What a day exploring the world’s largest temple. Alas, our long awaited adventure around The Magical Angkor Wat had come. And what better way to transport us to each temple than on the back of Vespas. We started our day by meeting our group at the Independence Royal Gardens outside the same Spirit House we were at the night before. After our brief meet and greet and a quick banana snack to start our day off, we then jumped on the Vespas and made a pit stop at the ticket office to get our temple tickets and have our lovely pictures taken (it’s needed for the temple tickets). After getting all the logistics out of the way we were then ready to start our temple adventures.
East Route into Angkor Wat Temple. We took an off the beaten path from the ticket booth through some forest trails to get to the East entrance of the temple. It was one of the most adventurous rides I have been on in SE Asia on a Vespa. Our lovely drivers dropped us off at the east route entrance to the grand temple. Our guide, Poleak then guided through the east gates where we all stood in awe at this first piece of the ancient temples. We then strolled down the long walkway and stood speechless staring at the magnificent temples that stood before us. Finally, we were here in the presence of these gorgeous ancient temples eager to explore and take in all the knowledge we could. Being built in the first half of the 12th century it is quite astonishing standing in the presence of this incredibly built strong standing monument. The temple features a large moat around it as most Buddhist or Hindu temples do as it is believed you must cross the seven seas to go to heaven. The Magical Angkor Wat was originally built for the Hindu religion and its original name meant stood for the greatness of God Vishnu. But with the change to a new King and to Buddhism the name was later changed to Angkor, meaning the city temple.
We spent a good amount of time walking around the perimeter of the temple we finally climbed the western steps up to venture inside. We explored the typical guided route and heard story after story of the majestic carvings on all of the walls. We slowly wandered through the main floor taking in every inch of beauty possible and making sure to not disturb the numerous monkeys roaming around the grounds. We then made it to the King’s level of the temple where we had to wait in line to climb the high steps into the tower as only 100 people can explore at a time for 15 minutes maximum. We climbed the tall steps and explored the King’s temple for some time on our own taking in all of the amazing views of the surrounding forests and temple grounds. It made for some beautiful shots and easily one of the most sacred places. We continued venturing around the temple for a bit more time seeing all the beauty we could before taking off around northern perimeter back to our Vespas. We were nearly prevented from leaving as a handful of monkeys surrounded our staircase. We shooed them away without any violence and were on our way.
Pyramid Temple. Back on the Vespas, we went after some cold refreshments in our bellies. We rode through the incredible nature trails that surround the temples. These rides through the woods were some of the best moments on this entire tour. It felt like we were hiking through beautiful forests but got to experience it moving much faster and save our energy for walking around the temples. Our second temple stop was at the pyramid temple which looked just like its name. We climbed/crawled the ruin stairs fearing how it would be to scale back down. We ventured around the top for some time before finding a safer route down another set of stairs on the sides of the temple.
Prasa Chrung Square Temple. We rode through the lush trails hugging the temple grounds and found ourselves at a small peaceful temple, Prasa Chrung Square Temple. It is a smaller temple that sits on the outskirts of the Bayon Temple grounds and is hidden away for people to find some peace and quiet away from the tourist filled neighboring sites. We enjoyed a quick snack of bananas and rambutans as we walked around and then ventured back through the trails to the amazing Bayon Temple.
Bayon Temple. This richly decorated temple filled with towers featuring four smiling faces was built in the late 12th and early 13th century for the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII. The outer gallery of the temple grounds portray the everyday lives and scenes of the Angkorian Khmer. Some of these depictions remain unfinished as the king passed away before it could be completed. With each new king came a new temple creating the thousands of temples Cambodia holds. This is why you can find many temples unfinished as the work would be stopped upon the king’s passing. Our guide walked us through many of the outer gallery depictions and explained the daily life they resembled. We then entered into the central tower and got a closer look at the famous face towers, nearly 200 smiling faces that give off such a warm feeling to this sacred site. Throughout the temple, ivy and leaves grow between the stones making for some very picturesque shots.
Brown Shade Restaurant. After working up our appetite walking around the various temples we were ready to devour some local cuisine. Along the side of a river we found ourselves at the Brown Shade restaurant where many locals come for celebrations or a nice relaxing lunch/dinner along the river. We were served some amazing fish, chicken, rice, green beans, papaya salad and palm fruit for dessert. It was all so fresh and delightful and finished off with a 10 minutes power nap in the many hammocks they have lining the restaurant table sections. Quite a splendid way to finish our meal before venturing on to our final destination.
Ta Prohm, the Tomb Raider Temple. Yes the infamous temple made famous by Lara Croft: Tomb Raider featuring Angelina Jolie. At first glance we all fell in love with the giant trees sprouting out of the temple roofs and walls. I have never seen such a fascinating mixture of nature and ancient temples. It is like mother nature is trying to take back the grounds that are naturally hers and not made of stone. The trees wrapped around the ancient stones and hugged every corner it touched. Every turn we took, we would find a new beautiful tree wrapping its roots strongly around everything it touched, always standing in awe staring at each natural beauty. I could’ve stayed there all day exploring and admiring every inch of this temple. It is no wonder Hollywood selected this location for the famous Tomb Raider film. Because of the fame that movie brought to this place. tourists flock there every day but fortunately it was our last stop and later in the day so we were not surrounded by visitors as we were at other temples. I am a tree and nature lover so this temple was definitely one of the highlights of our adventures.