During my second visit to Siem Reap, I made sure to visit
Angkor Wat and more of the Angkor complex again. But unlike the first time, this time I dedicated more than one day to it. Angkor deserves more than one day of your attention in order to do justice to the complex web of buildings and its history and culture.
Angkor, which is Khmer for
Holy City, is a vast region in Cambodia that served once as the seat of the Khmer Empire – that spanned from the 9 th to the 15 th century.
Now a day, the ruins of Angkor are all found amid forests and farmlands surrounding the Siem Reap Province, with many of them still forgotten under hundreds of years of overgrown vegetation.
The most fascinating thing to me about Angkor is the assembling process of the historical puzzle composed by nondescript piles of brick rubble as well as magnificent religious monuments like Angkor Wat.
I once wrote about how visually detailed the experience in Angkor Wat is, but I didn’t share anything about the rest of the ruins in the complex.
While visiting the entire complex is a herculean task, I did my best to visit ruins that are far from the main complex as well as revisit some of my favorites in the more visited “tourist cycles”.
Here, I share some of the best and most descriptive moments; often captured on the spur of the moment with the help of my handy iPhone.
No visit to Angkor is complete without watching the sunrise in front of Angkor Wat. This shot, though, was taken on the twilight before the sunrise.
I love the playfulness of the pattern and gradient created by the light crossing between the columns.
Not everything in Angkor is about the architecture and elaborate carvings. In front of Angkor Wat, on the reflecting pool, you’ll find hundreds of Lotus flowers. Though much less noticed than the sunrise, these flowers are also part of why watching the sunrise is a “must-do” thing.
Devatas, which are a kind of small deity, are some of the most characteristic figures of the Angkor Wat style.
As you walk through Angkor Wat, you will be overwhelmed by the amount of bas relief carvings that decorate the entire temple. This is just a minute sample from a scene called Heaven and Hell. The shot shows the hell part, which is all about torture, with its breaking of bones, use of hot irons, and piercing of heads with nails.
Can you believe this was carved hundreds of years ago?! But the beauty of many of these temples is that they still look as if recently carved.
I love the demon statues of the Churning of the Sea of Milk at the entrance of Bayon temple. The Churning of the Sea of Milk (as represented on the bas relief in Angkor Wat) shows 92 gods and 88 demons fighting for the elixir of immortality and a snake caught up in the middle. The gods hold the tail, the demons hold the head, while the snake coils itself around Mt. Mandala. Each time the gods and demons pull from their sides, the mountain turns and the ocean churns.
The entrance to Bayon, serving as a prequel to the 52 magnificent four-faced towers that form the temple.
A tree growing from the roof of one of the temples, seen from a caved in portion of the same.
One of the most interesting things about Ta Prohm is that it has been left pretty much in the same condition in which it was found. There is something fascinating about the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins.
Hundreds of square kilometers surround the temples at Angkor. When traveling between temples, you will sometimes see them extend as far as the horizon.
A little girl running on a rice field.
A typical site in many of the temples. A pile of stones that show the former history in pieces, waiting to be puzzled back. This is part of Beng Mealea, a temple complex 60km away from the main Angkor Wat complex. The tuk-tuk ride took 2 hours to get there, but was totally worth it.
A tree serving as a crown to the partially destroyed wing of Beng Mealea.
A window baluster wrapped by roots at Beng Mealea.
In many cases, nature creates an interesting and beautiful web around the temple walls, creating a form of art in itself.
Banteay Srei, a temple in the Angkor Complex about 37km away from Angkor Wat. It was the citadel of the women, or citadel of beauty. This is probably related to the intricacy of the bas relief carvings found on the walls and the tiny dimensions of the buildings, in relation to the more magnificent temples in the main Angkor complex.
Though it is small, I recommend visiting this temple because of the great quality of the bas reliefs, carvings, and intricate designs.
What Banteay Srei lacks in size, it makes up with details and beauty. I think this is one of the most elaborately carved and best-preserved temples in the whole complex. And in my opinion, one of the most beautiful.
A sunset shot, taken from a rice field next to Lolei, a small temple in Angkor.
And last but not least, a short time-lapse of the sunrise, shot with my
GoPro Hero 2.