9 June, Siem Reap
A bit of delayed action from Cambodia…just didn’t find the time to get it done while I was there..currently in Bangalore!
Siem Reap is a small town that has developed majorly in the last 20-30 years as a result of having tourists come to visit Angkor Wat and surrounding temples. We only had 3 nights here but loved the place, it was a small and relatively quiet town (apart from being asked if we wanted a motorbike every two minutes). We checked out the local markets and really got stuck into some of the Khmer food on offer…namely Amok (a coconut cream curry) and Lok Lak (fried meat with rice and a tasty gravy. We also said farewell to a friend (who we thought we’d already fare welled) Raj…he took us to an Indian restaurant one night and gave us the run down on who to order and eat Indian food. Ok he also helped us polish off a fair few jugs of the fresh brew Angkor.
Well this was always going to be a must see on our trip to Sth East Asia. Angkor Wat and and it’s surround temples make up a huge historic area to the north of Siem Reap (which is in the north of Thailand). Built in the 12 Century for King Suryavarman II, originally being built as a temple based around Hindu beliefs, it was later changed to be a Buddhist temple.
We decided to knock it off in one day, so organised a 5am pick-up to head out to the site. It was tough going early on, just trying to peel the eye-lids back, but eventually once we reached the site we were wide awake. Our first temple was the main temple Angkor Wat, where we took plenty of photographs and casually walked around the place. The size of the site and the intricate carving certainly made you think about how long it took to build and just how important the site was to the King. Apologies for the number of photos but it’s just to easy to take a lot!!
An hour and a half later, and a bite to eat, we were off to the oldest temple (built 10th Century) of the Angkor site called “Banteay Srei” known for it’s intricate carving and the colourful stones which make up the temple. This was a personally one of my favourites, much smaller than other temples, set amongst a nice green area and the carving certainly was pretty interesting. Images such as 3 headed snakes, elephants battling and all number of Buddhist beings were carved all over the site.
In all fairness Banteay Strei delivered on more than one interesting level…we were walking out of the site when I said to Jono “We should get our driver to take us to see snakes, not the snake farm kind but places where there are snakes in the wild” and 4 steps along the path later, Jono came 15cm from standing on a wild snake! CRAZY! We weren’t sure what to do as we wanted to play with it, but we then realised that it had a frog lodged in it’s mouth that it had obviously just killed! So Jono gave it a flick with a stick and not too much happened…perfect I thought, my chance to live my dream as Austin Stevens or Bear Grylls…so I proceeded to crouch down, with the video on my camera running and gave the snakes tail a flick with my finger (check out the video below). MAN, that thing took off at lightening speed, while funny it was pretty impressive to see just how quickly those things can move if provoked. Luckily it didn’t strike my way and had a frog stuck in it’s mouth! Magic experience!
After that it was on to visit another 3 of the main temples, the Bridal temple, Angkor Thom (Bayon) and Ta Phrom, the temple that was used in the Tomb Raider movie. We spent another 4 hours looking around these 4 temples. Each of them were pretty different, Bridal being quite small but really high, and we were able to clib up and look out over the tree canopy to see Angkor Wat in the distance. Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider) was different in that it had a huge number of trees growing over the temple and at times up through the temples roofs, it had a number of small passageways and low doors that you could certainly relate to the film…(even though I haven’t seen the film I’m going to assume it was like the film). Angkor Thom is the largest of the sites and contains a very well designed temples called Bayon – the temple has a huge number of faces which have literally been carved out of stone, they look out over the temple on all angles.
As far as temples go, Angkor Wat is by far the most impressive I’ve seen in terms of scale, varying building designs, religions and settings (most of it is based in forests near farmlands). Jono and I certainly aren’t temple buffs or “Templers” as we call them, but certainly appreciated just how awesome Angkor was.
We signed off from Siem Reap after 3 days and headed for Phenom Phen, in search of a new travelling pal, an existing NZ pal and some great times….