4:30 AM - The streets of Siem Reap were dark and quiet as we got ready to catch the sunrise behind Angkor Wat. It felt very strange after the crazy-busy streets of Saigon!
As we got closer to the UNESCO World Heritage Site I noticed that we were part of a long parade of tuk tuks, all carrying tourists, with the hopes of witnessing a colorful sunrise. The weather was as cool as it could be (26-28 degrees) but even with the wind on our face we were sweating already. For $17 US, Mala agreed to be our tuk tuk driver for the whole day, stopping at the main sites that we chose: Angkor Wat, Angkor Tom, Ta Prohm and Banteay Kdei.
|Our excellent tuk tuk driver Mala.|
Angkor Wat6:00 AM - Despite the clouds, I still managed to get some sun rise colours on camera (thanks to my Vivid Colors setting. I know. I cheat.) The long walk over the moat and towards the main temple was spectacular. Almost every column, wall and ramp is covered in detailed bas-relief. I will never see the Cambodia flag the same way.
|5:45 AM Sunrise on Angkor Wat.|
|Some of the Apsara carvings inside of Angkor Wat.|
Angkor Thom8:00 AM - Angkor Wat gets all the attention, but I think I prefered Angkor Thom! At most of the sites we visited there isn't much information about the structures and statues. You need a tour guide or book to know why they were built, in honour of what god, and what each carving means. However there is a lot of signage about the impressive conservation projects happening in every temple of the complex! In many cases, structures were completely falling apart... so they were taken down, the pieces were numbered and rebuilt with a solid foundation and replacement stones (for those missing or broken) like a massive 3D puzzle!
|Side of Bayon, the biggest temple within Angkor Thom.|
|Me at the top of Baphoun, one temple of Angkor Thom.|
|You really have to watch your step once you get to the top of Phimeanakas.|
Ta Prohm11:30 AM - Hot hot heat! 35 feels like 45, I think. But it wơn't stop me from visiting Ta Prohm which is by far my favorite temple. Not because it appears in Tomb Raider but because it's just so damn beautiful. For better or for worse, because the massive fig trees growing all over the templ ruins are actually destroying it very slowly. The roots are very strong so they hold up the walls. But once the tree dies, everything falls apart.
12:30 PM - Lunch in an air conditionned restaurant. Thank goodness!
Banteay Kdei1:00 PM - We went for one last visit: Banteay Kdei, "the Citadel of Monks", built in the 12th and 13th centuries. I think it looks like a mini version of Angkor Thom, with scultped faces on the top, with trees growing all over it like Ta Prohm, and with very well preserved carvings of Apsaras on the walls. Unfortunately this temple is full of wooden or metal beams holding the place together until a proper restoration project can be funded here. France? US?
|A nice inside view of Banteay Kdei gives perspective...|
Back to Angkor Wat2:00 PM - Before leaving the complex on our tuk tuk with Mala, I couldn't help but running back to the main Angkor Wat temple to get a good glimpse of this beauty under the full sunlight. Even with the scaffolding and green tarps in the middle, Angkor Wat is still breathtaking.
|Tạm biệt Angkor Wat!|