Temples of Angkor!

According to a 2007 field study conducted by The National Academy of Sciences, Angkor is “the largest pre-industrial city in the world.” – Pretty amazing fact to consider when getting ready to explore the ancient ruins. It was the work of the Khmer Empire and

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King King Suryavarman II who started the construction of Angkor Wat as his personal temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Over several years and several hundred square kilometers later, nearly 1000 separate temples exist today, some of course in better condition than others. An amazing amount of history is involved with the temples, so we were honored to be present in such an inspiring place.

Love the moss!

We took full advantage of our free bikes the next morning and headed out to explore the temples. We were buzzing with energy so even though the humidity was intense, we pushed through it knowing that peddling the few kilometers would be well worth it.

The ticket booth is along the main road and you could almost miss it if you weren’t looking for it. Something to consider, bring cash when it’s time to buy tickets because they don’t accept cards, we found that out the hard way. No big deal as it would

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have taken something catastrophic to derail our excitement.


As we entered the site, the large body of water surrounding Angkor Wat was a tranquil and refreshing blue in the endless waves of green, and we could see the main temple in the background. We turned left on the main road and came circling around the lake, keeping our eyes focused on the picturesque scenery. One of our initial impressions entering into Angkor was how impeccably clean the area was.

Once we parked the bikes and had a chat with some of the locals touting post cards & waters and promising them our business for when we came out, we headed inside the first of several temples.

Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples and the only one that is still used today is absolutely massive. I’ve read that it is the largest single religious monument in the world. There is a cool cobble stone pathway that leads up to the entrance, taking you over the water like a drawbridge to a castle. You enter through the outside wall and once you clear the monks inside lighting incense, the temple is upon you. We stopped and admired the grounds and the temple from a distance for a bit and continued on to the inside.

Loved this path!

It was very impressive how well preserved it was, especially considering the estimated 2 million tourists that pass through each year. Chels and I went into photo frenzy, snapping left and right in between eaves dropping on tour guide sessions. When it came time to climb the center, which is the holiest place on the grounds, Chels had to hang back because she didn’t have the proper attire. Shoulders AND knees must be covered! (Bring a sari and scarf so you don’t have to wear lots of clothing in that heat.)

The main temple!

The whole time we were practically speechless, except for when we would look at each other and utter a “cooool” or “AMAZING!!!”. After about 2 hours we decided to move on from Angkor Wat and save some space on our memory cards for the other temples. To the bikes!

The next stop was Prasat Bayon, the temple of faces. It is definitely one of the more technical temples we saw. What I mean by that is, artistry is more intense here than at Angkor Wat. Carving a detailed face into stone with primitive tools leaves me dumbfounded. It speaks volumes about the dedication to religious figures. We loved Bayon and rank it up there as one of the top temples to see while in Angkor.


It was on to Angkor Thom. This is like entering a whole new city entirely. We rode over another bridge, where we stopped for a photo op of the beautiful water. The bridge led us into a small opening in the massive protective walls that had more complex carvings on it. Once we were through the wall it was like a secret garden of sorts. The area had been cleared of brush, but massive trees stood with hanging vines housing silly monkeys. It was as if we had taken a journey back 2000 years and the only evidence of human beings was the passing tuk tuks and tour groups. We stopped to observe the monkeys and the people feeding them.  Once we started riding again we began to realize how many temples there are within the city. It is pretty overwhelming, and of course we wanted to see them all, or as many as we could. So we turned to the highlighted ones on our entry ticket.

Our Cheapo bikes!!

With every ticket purchase you receive a map of the grounds, but it didn’t seem to do it justice how big the grounds actually were. Seeming as Brad and I got the 3 day pass, we decided to save Ta Prohm for another day. Today we thought we would take the “long route” and cycle all the way around the 34 km path! MISTAKE! This is something you should do if you have a tuk-tuk driver, or perhaps a bike that ISN’T made out of rusting tin…OR perhaps when your not on an uneven rocky dirt road! Not only did it take us ages and ages and ages, but there were only a couple temples along the back paths, and NONE were as admirable as the major ones along the “short path”! I was making the most of it though, and Brad stayed positive (Which can be hard for me to do)…it was such a majestic place; nothing could bring us down really!

One of the exciting temples on the long path!

