For the longest time at work my desktop background was the following…
The silhouette of Angkor Wat at sunrise.
Nothing else so purely symbolized travel for the 3 years I sat at my desk in Baltimore than this very scene. I envisioned waking up in the darkness, making my way through dense, steamy rainforest to finally break through a clearing and have this majestic scene stretch out in front of me.
Now that we had landed in Siem Reap (Cambodia), I was all set to make this fantasy a reality.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t happen like that (but it was pretty cool anyway)
I’m going to let the photos do most of the talking in this but here’s what happened in short; we wasted no time in arranging our visit to the sprawling complex of Angkor Temples and after watching sunset from one of the smaller temples the even before, we set off the morning of our first full day at 4:30AM – not by foot as in my fantasy, but by tuk tuk. (Fantasy Variance #1)
Next collapsed the dense rainforest vision – the Angkor complex is a huge, neatly pruned area easily accessed by roads filled with tuk tuks zipping tourists like yours truly to each of the temples. (Fantasy Variance #2)
We rolled up to the far bank of the moat surrounding Angkor Wat just minutes before the sky began to light – and here’s where reality began to align with the fantasy.
The sky lit up with a dark red glow and proceeded onto a warm golden yellow. We sat there in the steamy morning haze and drank it in. (Fantasy Alignment #1 and #2)
When the sun was fully over the horizon we proceeded into the Angkor Wat complex for an up close tour. Once inside you really grasp how absolutely massive the structure is and the amount of work that went into it.
When visiting structures like this I often find myself thinking what the world would have been like if the effort spent building shrines to invisible deities and time spent scoring points for the afterlife had been used for more productive, human-centric projects. Maybe we’d have figured out cold fusion by now? Maybe cancer wouldn’t be a big deal? Sure they’re enjoyable to tour now but at what cost? I digress.
Here’s a few shots:
After finishing up touring through Angkor we continued on our way. There are dozens of these thousand years old temples dotting the region but a few stick out; Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom (the Bayon), Ta Prohm and Banteay Srei. These are the ones we hit and they were truly fantastic.
The first after Angkor Wat was Banteay Srei which is about 40km outside the main region. On the way we got to stop and try some cane sugar snacks and see some primetime road safety in action.
Banteay Srei is famed for the detailed of the craftsmanship, not so much the size. It was beautiful.
Next was Ta Prohm which ended up blowing my mind! The temple has had trees growing over it’s decrepit walls for hundreds of years resulting in some of the coolest sights I’ve ever come across in all my travels. Ask Jenna. I couldn’t get over how cool it was.
So to celebrate how cool it was – here’s 9 photos!
Did I mention that it was cool? So cool.
Next was the Bayon which lay within the sprawling ancient city of Angkor Thom. This was by far the biggest of the temples we saw and with some of the coolest carvings – mostly of faces from the past. Does this remind anyone else of Indiana Jones?
After finishing up the Bayon and a couple of it’s neighbors, we headed back to the main event (no not Ta Prohm…), Angkor Wat, for one more photo session in the good afternoon light.
And at that we retired to our room where we crashed hard. Touring from 4:30AM until 2PM in the heat can take it out of you quickly.
Overall, the temples exceeded my expectations. Aside from any philosophical issues I have with them, they are truly majestic structures and I consider myself lucky to have experienced them.
Wonder what the next desktop background will be.