We arrived at night in Siem Reap after a three-hour drive from the border. We had driven past fields with glowing tubes of light- they are traps to lure crickets, which are eaten as a part of several dishes here and generally in SE Asia. The land was flat, with an occasional hill in the distance. When we made a brief stop, we could see a sky full of stars. We found a hotel and slept after a long day of traveling.
Angkor and nearby
Our first day was fairly long-about 7 hours- and we went to the biggest, most popular ruins. We saw Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm.
Angkor Wat is the largest, main temple complex and was built as a Hindu temple in the early 12th century by Khmer King Suryavarman. It was his state temple, capital city, and mausoleum. Over the next century, it became a Buddhist temple and over the centuries endured the fall of the Khmer empire, yet remained an active religious site. It is entered by walking across a long causeway across the large (800′ wide) moat that surrounds the complex.
We went to Angkor Thom next. It was built about a century after Angkor Wat and is known for Bayon with its large faces on many towers. We started at Bayon, marveling at the serene, gently pleased giants. Bayon has really stayed with me- those faces really impress me still.
Next, we went to Baphoun, a temple built to honor Shiva in the 11th century. Cleverly was not allowed in due to her shorts (knees must be covered, though this was rarely enforced) and neither were the twins (no one under 12, possibly due to steep inclines). The rest of us could climb the structure, but no one was permitted inside.
Nearby is the Elephant Terrace, a wall with carvings of elephants, monkeys, and mighty bird creatures. It was built for the viewing of public ceremonies in the large spaces there.
Another part of Angkor Thom was a wall of beautiful carvings. It had been partly protected with a cement wall to the right below.
Ta Prohm was next. This temple was purposely left in a state similar to which it was found, due to its picturesque entanglement with the jungle. It has been cleared for visitors, and we liked it quite a bit. We had been looking for that ‘Indiana Jones’ experience, and we found it!