It’s a bit sad that, in the travel world, Cambodia gets reduced to the Angkor temples as the sole thing to do and see in the country, which is absolutely not true. Yet like many others, we went on the beaten path and scheduled almost a whole week in Cambodia over last Christmas just to see the expansive crown jewel of the Khmer empire.
Do you really need that long? Probably not. Should you take your time seeing all the temples? It depends. I was kind of “templed out” by the end of day 3, and Cameron had been to the temples before. By then it was also surprisingly hot for December, and the temples were getting more crowded each day (hordes of Chinese tourists and their ubiquitous selfie sticks), at which point we decided we had seen the most important things, chilled at our hotel, and got massages #treatyoself.
We have separate folders with pictures of each temple we went to. I won’t put you through that. Instead, I will just leave you with a snippet of some of my favorites from Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm – which are possibly the top 3 temples people visit anyway, with reason.
Once again, I felt very grateful to be able to revisit a favorite of Cameron with him. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and would love to see more of Cambodia in the future. The Khmers are lovely and their food is delicious, I might add – think Thai food but without so many spices, and revolving around one or two flavors at a time.
There were a number of things I noticed on the architecture of the temples that was interesting:
- Columns – pretty much all over the city of Angkor you’ll see that columns are part of the supporting structure of buildings. It’s interesting to me that the Khmer would have thought those necessary in buildings made of rocks, but they are there nonetheless. I think it’s possible those columns may be responsible for some of the temples standing to this day. If you look at some of the columns in the pictures, you’ll also see that they are not unlike columns found in Greek and Roman architecture or at least not as far apart as you’d think.
- Wall carvings for storytelling – this reminded me of some of the Assyrian and Persian carvings that have been found in parts of the Middle East. The Khmer did essentially the same thing in the Angkor temples by carving some of their legends and the significance of their gods/goddesses on the walls of these temples, much like the Assyrians and the Persians used wall carvings to preserve the history of their civilization.
- The triangular/pyramidal structure of the temples, and the way the rock has aged reminded me of some of the Mayan and Aztec pyramids, temples, and archeological sites in Mexico and Central America (specifically Guatemala). It makes me wonder just how much in common precolonial civilizations could have in common when they develop in rather different geographical location. You can see more of what I mean by looking at these pictures of the Tikal site in Guatemala: UNESCO gallery of Tikal. Notice the face carvings on top of the buildings (possibly built with the same Khmer purpose of guarding the city? I’m super curious!)
Please excuse some of the random people in some of the pictures, specifically in Ta Prohm – it’s Cameron’s favorite temple but we didn’t get to spend too much time there for two reasons: a) it was undergoing heavy renovations and a good portion of it was walled off, and b) there were SO.MANY.TOUR.GROUPS. Still incredible.
We highly recommend staying at the Pavillon d’Orient hotel in Siem Reap – it’s peaceful, quiet, and they take incredible care of their guests. You can read my review of Pavillion D’Orient on TripAdvisor here.
Our next post will bring it back to Korea in our attempt to complete some “must-do” items before we go. You can see more of that on my Instagram page @analinmcgregor.
Ahh! The first stint of our time abroad is almost coming to an end!