Walking from our plane to the beautiful Siem Reap airport
In our hotel lobby
The view right outside our room
Pool and garden
In our room
Drinks by the pool the first day
I loved the hammocks
Many people have asked us why we chose to visit Cambodia, and I guess the decision really stemmed from our goal to visit as many countries in Asia as possible while we're living in Okinawa. In fact, there are only a few countries that really are not on my list to see! Anyway, the major tourist attraction in Cambodia is called Angkor - an enormous complex of temples within an ancient city that dates back as early as the 9th century (the entire complex is approximately the size of modern-day Los Angeles). The city of Angkor was ruled by the Khmer Empire, who created some of the world's most incredible architecture within its' walls. The temples are each in varying degrees of ruins, however, most of them still stand today and are easily accessed by a walking tour throughout the complex. Some of these tours can last days! We had a few other things that we wanted to see while in Cambodia, so we opted for the full-day tour of Angkor Wat, which I'm glad we did - the tour began at 7:00 in the morning and lasted until around 8:00 pm - well after sunset!
Us at the entrance to Angkor Thom
Statues along the causeway that lead into Angkor Thom - many of these were beheaded or partially destroyed during the Khmer Rouge, and it is very obvious which statues have been restored (ex: the heads that have been replaced are lighter in color, etc.)
Inside Angkor Thom - the temple of Bayon is most famous for its giant and majestic stone faces carved into the many large towers. As with all of the Angkor temples, the religion has changed between Hindu and Buddhist based on the current king. Because of these changes, the temples were modified based on the religious preferences of the time. For instance, we saw many statues of Buddha that had missing limbs or noses, and many were beheaded all together by the Hindus. I think the Faces of Bayon was one of my favorite sites - they were incredible!
Our amazing tour guide for the day - Bun (short for Bunleat) - explaining the story of the Leper King that was depicted in these relief carvings to us. He customized our day-long tour to fit in everything I had wanted to see, and he was so full of knowledge! We would have been lost (literally!) inside Angkor if it wasn't for him - I felt like I learned so much!
The king's palace inside Angkor Thom - this was his swimming pool! Looks more like an enormous lily pond now, but was still incredible!
Pillars underneath a bridge that led to a temple that was actively being restored
The Terrace of the Leper King - part of the Royal Square of Angkor Thom. There were thousands and thousands of relief carvings all over the maze of walls here, and they were meant to represent the underworld.
So realistic and detailed - just incredible to think how long this must have taken them to make!
Another part of the Royal Square - the Terrace of the Elephants, where they used to have actual elephant fights for entertainment. This is us standing with the three-headed elephant statues.
Buddhist monk in the window of one of the "libraries" at Ta Keo Temple
Matt climbing up Ta Keo
More interesting stories from our tour guide Bun
Bun imitating the Apsara Dancers that are carved all over the walls of the temples
One of my favorite places in Angkor - the temple of Ta Prohm - has been abandoned for centuries and overgrown with gigantic tree roots that consume the structure. It is also one of the more popular sites featured in the Tomb Raider movie with Angelina Jolie - this may seem like a random fact, but trust me when I tell you - no one leaves Siem Reap without knowing this!
Check out this video clip of us at Ta Prohm - Bun is showing us how in one tower, you are not able to make an echo unless you hit your chest with a closed fist. Hard to believe - but it was true!
That was a heavy one!
One of the many headless statues of Buddha
Just incredible - its hard to believe we were actually there!
Yes, the Khmer people carved a STEGOSAURUS on the wall inside the temple of Ta Prohm.... Matt thinks this is proof that dinosaurs and humans may have coexisted...
Finally, we make it to the main attraction: the temple of Angkor Wat - the best preserved temple in the ancient city as well as the largest religious building in the world! This is a view of the outer enclosure and giant moat that surround Angkor Wat.
Reflection in the famous lily pond in front of the main building - also in the Tomb Raider movie!
View from higher up inside the main complex inside Angkor Wat - the view of the structure is amazing!
Climbing back down
These carvings were everywhere - in every temple we saw that day! Bun explained to us that you could tell how old a temple was based on the direction of the feet in these carvings. He said that some of the feet were facing forward, some on angles, and others sideways (like these) - the reason being that each century wanted to put their own "spin" on the carvings.
We got to sit up at one of the libraries inside Angkor Wat and watch the sun set