Following our stay in Bangkok, we took the bus to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Although a number of tourists and travel agents warned us of the poor road conditions, we did not want to take a flight, but travel on the ground and see something from the countryside. After all, the journey was by far not as bad as expected and we reached Siem Reap safe and sound. Don’t worry, if you never heard of this little town – you surely know the prominent sight close-by. Yes, I am talking about the ancient temple complex of Angkor. While some visitors only spend a few hours at its most famous sights, the largest religious monument in the world is definitely worth to explore for several days! Dating mostly from the 12th century, the ancient buildings are spread over a large area and can be best visited by hiring a tuk-tuk. We began our tour with the sunrise at the main temple of Angkor Wat – unfortunately this spectacular sight is quite popular with sometimes several hundred tourists sharing the same spot…
For the remainder of the day, we explored the temples and buildings in the central area of the complex (Angkor Thom). One of the most impressive is the Bayon with enormous faces carved in the temple’s towers.
During a walk through the enormous complex, it is also worthwhile to look out for some wildlife. We were lucky enough to spot a so-called “hammerhead worm”, a typical inhabitant of moist areas in the tropics. These predatory land planarians live mostly on earthworms or molluscs and reach lengths of more than 10 cm.
The ruins of Ta Som and Ta Prohm are partly overgrown by large trees and therefore especially picturesque. Ta Prohm, for example, has been used as the set for a number of movies, including “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”. If you search for some time in its vicinity, you can spot a carving resembling a Stegosaurus. Creationists have used this relief to propose that dinosaurs and humans co-existed for some time – but, of course, this is more than unlikely…
After covering the “most important” sights during our first visit, we spent two more days in the area. We marvelled at the exquisite carvings of the Banteay Srei and learned about the more recent history of Cambodia in the land mine museum. Additionally, we took a detour to the shores of the largest freshwater lake of Southeast Asia, the Tonle Sap.
Finally, we left Siem Reap to continue our journey towards Battambang, but that story can be found in the next post.