Cambodia: Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm
In Siem Riep, I spent three days visiting temples and museums. I visited four temples on the first day (but only have photographs of Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm because my camera ran out of memory), several others on the second, and Beng Malea, which was two hours away, on the third. The visits to the temples were combined with eating bamboo sticky rice on the side of the road (delicious), drinking massive green coconuts (best way to stay hydrated) and a stop at the Landmine Museum (which deserves a separate post). I’m going to be organized and post the photographs chronologically.
Angkor Wat opens early because visitors flock to the temple as early as 5:30 in the morning to watch the sunrise. I did not go at sunrise because I knew it would be too crowded for me. Instead, I went at 7:00, when the sunrise spectators were leaving. It gave me the chance to wander around the massive temple alone. I climbed up to a secluded spot and sat on a ledge for a while, watching the sunlight scrawl across the stone as it climbed slowly higher in the sky. I went to Angkor Wat with guarded expectations, having visited other monuments thinking they would blow me away but leaving disappointed. Delicate floral carving juxtaposed against the hardness of thousand-year-old stone and the sheer massiveness and ancientness of the place amazed me. I still can’t get over it.
I hesitate to choose a favorite temple but I loved the illusions of Bayon. View it from one angle and you see three faces, view it from a different angle and you see five. They may be the faces of King Jayavarman VII, each slightly different, smiling gently and staring off into all corners of his kingdom.
You may recognize Ta Prohm as the famous tree-choked Tomb Raider temple. Architecturally, it was different from Bayon and Angkor Wat as it was smaller. It did not tower over its visitors as mightily as Angkor Wat. Nor did it intimidate via illusion like Bayon. It is falling to pieces, slowly overtaken by nature, but is popular with tourists because it is not too far from Siem Riep and was made famous by Angelina Jolie a few years ago.