Eventually, we made it back around to the main road back to Siem Reap! We had been out for a full 12 hours now on bike, and were more than happy to get back and relax! We read somewhere that all you want to do when you get back from a full day at Angkor Wat is take a cold shower and have a cold beer. That person was on top of it! We were thrilled for our cold shower, thrilled for our free soap provided, and happy to buy a 50c beer from the guesthouse. Realizing what we had in store for us the next day, we made it a VERY early night!

4:15 a.m. and we were up! We actually beat the roosters!!! No point in showering because we’ll be dripping as soon as we step out into the humidity. 4:30 we were on our bikes and headed to Angkor Wat to catch the magnificent sunrise! Only problem….it was PITCH black outside, and Siem Reap has no road lights…not to mention our rusted tin bikes have no lights either!! Haha! As we were riding down the road at 2.5 miles an hour, trying to decipher what was in front of us, we saw an army of tuk-tuks passing us, all filled with tourists who opted to NOT ride their bikes this early in the morning haha! We were the only crazies that thought it would be a good idea. By 4:45 though, the locals were out on their bikes riding to work, and some of them DID have bicycle lights, so we stuck by them to navigate our way through the town!

First glimpse of light!

When we arrived, we grabbed an iced coffee from a local vendor and made our way up to the temple. The sky was just starting to gain a bit of dark blue in its hue when we found our spot to settle. It wasn’t long before the sky started to dazzle with pinks and oranges….and Angkor Wat started to shine! It was really a photographers dream, with the temple perfectly reflected in the lake in front! I had never seen so many tripods in my life! But it was truly a sight to remember and 100% worth waking up at the crack of dawn!


We did a quick walk around the temple before cycling off to Ta Prohm…the temple we had been saving ourselves for!  Many recognize it from Tomb raider, although I myself hadn’t seen the movie…only pictures. But my imagination didn’t even measure up to the real thing! We arrived to massive moss-covered blocks in shambles, and roots the size of an airplane emerging from the ruins! It was the coolest thing ever!!!! The trees has just completely taken over the temple, and there was no stopping them. We walked and walked and kept thinking we had found the best part, but with each corner we turned, a bigger giant was there!

The smaller...but crazy roots!

We knew when we stumbled upon the mother because there was a small crowd snapping away with their cameras….waiting to get in with the roots! So glad we were there early, otherwise who knows what the crowd might have been like! I would have stayed there forever if Brad didn’t drag me away!

Famous shot!

My single emerging thought of Ta Prohm was how powerful nature can be. Although it took several years to happen, vegetation has completely wrapped its arms around Ta Prohm, leaving us with the awe inspiring view and spectacular photos. I left that place with a greater sense to the vulnerability of mans creations to our mother earth. Whatever man builds can be taken apart in the blink of an eye.

Soo incredible!


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last day we were there we decided to take the hour plus journey beyond Angkor to the Kbal Spean Waterfall and Banteay Srei temple. The ride out was great because it gave us an alternative look at the area. We knew the stunning landscape or Cambodia but this ride took us through the endless acres of rice fields.

Neverending Rice fields

First was the waterfall which required a kilometer hike through the jungle, well partial jungle. Along the way we met a cool couple or international teachers on holiday. We had a nice chat with them about their teaching internationally and the benefits of travel. The waterfall was kind of a disappointment for as far as we came, but it was still beautiful. We took some time playing around and shooting photos and then headed pack through the jungle to our waiting tuk tuk driver.

Finally found it!

The Banteay Srei temple would turn out to be our final stop in Angkor and a grand finale it was. The carvings were so intricate and amazing I was almost not convinced that they were done as long ago as they were. We read that this temple was dedicated to women (reference) and was probably done by them because the detail required could have only been done by those who have smaller hands and higher attention to detail. Seeing the elaborate skill of the artists here justified the long ride out and was the cherry on top of our experience.

Banteay Srei

We were so enthralled an alive in Angkor that on the way up to one of the temples, we stopped and admired a line of ants that cut the path in two.  That is what Angkor did for us and I’m sure will do for anybody. It is truly a place to marvel at. The people had such amazing and resilient spirit, the nature was kept wonderfully intact and the detail and effort that went into the construction is astounding. This place is a must see, skip putting it on your bucket list, go right now. GO!


This entry was posted in Cambodia, National Parks, Ruins, Temples and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Temples of Angkor!

  1. nanny rochfort says:

    You have written a great story again on your wonderful experiences. You have seen so much in your life , well done !!!!!

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