Sunday, May 31, 2009

Siem Reap, Cambodia: A Game Plan for Angkor Wat

With such an amazing history and story, it would seems a waste to only "drop by" Angkor Wat. You really need to have a game plan in effect for visiting this site. I explored the temples for two days, and felt like there was still so much that I could have seen and done.

In preparation of the big adventure, I would highly suggest that you contract with a tuk tuk driver for your entire stay in Siem Reap. Not only is it the easiest way to get around, but the drivers are reliable and affordable, and can definitely use the funds to help support their family.


I have set out a two-day schedule for exploring Angkor Wat. However, if you have more time, that is fantastic!

For your first day, get up bright and early and visit Angkor Thom, Bayon, Elephant and Leper King Terrace. Be sure to get there for sunrise, as it is simply gorgeous at Bayon temple. You can either break for lunch at the many tiny restaurants dotting the nearby roads, or better yet, pack a lunch and picnic right there!

In the afternoon, take your time exploring and visiting Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat. Wear those walking shoes and be prepared for a full day!

If you aren't too scared of heights, be sure to climb (very carefully) to the top of Angkor Wat for an outstanding view. There is one hand rail for the 25 foot wide stairs, and since only one person is lucky enough to use it, most just pile up the stairs with reckless abandon. Me? Not so much. I waited it out til all those crazy kids got up there, then proceeded to take the handrail! Much better!

On day two, check out Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Mebon and Pre Rup. Don't miss Angkor Wat's reflection on the lake as the sun begins to set. It makes for a breathtaking view and awe-inspiring photos.

After seeing this amazing site, do your best to give back to the community, be it through making a few purchases at the local shops and restaurants, or simply by tipping your tour guide or driver. They appreciate it more than you will ever know!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Siem Reap, Cambodia: Visiting Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is not one temple, but a complex of many temples at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city.

Unlike most Khmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west rather than the east. This has led many to conclude that Suryavarman intended it to serve as his funerary temple.

Afternoon reflections

The outer wall, 1024 by 802 m and 4.5 m high, is surrounded by a 30 m apron of open ground and a moat 190 m wide. Access to the temple is by an earth bank to the east and a sandstone causeway to the west; the latter, the main entrance, is a later addition, possibly replacing a wooden bridge.

A view from the top of the main temple

Bayon Temple

The Bayon Temple was the last state temple to be built at Angkor, and the only Angkorian state temple to be built primarily as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine dedicated to the Buddha, though a great number of minor and local deities were also encompassed as representatives of the various districts and cities of the realm.

The Faces of Bayon Temple

The similarity of the 216 gigantic faces on the temple's towers to other statues of the king has led many scholars to the conclusion that the faces are representations of Jayavarman VII himself. Look for the smiling face at sunrise. It a truly amazing view that will make you smile for years after your visit.

All smiles...