Lost city of Angkor

Siem Reap is the most popular tourist stop in Cambodia. Though the city itself is not the reason for all the millions of visitors. Siem Reap may have colonial and Chinese-style architecture in the Old French Quarter and around the Old market. It also has museums, traditional Apsara dance performances, a Cambodian cultural village, souvenir and handicraft shops, silk farms, rice-paddies in the countryside, fishing villages near the Tonle Sap Lake. Due to being a popular touristic destination it also has a large number of hotels, resorts, restaurants. Around 90 percent of tourists traveling between Vietnam and Thailand stop in Siem Reap. It owes popularity to its proximity to the amazing Angkor temples. Siem Reap is a gateway to ancient world. The city lives from tourism, which became obvious the moment we stepped from the bus. Tuk-tuk drivers surrounded us. We chose a driver named Lucky, who drove us in the city center to find the cheapest hotel. Due to the floods we didn’t want to book a hostel before arriving, the most popular street in Siem Reap was flooded just two weeks before our arrival. We made a deal with Lucky to be our driver for the whole three days around the temples. We paid forty dollars which included three days of visiting all the temples, also those further around, watching a sunrise and sunset. Make sure you do all of this, because it will be an everlasting memory.


Deep in the forests of Cambodia’s Siem Reap province lies an ancient stone city. More than twenty years ago the whole city of Angkor became protected by UNESCO and since famous actress Angelia Jolie filmed the movie Tomb Raider in Angkor, temples became even more popular touristic attraction. We’ve spent whole three days exploring the impressive and mighty temples, with Angkor Wat being the most glorious one. It is the largest national pride. Though just one of hundreds of surviving temples and structures, the massive Angkor Wat is the most famed of all Cambodia’s temples, it also appears on nation’s flag and it is revered for a good reason. Angkor Archeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decoration.

The complex of Angkor Wat is so wide; you can find spots with complete serenity even with hordes of tourists. Angkor Wat is a largest religion monument in the world, with the site measuring 162.6 hectares. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple for Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century. The modern name, Angkor Wat, means Temple City or City of Temples and it is one of the most important archeological sites in the Southeast Asia. Angkor Wat, the largest monument of the Angkor group and the best preserved one is an architectural masterpiece. Its perfection in composition, balance, proportions, relief’s and sculpture make it one of the finest monuments in the world. Angkor Wat was a funerary temple for King Suryavarman II, it is dedicated to Hindu god Vishnu. We took more than four hours for visiting this truly breathtaking temple.

Beside Angkor Wat most visited temples are Bayon and Ta Phrohm, that are as many others already covered by jungle. All temples of Angkor are decorated by sculptures of mythological multi-headed snakes, goddesses Vishnu, Ganesh and Garuda. We continued our way of climbing through ancient ruins at temple Ta Prohm. It is the famous temple where Tomb raider was filmed. When the archeologists first arrived, they removed as many trees as possible to reveal and save the temple. Now the temple and the tree could not exist without each other. It is this harmonious balance that makes temples of Angkor mysterious and magical. It seems as the mother nature had embraced the ruins, the trees roots are making their way through the heavy blocks of the temple’s walls and it seems as they are choking the stones.

In the evening Happy drove us to mountain Phnom Bakheng to observe the sunset over the valley. We needed to walk all the way up, but on the top we are not alone. Though the temple is not as special as others, it is popular due to its position on top of the mountain, allowing to observe the sun setting over the valley. Around 5 p.m. we witnessed beautiful sunset. Next morning, we woke up at 3 a.m. Wishing to see the sunrise at 4 a.m. over Angkor Wat, we needed to hurry to find the best spot. Despite the early hour, the temple is already flooded with tourists. Observing sunrise over Angkor is a profound event. The temple alone is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, sun rising over it is a cherry on the top. The show is spectacular. A big red ball slowly makes its way through the temple tops accompanied by the sound of the drums. First you can only see the shadowy outlines of the architectural pearl, then slowly there it is magnificent temple shining in the morning sun. Next to you it is an absolute madhouse – a veritable wall of people with cameras flashing. To witness the sun’s rays gently illuminating the temple was magical.

In the morning light we also visited other temples, such as Prasat Kravan, Ta Som, Pre Rup and a vast complex of temples Angkor Thom that was built by the king Jayavarman VII, which ruled in the late 12th century.

Next day we went a little further to visit the temple Banteay Srei. Just a week before some tourist were stranded there due to the floods and needed to be rescued by a helicopter. Banteay Srei is a 10th century temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It is located 25 kilometers northeast of the main group of temples. The temple is considered by many to be the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art. Banteay Srei is cut from stone of a pinkish hue and includes some of the finest stone carving anywhere on earth. Though it is one of the smallest sites at Angkor, it makes up for the size in art. It is wonderfully well preserved and many of its carvings are three-dimensional. Banteay Srei means “Citadel of the women” and it is said that it must have been built by a woman, as the elaborate carvings are supposedly too fine for the hand of a man.

After exploring the women’s temple, we drove to the great lake Tonle Sap. Heavy rains in previous days have caused the lake to flooded the village nearby. Not to walk in the mud, we climbed on a wooden cart with large wheels, driven by the cows. We drove past wooden houses and saw how children are enjoying and splashing around in the dirty flooded water. Later we went by a boat to visit a floating village Kampong Phluk on the lake. There we ate lunch and gave some candies to three little girls living in the house. We’ve also gave some candies on the way back from the boat to our tuk-tuk. First a little boy came to us asking for candy, then soon after about ten other children came running and grabbing all the candies. In the evening in Siem Reap we treated ourselves with dinner and a show of traditional Apsara dancing.



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