The meeting time in the hotel lobby this morning was 4:45am! We were up bright and early to catch the famous sunrise over the biggest Buddhist temple in the world… Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat, as well is being the name of the big temple, is also the name of the complex that is home to numerous temples over an area of 400Km squared right in the jungle of Siem Rep.
You can buy a one or two day pass if you’re really keen but we just opted for the one day. This allows you to walk (or bus) around the complex at your leisure to explore what Angkor has to offer. We visited the three biggest and most popular (and in Ratha’s opinion, most beautiful) temples: Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm (AKA The TOMB RAIDER TEMPLE!)
The sunrise over the temple was beautiful and majestic … and crowded. Every human being in Siem Reap was there to watch this wonder of the world come to life. Pro tip: get there as early as you possibly can or you wont see a thing. It is advised that you stand at the edge of the pond to catch the reflection, creating a postcard image.
I got some great shots but then Cornelia, Lindsey and I moved closer toward the temple to get away from the crowd and get some fun photos.
Here’s the biggest tip I can give you about Angkor (and one of the reasons I’m glad I came with G Adventures!… So much local knowledge!)… After the sunrise… leave this temple and go to another one quickly. Most people, since they’re already standing there, then enter Angkor to have a look. It ends up being way too crowded to really enjoy yourself in there. We headed to the Bayon temple, more affectionately known as the temple of smiling faces.
We managed to beat the crowd there and for that I will be forever thankful. It meant the whole temple was more peaceful and I was able to enjoy it at my own pace. We had a local guide give us a brief tour around Bayon and give us a brief history of the period in which it was built, then we were free to explore for about half an hour on our own.
I’m going to keep going on about how much I love G Adventures so… sorry not sorry. The great thing about this tour was that we are given guidance as to what to do but nothing is forced upon us. We are given a suggestion but do not have to follow it if we don’t want. We were told that we could have 20 minutes to explore the temple but are allowed more if we wanted. We all wanted a bit more time so all we had to do was ask. I never felt rushed or restricted with Ratha, which is one of the many reasons I’d recommend G to everyone.
Bayon Temple was beautiful. I felt very spiritual and spent some time just on my own wandering through the intricately carved archways, taking photos and just reflecting on my journey so far. It was lovely and peaceful and I’d come back in a heartbeat.
The second temple was my most anticipated one of the day. It’s the one from the first Tomb Raider movie back in 2001. Before the film the temple was not open to the public but since then it has been one of the main attractions of Siem Reap. The reason it’s so recognizable and special is that it has GIANT tree roots growing all the way through and around it. It really is magnificent.
Ta Prohm temple is surrounded by a giant wall with an entrance on each of the four sides. We entered from a less popular entrance (once again, thank you Ratha) through a beautiful grand old archway. We took a group photo and then I had an idea for a photo with Cornelia and Lindsey holding hands together underneath it. I feel like we really bonded this day and became friends for life. It was something to do with the spiritual feeling of this place and how well we connected with it.
The temple itself was magnificent. The tree roots creeping through and around the stonework was truly a wonder. I of course had to do a Lara Croft pose in front of the temple entrance where the shot was in the film.
Finally we headed back along to the great Angkor Wat, entering from the other side this time so see a different angle. This temple really is big. There are so many little passageways and staircases I would have easily got lost without the guide. We learnt all about the carvings on the walls and the history of Buddhism itself. The entire complex has a beautiful smell of incense as people come from all over the world just to pray here. There are people kneeling at statues around every corner.
There’s something beautiful about Buddhism. The symmetry and balance of it all. It was here that I decided if I was going to ever pick a religion… this would be it.
By this time we are well into the day. I think it was about 1pm by the time we finished Angkor. We were all super hungry and I think this was one of the hottest days, weather wise, on our whole trip! We were exhausted so we sat down to a nice lunch inside the complex. Ratha ordered a couple of Cambodian delicacies for us to try… fire ant salad and snake soup! I was too scared to try the snake but I did have some fire ants! I ordered the traditional Cambodian meal of “Amok” which was served inside an actual coconut. Yummm.
We left Angkor at about 2pm and had a well needed rest and swim in the hotel pool.
Angkor Wat was definitely a highlight of my whole trip. It was the start of a spiritual shift in my life which I am very thankful for. If you’re looking for answers, I’d suggest a visit to the largest Buddhist temple in the world. You may just find what you’re looking for.
Also… cute baby monkeys…