converted to Buddhist. They are in the process of being restored.
We hired a tuk-tuk at our hotel to drive us out to see them. The road to the temples is well paved – Siem Reap hosts over two million tourists a year who come to visit the temples. Here is our view from the tuk-tuk. Our driver asked right away how old we were. When we told him, he expressed surprise. “Old people in my country could not walk at the temples.” He pantomimed a bent old person hobbling with a cane. “You say you are old, but you do not act old.” He drove very carefully over the bumps in the road, and drove us right up to the entrance. What a nice young man.
The main attraction, Angkor Wat, lies across a protective moat. The weather was swelteringly hot, and the paths were brimming with tourists.
This temple complex is huge, with many corridors. The rooms are empty and unlit except for where the roof has fallen and the sun shines in. The corridors reminded me of some of the monasteries we visited in Europe.
The walls are decorated with intricate bas relief.
After an hour, we got back in our tuk-tuk and drove to the next temple, at Angkor Thom. The entrance road has a row of figures on either side, holding onto a naga like a tug-o-war. Some of the faces have been restored, others washed away by time.
This temple is known for its towers, which have faces carved on all four sides. There are differences of opinion on what the faces are meant to represent. You have to look hard to see some of the faces.
Amazing. My favorite so far.
Our last temple of the day was Ta Phrohm. In great disrepair, it is best known for the huge spung trees that have reclaimed the buildings for the jungle. The trees were huge and looked like they could walk.
An exhausting and amazing day.