Angkor What??

Ok, the joke is old, but I had to.

So anyway, Angkor Wat.

To be quite honest, I had heard the name “Angkor Wat” many times over the years, but had no idea what it was.  (No, I haven’t seen the movie Tomb Raider.)  Even when we decided to go to Cambodia, and everyone said “You’ll get to go to Angkor Wat!” it was still a while before I looked it up to see what it was all about.

Of course, everything I read about it made it sound duly impressive, but it wasn’t until we visited the National Museum in Phnom Penh, and I saw some large-scale, beautiful pictures of Angkor Wat, that I really started to get excited.

Just to be clear, Angkor Wat is a temple unto itself.  It is impressive, but not the only temple around.  The area where Angkor Wat is located holds dozens and dozens of temples (some restored, some which are just piles of rubble now) – called, collectively, the Temples of Angkor.

We visited the Temples over 3 days, and managed to cover Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ta Phrom,  The Terrace of the Elephants, The Terrace of the Leaper King, Banteay Srei, and a few others. A couple of days later, we took the Batmobile back to Angkor Wat for sunrise, and also saw Angkor Thom and the Terrace of the Elephants one more time.

Our first two days we hired a guide, which was worth way more than the $20 each he cost us.  Not having a guide would have had us looking at these wonderous structures with no idea where they came from, what they stood for, and what it all meant.  Our guide was amazing.  A student of history and English literature, his English was impeccable, and he told us stories at every temple about the Kings who built them (and destroyed them, and rebuilt them), the carvings and what they meant, and showed us little things we wouldn’t have been able to see ourselves.

This is our guide, whose name I can’t even pretend to remember:

In addition to all he showed us (including things we might not have seen for ourselves)

(see her face?)

he taught us how to make flutes out of leaves

and found us some four leaf clovers.

Seeing, touching and experiencing these buildings built forever ago was almost indescribable.

Of course, the first question we all had was “How did they do that??”

Those stone blocks can weigh up to several hundred tons each.  The story they told us of elephants moving them seems plausible, but even with the strength of elephants, I mean, they are just SO BIG.

And the carvings!

Almost every stone, at every temple, hand carved to specific proportions, many of the carvings mirroring each other.  Again, how did they do that??

How many times did they make mistakes, have to discard the whole stone and start again?  How’d they make the carvings so intricate?  How did they make the temples so high?  How…how…how…

While it’s clear that Angkor Wat is on the national flag of Cambodia for a reason, Ta Phrom was actually my favourite.  This temple has been overtaken by trees and left that way, so they grow out of the ground and in and around the temple as if to say, “I will reclaim you – you came from me, and you will be mine once more.” It’s raw and natural and really so beautiful.

These temples aren’t easy.  You have to work for it.  There are some treacherous climbs

but the views from the top were always worth it.

though there are times when you really have to fight the crowds.

Angkor Wat at sunrise was a little disappointing because of the cloud cover that morning, but it didn’t deter the tourists.

Despite the clouds, I did manage to get some worthy shots.

This place was more magical than I could have imagined.  Just one more amazing thing to see on the trip of a lifetime.


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