Probably the most famous sights to visit in Cambodia, the temples of Angkor! Breathtaking and mystical, the ruins are nested in the mighty jungle near Siem Reap. Unfortunately, government has decided to raise the price of the one-day pass to a whopping $37, so most people can only afford to rush through a couple of temples for a single day, which is both exhausting and a pity.
The good thing about visiting in April is that it is low-season, so not as many tourists (still a lot of tourists), another plus is that it is not yet rainy season. But, April is the hottest month of the year and it makes the experience a bit less comfortable.
Starting off at the temple Ta Prum (yes, Angkor Wat is just one of many!), made famous by Tomb Raider and simply magical because the jungle is reclaiming the ruins and trees sprout from the stones and roots curve around man-made artwork.
The most beautiful parts of the temple complex is the intricate detail on every wall and every single stone. It makes me wonder how much man-power was put into this and how many people died building the temples. Because seriously, it is hot even in the morning and tropical bugs are no joke. It is easy to get dizzy from dehydration and faint from the heat.
Climbing the stairs to Baphoun temple, searching for a bit of shade. Midday sun is cruel in South East Asia! Nonetheless, the view overlooking the jungle evokes a feeling of serenity, of being detached from the world.
Bayon temple is known for its many buddha heads. This temple is a newer addition to the complex (relatively speaking), and many faces are still quite distinct.
The last temple of the day, Angkor Wat. At about 3pm, the sun is still going strong, but we are not. Even after drinking 4l of water and sweating out what feels like twice as much, we really struggle to listen to the guide we hire for Angkor Wat. The oldest (almost a millenium old) and biggest temple of the complex, it unfortunately has a wide area of open space that has to be crossed by foot. Not good. But it is beautiful with lots of Hindu and Buddhist artwork from an era when this was the center of power and some traces from the fighting of the war.
Everyone we encounter looks tired and worn out, the tour guides, tourists, vendors, drivers. The heat gets to everyone.
Still, Angkor is a must-see, and although one day is not enough to soak in all of the beauty of the ruins and explore all of the temples, it offers a glimpse into a breathtaking work of art created by an ancient civilization. Angkor still keeps many secrets and although it is a touristy place, it retains its mystical nature.
April 9th 2017