Asia Cambodia

Siem Reap and the Angkor Temple Complex

The Angkor temple complex is one of the most famous landmarks in Asia, and after spending a few days visiting Siem Reap, I can see why! I ended up spending about three and a half days in the city, two of which were in the temple complex itself, and had a great time.

Hello to Country #39!

Cambodia featured some of my favorite hotels I’ve ever stayed in! I was in the Mane Village Suites in Siem Reap, which was absolutely gorgeous and included a massage as part of my room reservation.

Something that surprised and delighted me about Siem Reap was the number of Cambodian-Mexican fusion restaurants. My hotel was an easy walk into town or an even easier tuk tuk ride, and it was nice to have the option to go get a frozen margarita after the long and hot days visiting temples. I also tried local Angkor beer! Not sure if my server did the best pour but I did enjoy it.

The focus of this part of the trip was obviously the Angkor temple complex. I booked a two day tour that included watching the sunrise at the complex on the second day. The first day started with four temples. Some first impressions – I was surprised at how much they let us access. Some of the more popular temples had more strict paths, with more areas roped off, but especially the less common ones more or less let us climb the towers and wander freely.

It sounds like they have had some significant problems with looting. Our guide would point out places where the statues have been replaced with replicas made with concrete, just so that the thieves couldn’t take the real versions. It is a massive area, so I could see where it’s hard to keep everything protected.

For our sunrise tour, it was brutal when my alarm went off. My hotel had packed me a boxed lunch, which was nice, and I left that on the bus while I followed my tour guide through the dark. We were heading to the most famous temple in the complex, Angkor Wat itself. Often, people refer to the whole complex as Angkor Wat, but that’s actually not correct. Anyway, we got to a good viewpoint and took a ton of pictures. This was the only place where it felt particularly touristy, for the record. Most of the other temples had other tour groups, but the site is so big and so spread out that it wasn’t that noticeable most of the time that there were lots of other people visiting. That sunrise was gorgeous, though! Definitely worth it.

One of the interesting things about some of the other temples was watching nature reclaim the area. In some areas, large trees were growing on top of the temples, or sending their roots over the ceilings and down into the floors. We saw scaffolding trying to hold up the buildings. The restoration efforts look quite significant.

We also saw bullet holes from the Khmer Rouge in one of the temples, which was pretty wild. I got much more of this history in Phnom Penh (stay tuned for that) but it was strange to imagine them hiding out this far into the rural areas as the regime started to crumble.

I would absolutely recommend visiting Siem Reap and the Angkor complex. I had high expectations, and it exceeded them! One of the cooler historical sites I’ve been to globally, and in conjunction with the hospitality I experienced in Cambodia, it’s on my list of favorite travel experiences.

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