A big day of sightseeing needed to start with a big hearty breakfast followed by a run to the grocery store to get snacks. We didn’t knows if we’d have time for lunch and I’ll be damned if I missed cool temples because we have to go out of the park for some more mystery meat on a stick. We even packed up some TP just in case our last batch of mystery meat decided to get out of line.
I’m writing this after the fact. As per request of my lovely wife, I will be giving a temple by temple recap but there’s absolutely no way I could do this place justice. Hopefully between my writings and McKayla’s photos you can get a decent idea of the awesomeness that was today.
We began as most do: with the main event, Angkor Wat. There is a large moat surrounding the main temple grounds. The moat is 200 yards wide and can be crossed by the bridges on either the east or west sides. There are two main walls encompassing the main feature. As you cross through the main wall, you have nearly a quarter mile to take in three of the giant spires with palm trees, smaller temples and an ornate walkway in the foreground. This view is the center of the national flag in Cambodia.
As we continue through the second gate more passageways, statues and stonewall carvings start to expose themselves. This entire layer of walls tell stories, myths and legends of passed wars. Between the outer square and the most inner square, there are open field stone bathing pools and more small temples.
The innermost square had a walkway with surrounding walls and very steep staircases climbing a few hundred feet to the Bakan. The Bakan is where there are four big expires on four corners on each side of a giant spier that rose above all. Inside the main spire were statues. One in each of the cardinal directions, each in different pose symbolizing… something meaningful… of this I’m sure. Yeah, Angkor Wat – wow, just wow.
Bayon. I’m assuming most of you have seen images of these ruins. There are currently 39 standing spires, all of which had four sides of smiling faces going in each of the cardinal direction, each represents a combination of king and a god, or so we’re told.
This place was Goonies meets play house; it was a maze of tunnels, passageways and steep staircases. Most of the staircases eventually led up to the main platform, which was the best place to spot the happy king of the past. The Bayon was the main area of Angkor. It was a tall complex, a 3 km squared complex housing some 20 plus temples, palaces and pagodas (they have a lot of different names for seemingly similar structures).
In each of the Anchor Thom entrances (north, south, east and west) where incredible 50 foot tall statues/gates, similar to the structures in Bayonne with enough space for elephants or, currently, one way vehicle traffic.
Ta Prohm. This place combines two of my favorite things: history and trees. I mean what more can I possibly ask for? It goes without saying but this was definitely my favorite place this far. Nice, big, healthy trees engulfing and, in some cases, destroying the beautiful ruins. It’s a clear and awesome example of the jungle reclaiming is rightfully hers.
When the French rediscovered the area, they chose to leave the trees as they were and I couldn’t be happier with that decision. The strangling figs have somehow figured out how to take off, survive and thrive around and on top of these temples.
Many of these trees are equipped with plaques showing their name and species. It took every bit of self-control I could muster not to start climbing on these gangly roof structures. Thankfully I was able contain myself.