Just outside of Siem Reap lies an area packed with absolutely astonishing temples – Angkor Wat, which in Khmer means “Temple City” is the world’s biggest temple complex and Cambodia’s main pride. There are so many temples in the area that one is incapable of visiting them all in two days. My mother and I went for a full day to explore, and started off with sunrise at the main Angkor Wat which was beautiful despite the crowds of people and a young chinese boy who fell into the moat at 5am when it was still pitch black – drenching his Canon 5D Mark III. Ouch!
We then continued to my favourite of the temples, Ta Prohm, also referred to as “The Tomb Raider temple” as some scenes from the first Tomb Raider movie were shot there. Lara Croft from the first 1996 Tomb Raider computer game was my biggest idol when I was 12 years old, and I travelled the world discovering ancient temples and cultures in her company. The Ta Prohm temple felt a lot like a scene from the game – the jungle was eating its way into the 12th century construction, trees literally growing out of the ruins, the birds were chirping and the sun was shining through the leaves. It was beautiful and mystical, and luckily we got there before the crowds did – so I got some quality time with Lara.
We continued on to other temples, and the temple I called the “face temple”, Bayon, was by far the most interesting one after Ta Prohm. We went on, but as with many things – overdoing isn’t the way – so many temples, so little time! So we called it a day and went back to Siem Reap after five temples, which was just enough before getting a temple overdose, and very much worth the USD$20 one-day entry pass.
The Angkor Wat temples made me think a lot of the pyramids in Tikal, which was a very similar experience but still somehow more mystical and authentic. I think the company and amount of people decide how an experience like this turns out – in Tikal I felt like an observing explorer, like I had travelled back in time and was spending time with the Mayans, embracing their energy and taking the time to hang out properly on the pyramids. In Angkor Wat, I felt like a tourist. Walking around, progressing according to a plan, taking pictures. Apart from that brief moment with Lara, of course. That was beyond awesome.