I’m definitely giving my Fitbit a workout with exploring Angkor temples. The larger circuit of temples are less traveled by tourists, Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom drawing the largest crowds, but some of my favorite sites came from this day. We hired a tuk tuk driver, or cart driven by a motorcycle, to haul us around for the day.
We started at Ta Prohm, which most Westerners, as the tour guides will point out, know for the “Tomb Raider tree.” I’ve never seen Tomb Raider, but this is the tree:
Fortunately, Ta Prohm would be the most crowded of the temples that we saw that day, but admittedly, one of the most remarkable of any of the temples. Jess and I stood, gazing at the temple, at one point, and decided the best word to describe it would be: magical.
After Ta Prohm, many of the temples offered little shade from the blazing Cambodian sun and sweltering humidity. The next two temples, Pre Rup and East Mabon were very similar, multi-tiered “mountain temples” fashioned after a mythical mountain in ancient Hindu legend.
East Mebon boasts one of the most well preserved elephant statues in all the Ankorian temples. We likely would not have known if another tourist had not pointed us in the right direction – the southeast corner, I believe. I nearly frightened Jess to death turning my angle on an uneven stone while looking at the statue- less than a foot away from the edge of the terrace.
Our next stop was a bonus for us; our tuk tuk driver offered to take us out to Bantaey Srei, or the Ladies’ Temple, for a few extra bucks. The temple is over 16 miles away from the main group, but well worth the time and effort to get to. The delicate carvings and detail made this temple my favorite of them all. The Ladies’ Temple is very small and easily toured in about 30 minutes, but the petite stature is compensated by its beauty.
Ta Som, the next temple on our route, thankfully did not have many stairs. Low to the ground, carvings fading, and walls crumbling, this temple was well ruined and did not have much to offer, other than evidence as to how much can be lost with out proper restoration and maintenance.
Up next, Neak Pean was another petite, ground level temple. However, this one is interesting in that it was located in the middle of a baray, or man made lake. The temple was used for ceremonial cleansing, in which water flowed up through the middle of the temple and down spouts carved as different mythological creatures. To get to the temple, you have to walk down a long, wooden causeway.
The last temple of the day, Preah Kahn, was surprisingly huge and maze-like. Our tuk tuk driver dropped us at one gate of the temple and told us that he would meet us on the other side. The long entrance leads into several layers of walls and ancillary buildings, such as libraries, until reaching the central building, which had many long, narrow corridors connecting small shrine rooms. For comparison, Preah Kahn is larger than Ta Prohm (and in better shape) and just about as large as inside the moat of Angkor Wat.
After the long, hot, exhausting day, we boosted an amazing 10.75 miles of walking, and 49 flights of stairs. We decided that an afternoon by the pool, followed by a wholesome dinner, was well earned.