Angkor Wat and Siem Reap, Cambodia

As part of my very first trip to Thailand in 2000, I went on a side trip for a few days to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  Siem Reap is the nearest town to the temples of the Angkor Wat complex, an amazing spread of massive stone temples built by Khmer kings between 800AD and 1300AD.  I remember that trip vividly, as it was my first introduction to Southeast Asia and it was like nothing I had ever seen or experienced before.

Ever since then, I’ve wanted to go back to Cambodia to experience the temples again.  This year I finally went over a long weekend between Christmas and New Years.  In hindsight it probably wasn’t the best planning on my part, as that is the peak tourist season there.  But while there were throngs of tourists to contend with, it really didn’t spoil the amazement and wonder of the temples.

This posting I’m going to mostly just have the pictures, rather than a lot of long commentary from me.  Suffice it to say, though, I had a fantastic time seeing the temples and the Siem Reap area again.  The town has exploded from tourism over the past 14 years since I was first there.  But it’s still something that I highly recommend seeing.  If you’re ever in Southeast Asia, it’s well worth a few days in Siem Reap to experience the temples of Angkor Wat.

Stone carvings on bridge leading to the Angkor complex of temples.

Stone carvings on bridge leading to the Angkor complex of temples.

Stone entrance arch/gate to Angkor complex of temples.

Stone entrance arch/gate to Angkor complex of temples.

Entering Bayon temple at Angkor Thom.

Entering Bayon temple at Angkor Thom.

One of millions of carvings in the stone at Bayon Temple

One of millions of carvings in the stone at Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom

Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom

Me at Bayon Temple

Me at Bayon Temple

Stone walkway entrance to Baphuon Temple at Angkor Thom

Stone walkway entrance to Baphuon Temple at Angkor Thom

Baphuon Temple at Angkor Thom

Baphuon Temple at Angkor Thom

Monks in saffron robes at Baphuon Temple

Monks in saffron robes at Baphuon Temple

Looking down from the top of Baphuon temple

Looking down from the top of Baphuon temple

Wall of stone carvings.  Every image unique and different, but done with amazing precision.

Wall of stone carvings. Every image unique and different, but done with amazing precision.

Entrance to Ta Phrom temple

Entrance to Ta Phrom temple

Ta Phrom temple with giant tree roots growing in and over the temple walls

Ta Phrom temple with giant tree roots growing in and over the temple walls

Ta Phrom temple with more tree roots growing over and through the walls

Ta Phrom temple with more tree roots growing over and through the walls

Monks at Phnom Bakheng Temple... aka, the "sunset temple" where crowds of visitors climb a long pathway up a hill to the temple, then climb several sets of near-vertical stairs to get to the top of the temple to watch the amazing sunsets.

Monks at Phnom Bakheng Temple… aka, the “sunset temple” where crowds of visitors climb a long pathway up a hill to the temple, then climb several sets of near-vertical stairs to get to the top of the temple to watch the amazing sunsets.

The stunning Angkor Wat temple at sunrise, reflected in a pond in front of the temple.

The stunning Angkor Wat temple at sunrise, reflected in a pond in front of the temple.

Me at Angkor Wat at sunrise, in front of the reflecting pond.  Even though it was a little cloudy that morning, it was still worth getting up at 4:30am to be at this incredible place for sunrise.

Me at Angkor Wat at sunrise, in front of the reflecting pond. Even though it was a little cloudy that morning, it was still worth getting up at 4:30am to be at this incredible place for sunrise.

The long, stone walkway leading up to Angkor Wat.  Hard to describe the feeling you get as you walk towards that massive, imposing temple in front of you.

The long, stone walkway leading up to Angkor Wat. Hard to describe the feeling you get as you walk towards that massive, imposing temple in front of you.

The huge moat that surrounds the Angkor Wat temple.  The moat is 200 meters wide, and 5.5km total length around the complex.

The huge moat that surrounds the Angkor Wat temple. The moat is 200 meters wide, and 5.5km total length around the complex.

Banteay Srey temple, about 40km away from the main Angkor complex.  The stones here are more of a pink-colored sandstone, giving the temples a stunning color in the sun.

Banteay Srey temple, about 40km away from the main Angkor complex. The stones here are more of a pink-colored sandstone, giving the temples a stunning color in the sun.

After a couple of days of trekking up, down and through the stone temples, I decided to take a day out on a small boat on Tonle Sap lake.  It is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.  During the dry season, the lake drains into the Mekong River.  However, during the wet season, the Mekong backs up into the lake and raises the level by up to 9 meters.  Fisherman living on/in the lake have built homes on stilts so they’re above the water level during the rainy season.  During the dry season (when I went there) the homes are perched on their stills high above the water.

A fishing village on Tonle Sap lake where homes are built on stilts high above the lake.  During the rainy season, the lake fills so the homes are just above the level of the lake.

A fishing village on Tonle Sap lake where homes are built on stilts high above the lake.

More fishing village homes on Tonle Sap lake.

More fishing village homes on Tonle Sap lake.

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One thought on “Angkor Wat and Siem Reap, Cambodia

  1. Nice to see you posting consistently….. I am interested in what the Cambodians views are towards the west given the odd predicament they were in in the 70’s. I hope things are great!

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