I first visited the temples of Angkor in 2009, on a trip to Cambodia with my family. I was impressed, but truth be told, I didn’t understand just how incredible these historical structures were until I researched more. Since then, I have literally lost count of how many times I have visited Angkor Archaeological Park.
If you had the time, I would strongly recommend splurging on a three-day pass to the temples, which from February will set you back $62USD. However, if you only had one day to commit to the marvellous city of Angkor, here are my suggestions for making the most of your visit!
The iconic Angkor Wat was built under the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Originally dedicated to the Hindu God, Vishnu, it made the transition to a temple to worship Buddhism later in the same century.
From the outer enclosure, it is difficult to comprehend just how large this structure is. However, as you walk down the long path to the central structure, it begins to hit you just how magnificent and immense Angkor Wat truly is.
Many people choose to visit Angkor Wat first thing in the morning, in order to capture the perfect sunrise photos. I am not one of those people. I have only been to sunrise at Angkor Wat twice, and was so afraid of falling over in the dark on the uneven surfaces that I didn’t pay attention to the actual sunrise.
Added to that, the upper level of Angkor Wat (also known as the Bakan Sanctuary), only opens at 7:30am, so if you wish to climb up there, it is best to get to Angkor Wat a bit later.
Also known as the ‘Tomb Raider temple’, Ta Prohm is known for its jungle surroundings and trees growing out of the temple ruins. Originally known as Rajavihara (the monastery of the King), the temple was built by King Jayavarman VII to honour his family. The site was home to an impressive 12,500 people until its abandonment in the 15th century.
Watch your step when you visit Ta Prohm, as it is very easy to trip over (as I know from experience)!
Srah Srang was the Royal bathing pool that was built in the mid 10th century. Depending on what time of year you visit, it may be full of water that sparkles in the midday sun, or it could look like a container of broken, caked blush. Either way, it is worth a visit as you can sit and relax with a drink or a snack, enabling you to take a break from all the exercise you are doing during the day!
Situated across from Srah Srang, this temple is often overlooked, but definitely shouldn’t be! Banteay Kdei, translated to ‘A Citadel of Chambers’, consists of four enclosures on one level. Many structures are fitted into a small space, meaning you could spend a good hour looking around! Banteay Kdei is currently undergoing renovation, so although you won’t be able to see it in its full glory, this monastic complex is definitely worth a visit.
I always recommend a visit to smaller temples, as I believe that no matter their size, they deserve to be seen. Thommanon is a pair of Hindu temples built around the time when the work on Angkor Wat began. There are many images of Devatas (female devine carved figures) that are shaped in immaculate detail. If you had time, you should head across the road to visit Chau Say Tevoda, its ‘sister’ temple.
Impressive from afar, and even more impressive up close. Bayon is known for its multiple smiling stone faces, which adorn the towers on its upper terrace. On the lower level you can spend a fair amount of time engrossing yourself in the two impressive sets of bas-reliefs, which show mythological and historical scenes in detail. This is a great temple to visit to end your trip to Angkor Wat on a high.
Note: If you DO end up taking three days at Angkor, I would highly recommend visiting Banteay Srei, Banteay Samre, Bakong, Preah Rup, Takeo and a selection of the smaller temples. You will be tired from all the walking, but you certainly won’t regret it!
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