In total, we spent 3 days in Siem Reap exploring the Angkor region, and only a half-day at Angkor Wat itself. Here’s what we saw the other 2.5 days:
The second temple we visited was the Bayon Temple, which is famous for the 216 faces on the temple’s towers. Even the entry gate was lined with various faces, including faces on the arch and along the bridge which had ‘evil’ faces on the left and ‘good’ faces on the right.
We even saw the faces of some cute little monkeys. These were actually the only monkeys we saw on our entire trip, and of course they clustered around a very touristy spot, completely reliant on people-food hand-outs.
How many faces can you spot?
Ta Prohm (of Tomb Raider fame), also known as the “Temple of Nature” might have been our favorite of the temples for the beauty of the trees intertwined with the ruins.
As beautiful as all of the temples were, there is also a lot of evidence of beauty lost. All around the temples were huge piles of rubble, some of which were in the process of being sorted out thanks to a number of restoration projects funded by wealthier countries.
Some of the beauty will be lost forever though. Each of the indentations in the walls of this room are from gemstones that were stolen by looters centuries ago.
We saw probably half a dozen other temples during our time there. Here are some of the highlights:
Spotted at the Temples
Amidst the ancient temples were some glimpses into modern day life:
Rice Replanting: Purely for the tourists sake, one of the temples had rice growing at it. One thing I learned is that in order to increase the yield of the crop, it’s common to re-plant the rice partway through growing.
Helpful Instructions: Since many individuals from rural Southeast Asia make pilgrimages to the Angkor region, we saw this sign in one of the public bathrooms, to ensure anyone who’s never seen a ‘Western Toilet’ before knew not to use it like a ‘Squat Toilet’.
The longest words I’ve ever seen: Sadly, I know I’ll never be able to write or read in Cambodian.
Bananas for Sale: Amid vendors of knock-off books, t-shirts, and post-cards, I made a bee-line for the lone banana vendor to pick up some healthy snacks for the afternoon.
A Puppy! There were actually hundreds of stray dogs around the temples and in the town of Angkor Wat. This puppy, however, was very lucky as we saw a group of small children taking care of him. Our guide asked one of the little girls if I could hold him for a moment.
Beyond the Temples
On our last day in Siem Reap, our guide took us beyond the temples onto Tonle Sap lake to see a village on stilts and the flooded forest.
This narrow boat took us around the lake for a couple of hours, through the village, and to the flooded forest where we transferred to a smaller canoe boat to get a closer look.
The forest was beautiful in photos, but unfortunately it was a bit of a tourist trap. A 20 minute canoe ride was the same price as one night in our hotel. Additionally, dozens of other canoes full of tourists ruined the magic of the place, though I managed to snap a couple photos without any other tourists in the background.
We really enjoyed our ride through the village though. It was fascinating to see what was kept on the lower levels of the houses – ranging from simple storage to pig pens and fish farms!
As beautiful as it was, I can’t imagine how hard it must be to live without a yard to run around in and solid ground under your feet.
This beautiful painting that we brought home with us reminds us of how lucky we are.
I’d love to hear from you!
What is one of the best souvenirs you’ve ever brought home?