There is no place like Siem Reap, for it is the gateway to the beautiful and majestic ruins of Angkor - what was once the seat of the Khmer empire, many centuries ago.
The ruins range from large to small, and are scattered among farms and forests. The most well known and restored temple is the large and magnificent Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Angkor Wat is the main draw for tourists to Cambodia, for it has been preserved very well, albeit a lot of the carvings have been restored. It covers a huge area – spanning a few kilometres on just the sides alone, and is protected by a moat. It’s a short tuk-tuk ride from Siem Reap, about 5km.
Prepare for a long walk and some climbing – but also intricate carvings and details.
The huge temple has two entrances – the one at the back is comparatively deserted without all the usual stalls at the front (note, they sell things at jacked up prices, as in touristy areas).
that leads to this:
From the back, you can follow a long corridor of carvings which tell a story. It’s rather long, so some people do not finish the walk. Here are two photos:
Near Angkor Wat is the amazing Bayon Temple – known for its huge carved stone faces on many of its towers.
How many heads can you spot below? (:
The style of the temple contrasts greatly with that of the classic Angkor Wat, and while it is not in as good a state, it is still a stunning sight.
Other ruins there include the Elephant Terrace:
and the Terrace of the Leper King:
This Leper King statue (above) is a replica, the original is in a museum if I’m not wrong. However, don’t just climb up to the top and then leave – there’s a small path of sorts like a maze as it’s surrounded by tall walls despite being in the open – and there are gorgeous carvings along the path:
Young children are a common sight at the temples:
Many of them grow up in poverty and are often begging or selling trinkets for a large fee at the historical sites. However if you buy from one, the rest will start to hound you, so think about it. Encouraging this may also cause them to leave school to continue their more lucrative activities.
Not to end on such a sad note, there are cute animals to be found on temple grounds:
By the way, don’t forget to visit the temples off the beaten track. Banteay Srei, a temple considered miniature compared with most of the rest, is more than 20km away from the big Angkor ruins but a sight not to be missed even if a long, bumpy ride away. Have fun exploring the ruins!