Our final 3 days in Siem Reap were spent doing a tour of the temples and local landmarks. We started our first morning by heading straight out on a tuk tuk with our driver and tour guide who would take us around for the next few days. The guide was so lovely and literally knew everything imaginable about the temples and the history of Cambodia! Our first stop was Banteay Srei, which means ‘Citadel of the woman’. It’s considered to be the most beautiful temple from the Angkor period as it’s made from pink and yellow sandstone, and features lots of carving and statues that are still in great condition.
We stopped for lunch at a local cafe and then went to see Neak Pean temple, which is one of 102 hospitals that was built by the 7th king of Angkor. It features four statues which represent north, east, south and west – a horse, lion, elephant and human.
Next we visited Ta Som, which is a small temple built by the 7th King at the end of the 12th century. It’s not as well restored as other temples in Angkor, and has loads of trees growing up and around the temple walls. The final temple that we saw was Pre Rup, which is a huge brick temple which was built in the 10th century. It’s a Hindu temple… all of the temples in Cambodia are either Hindu or Buddhist. Many of the Buddhist temples were partially destroyed and turned into Hindu temples over the years, and then eventually turned back into Buddhist ones again. The Hindu kings would go as far as to destroy all of the Buddha statues, and even change the carvings on the walls from meditating buddhas to Hindu ones.
We watched the sun set at Pre Rup and then hopped back in the tuk tuk and headed back to the hotel. In the evening we went to see a traditional Cambodian circus, which is performed by young people from troubled backgrounds and less fortunate areas of the country. It was a really great show and lots of the money taken from the ticket sales goes towards helping other underprivileged kids.
The second day of our tour started with a very early 4.30am wake up, and a quick ride in the tuk tuk to Angkor Wat. We watched the sun rise over the huge towers of the temple and managed to explore all of the galleries before the hoards of other tourists arrived. The temple was built in the 12th century and is the largest religious temple in the whole world. It’s tallest tower is 65 meters high, and no other building in Siem Reap is allowed to be built higher than it. It is one of the best preserved temples, which you can see reflected in the detail of the carvings in each gallery.
After exploring Angkor Wat we made our way to the South Gate at Angkor Thom and then to the Bayon temple. It’s one of the most famous in Cambodia because of the huge amount of smiling stone faces on the towers and walls. Like most of the other temples, the faces of the Buddha have been altered so they represent a Hindu god instead.
The next stop on the tour was Ta Prohm, a temple surrounded by strangling fig trees that was featured in the first Tomb Raider film. It’s was originally called Rajavihara and was built in the early 13th century. It has been partially restored but still has huge tree trunks and roots poking through the galleries and towers.
After taking the tuk tuk back to the hotel and enduring an interesting (painful) Khmer massage, we spent the night at a traditional Cambodian restaurant with a dance show.
We kicked off our third and final day of the tour with a boat trip to Ton Le Sap lake. After a long journey in a little motor boat we arrived at the floating village. There are tons of houses, a school, church and even a police station, all floating on the lake. It’s a small community that relies mostly on finishing for their income. We stopped off at a restaurant that also doubles as a crocodile farm, and got to see loads of huge crocodiles, and lots of baby ones too. After our trip on the lake we headed to the final stop on the tour – the Roluos Group Temples. We visited Preah Ko, Bakong and Lo Lei. Afterwards we stopped at a local restaurant for some lunch and then headed back to the city. For dinner we ate at GreenGo restaurant and had some beers and delicious veggie pizzas before heading back to the hotel. Banteay Srei
Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Wall carvings in Angkor Wat gallery
Monkeys! ( I gave them the banana)
Charming Buddha at Bayon
Tourists queuing to take a photo in front of the tomb raider tree
Church and school at the floating village
The floating village at Ton Le Sap
Preah Ko Temple