Angkor (pronounced Anchor) Archeological Park, Cambodia, home to the famed Angkor Wat and once the seat of the vast Khmer empire. Once the largest preindustrial city in the world and said to be the largest single religious monument in the world, Angkor was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. As soon as I made the decision to travel to SEA these ancient ruins were on my to-do list. After spending too much time enjoying Thailand, I almost missed my chance, but I made the rash decision to bail on my scheduled flight to Hong Kong (and unfortunately eat the cost) in order to give myself another week in SEA to make the pilgrimage. After that week was finished, I had not a single regret about my decision. Angkor is truly one of the great wonders of the world and for a, Jurassic Park/Congo/Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider, loving geek like myself it was a total nerd-gasm. I purchased a 3 day pass to the park and spent 2 days with a tuk-tuk guide and the last day cruising around on a rented bicycle. There was obviously so much I saw and so many pictures I took that it would be futile for me to try and showcase Angkor in my traditional blog post style. So I decided to condense it all quite a bit into a short video and then some, “best of”, pics after that. It certainly does not do it proper justice, but this is just one of those places you ultimately have to see for yourself one day. Enjoy the music video montage followed by my pitiful attempt at being a documentarian.
If you purchase the 3 day pass ($40) a day beforehand, you get a complementary sunset that evening. This view is from, Phnom Bakheng, the first temple-mountain built in Angkor. The temple mountain is supposed to represent the mythical Mount Meru in the Hindu religion. Also called the Elephant Temple, and you can still pay for an elephant ride to the top.
Headless statue lining the entrance to the Victory Gate. Almost all the heads of the statues in Angkor have been stolen and sold off by thieves, neighboring governments or crime gangs. Only recently have security measures been put into place to prevent this type of looting. Looting, along with jungle overgrowth and unsustainable tourism are some of the major problems facing Angkor.
Various shots of Ta Prohm, the “tree temple”, built during the reign of Jayavarman VII. This temple was left in its original state when discovered in the 19th century by the French explorer Henri Mouhot. Strangler Figs engulf the ruins and have become part of the beauty. This is also the temple used in the filming of Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie. Eerily quiet and surprisingly deserted when we visited. I had a heyday climbing in and out of the ruins.
Cambodian Land Mine museum we visited on the way out to Banteay Srei. Created and maintained by CNN Hero, Aki Ra, very eye opening to realize the number of American land mines still taking lives in rural Cambodia. Third largest number of casualties per year, only behind Afghanistan and Bosnia.
Closeups of the detailed Hindu and Buddhist bas reliefs and sculptures all around the complex. Angkor switched back and forth between the two religions throughout history, each religious group defacing the artifacts of the other. Angkor is now predominantly Buddhist, but many Hindu statues remain.
Downtown Siem Reap, the city closest to Angkor and where I stayed for a week. Originally a French colony, you can still see the influence in the architecture. Unfortunately you can also still see the influence of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot regime. It’s hard to imagine that such as wonderful place and such smiling people endured genocide 20 years ago.