Temple Run, Day One – Angkor Thom – Siem Reap, Cambodia

We’ve packed our backpacks, said “until next time” to Thailand, and moved on to our next stop, Cambodia. The journey was a short one hour flight, so while it feels like we hardly moved, we’re in a completely different environment. There’s a new language, new food, and new people to adapt to, but on the bright side the U.S. dollar is the unofficial second currency of Cambodia. For the first time in four months, we don’t have to calculate how much something costs.

Cambodia is our last stop in Southeast Asia, and we’re making it a short one. We’re staying in Siem Reap for a few days, specifically to explore Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is a complex of temples that together form the largest religious site in the world. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s also pretty amazing in that parts of it were built nearly a thousand years ago, and no effort was made to preserve it until very recently, but it’s still there. We’ve seen many pictures and read a lot about it. It’s one of South East Asias most visited sites and has been on numerous travel lists as the number one travel destination for the past few years. We were so close to Cambodia that we weren’t going to pass up seeing it in person…and here we are.

Today was our first day out at the temples. Sokhom, our tuk-tuk driver for the next few days, picked us up at 9 and took us to our first stop, Angkor Wat, the most well known temple which shares its name with the entire site. Like most of the temples, it’s a complex of buildings, inside a wall, surrounded by a moat with a gated bridge. We wandered around exploring for about an hour until we hit our limit (apparently we didn’t travel far enough to escape the heat). All we can say is – wow! We walked around in awe, trying to imagine what it looked like in its heyday. There’s so much history in these buildings that we won’t begin to understand. But the architecture and detail in every aspect of Angkor Wat is beautiful, and we can appreciate this without understanding all of the history.

Our second stop was Ankor Thom, an even larger area close to Angkor Wat. We stopped off to take pictures and walked up and through a huge gate, which was more like a building carved from stone. It’s a massive stone structure with faces carved into each side, with rows of statues leading up to it. It was really cool to see and walk through. Then we went inside of Ankor Thom to a temple called Prasat Bayon, which, for lack of a better description looked out of this world. This was a temple that was so big, it took us over an hour to climb up, navigate our way around, and climb back down…and we still managed to miss a few areas. This temple has big smiling faces built into the towers. Everywhere you looked, there was a face looking down watching you. It was built 800-900 years ago, and everything about it was partially deteriorated, partially crumbling, but still intact. The pictures just don’t do it justice.

This picture was taken on the upper level of Prasat Bayon. In the photo, there are three towers, each with a face looking forward. There are also faces on each side of the towers. The faces themselves are about 8 feet tall. The towers are much larger. We ended our day here due to the heat, but based on how awesome just these two places were, we’re excited to get back out there bright and early tomorrow.