Entwined in wild, thick, climbing, winding jungle in Northern Cambodia are the ancient and wondrous Temples of Angkor. Once home to a great civilisation, the temples are scattered throughout the forest with the magnificent Angkor Wat as the centrepiece. It doesn’t take much to imagine past explorers pushing through dense, all-encompassing foliage to stumble in awe upon temple after temple. Today, with human intervention, the temples are much more accessible, only a short tuk tuk ride from the commercial centre of Siem Reap. Despite this, there is still an overwhelming sense of the jungle ceaselessly striving to swallow the temples up again in a suffocating sea of green.
To visit the temples, a tour guide is essential and won’t break your budget – a Tuk Tuk driver and guide will set you back about $30 AUD.
Angkor Wat is usually the first stop and is in fact often mistaken as the entire temple complex rather than a single temple.
Nine tall spires jut from Angkor Wat and to access it, you must cross a moat. Made from large sandstone blocks, delicate carvings feature throughout, depicting Gods of Hindu (Vishnu) and Buddhism (Budhha) amongst many other things. Apart from gods, demons are also depicted and are discernible by their slicked back hair. After a thorough tour of Angkor Wat, a common next stop via tuk tuk is Ta Prom. A fuel stop may be necessary en route, which entails a road side vendor with a water drum filled with fuel and a tap.
Ta Prom is also known as the Lara Croft Temple or the Jungle Temple – Lara Croft Temple because it was made famous in the Tomb Raider movie and Jungle Temple because it’s been reclaimed by surrounding tree’s. Nature is claiming back what’s hers.
Ta Prom is small and intimate compared to the vast Angkor Wat but can be thick with tourists. Onwards, you’ll head to Angkor Thom and might finish with Bayon, distinguished by many big spires, each with 4 faces on top. The faces have been covered by trees throughout history but have been cleared for the inquisitive tourist.
After an extensive examination of the temples, you will be dropped at your accommodation, thoroughly worn out but much enlightened. You haven’t visited Cambodia if you haven’t been to the spectacle that is the temples of Angkor!