We awoke the next morning in Siem Reap, a town located about 300km north west of Phnom Penh. It was here we found Cambodia’s most famous tourist attraction, The Angkor Wat Temple. Built in the early 12th century by Khmer King Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat (meaning ‘Temple City’) remains the best-preserved temple in the entire site, and is the sole example that still holds religious significance. Even though it was first built as a Hindu temple and then converted for Buddhism. We got there at 5.30am (to see the sunrise) just before the crowds started to arrive in their droves. Our efforts to get a nice spot at the front however were ultimately in vain. The Chinese and Thai tourists are an eager bunch when it comes to getting their photos taken, at the expense of our own photography attempts. That said, with a sunrise as beautiful as this, it’s hard to get angry.
Elbowing our way through the crowd, Mike and I ran off to grab a coffee and some food. A local 11-year old boy, who went by the name Justin Bieber, took us too his stall for refreshments. He was a cheeky little chappy who won us over with his charm, though was horrified to hear that I didn’t like coffee: “Oh my Buddha!” he cried, a fantastic phrase that will stick with us forever.
Angkor Wat is simply breathtaking. It’s fascinating that people were able to build such majestic temples in the middle of the jungle and carve the most detailed sculptures into the walls so long ago. You can only imagine the amount of blood, sweat and tears that when into its construction. At 7.30am we were able to climb to the top of the tower where the whole of Angkor Wat unfolds in front of you. Everyone stands in awe, and the view reminded us of our time in Uzbekistan. The weather though took some time to get used to. It wasn’t raining, but the clouds made the humidity almost unbearable.
Our next temple – Bayon – was not as well preserved as Angkor Wat, but the crumbling and moss-covered stones only added to the appeal. The last temple of the day was Ta Prohm, which some of you may know from the Tomb Raider movie. Thanks to the help of a lovely old Cambodian man we were able to find some hidden treasures and nice quiet spots to learn a little more about the temple and its history. Supposedly Ta Prohm in all its intricacy was built in less than five years, and in its 500-year history was home to over 12,000 people. When it was abandoned the jungle started to claim it back, giving it a wonderfully eerie feeling like something out of a Victorian novel.
After an exhausting day of Tomb Raiding, we were soaked through by the humidity of the jungle and headed back to Siem Reap for a cold drink and a bite to eat. Tomorrow we will be tackling a new adventure tour of the canopies of the Cambodian forest where we zip wire between trees!
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