The Temples of Angkor
Arriving at Siem Reap’s airport on a strikingly hot mid afternoon, I was greeted by a wonderful vintage Mercedes, in which I stylishly rode back to Heritage Suites Hotel, my rather classy base for the next four days.
Heritage Suites is a boutique gem located just far enough from Pub Street to enjoy a slice of tranquillity (much needed after a hectic day of temple tours), but close enough to benefit from a short 5 minute breezy tuk-tuk ride into the centre. Decorated in a traditional manner, the hotel embraces tradition whilst lavishing guests in sophisticated comfort and super-friendly service.
The Angkor Wat Complex
My experience of Cambodia started on the highest of highs, with a super early start to enjoy a stunning sunset at Angkor Wat. I was up by 5am and eagerly positioned in front of the modern day main entrance of the complex, sitting by the water by 6am and marvelling at a simply gorgeous sunrise by 6:30am. The sun peeps perfectly above the temple’s towers, throwing a mix of colours into the sky and reflecting a glorious array of light over the water surrounding the temple.
This is something I would definitely recommend; I would happily give up a few hours of my snooze time for another one of these dreamy sunrise experiences!
The complex itself was impressive, with multiple towers and galleries to explore and amazingly lots of its relief sculpture still intact.
I spent a good couple of hours listening to the tour guide and taking in the grandeur of this temple, trying to picture what it might have been like at the prime of its existence.
We explored the Bayon Temple and Ta Prohm in the afternoon. My favourite of which was Ta Prohm – a beautiful site situated in the jungle and prime example of nature’s ability to completely engulf and transform a man-made entity.
There were tree roots engulfing parts of the temple, growing up the walls, through them as well as the ceilings; very much running amok and becoming a solid part of the temple and its atmosphere.
All in all, an extremely photogenic location (and also cool to know it was a filming location for Tomb Raider!)
We also saw the temples of Banteay Srei, Banteay Samre and finally Bang Mealea, another one of my top picks!
Bang Mealea is a bit further out, around an hours drive from Siem Reap but very much like Ta Prohm, situated in the jungle, completely engulfed by nature.
With no obvious restorations in sight, you really get an authentic explorers experience and can view the complex from an elevated path. With blocks of stone lying exactly where they have fallen, you can rebuild the complex in your mind whilst you climb up and over various pathways and galleries.
If you’re not too templed out, then Bang Mealea is a great addition to the Siem Reap temple experience!