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  • Writer's pictureErin Paulsen

Siem Reap, Cambodia

One of the only shots i got of the actual town of Sieam Reap, as we spent the majority of our time at the Angkor complexes. This picture was taken from the bus we took in from Bangkok. We got to watch the sunset on our ride and as it fell behind the horizon the sunlight lit up the vast Cambodian countryside lined with barely any houses or buildings except for a few similar to this all wooden red and blue house. 

Let me clarify first, most people (myself included before we arrived) just throw all of the temples in the Angkor complexes under the name of Angkor Wat. Really, though, Angkor Wat is just one temple complex. It is the main Wat at the southwestern end of the complexes and is flocked full of tourists from the moment the sun rises until the moment it sets. Angkor Wat is supposedly the biggest religious complex ever built. I find this hard to believe as the actual Angkor Temple isn't that big. Beautiful, mysterious, lined with buddhist engravings and eerie in that way only decrepid buildings can be, it was an amazing start to our wanderings around the temple complexes. 

Tree pose at one of the smaller structures in the Angkor Wat complex. The first of many yoga photos and videos that would be taken over the next 3 or 4 days.

Our second day of visiting the temples we got up super early and made it to the obligatory sunrise over Angkor Wat. It really was breathtaking (minus the masses of people), and the perfect way to start the day. It was outrageously hot in Siem Reap during the afternoons so getting an early start was the best way to do the temples. 

Just North of Angkor Wat is the Angkor Thom complexes. They are the most expansive (again, why is Angkor Wat considered the biggest religious structure?) group of temples in all of the complexes and you better have rented a bicycle if you want to be able to cover all of Angkor Thom in one afternoon. They are also in much more ruin than Angkor Wat, which is basically perfectly persevered. Despite having more ruin about them, there also happens to be more little temples still standing, scattered around the trees and the forest that have been creeping up on them for centuries. 

Being religious structures in nature, the temples are, obviously, lined and full of Buddha images. The engraving above is typical of the engravings you would see on the walls of all of the temples. My favorite images were the ones of strange little Shiva-like men and women dancing and holding up their mudras for you as you pass them by. The Buddha statue on the right was also a common sight among the temples, their presence to be found in almost every complex. Incense were left out for the visitors and everyone was welcome to light their three, say their prayers, their thank-yous and express their gratitude for the existence of these temples and the opportunity we have in our life time to see them in person.

 Without a doubt Ta Prohm was my favorite set of temples. The ruins, and the temples left standing were compiled perfectly so that you felt like you were still walking through a fresh excavation site. Ta Prohm is the temple best known for being regained by the Earth. The massive trees that have extended their roots all over the temple is mystifying. We all spent our entire time at this complex wondering how these trees came to sprout up around and on top of the temples. (I am sure people know the answer to that question, but its fun to leave it as sort of an unexplainable phenomenon). The best part about Ta Prohm, however, was the fact that 99% of the people who came into this complex never left the central courtyard. There was a platform set up, similar to the one in the picture of myself and the tree above, for  photo-ops with "the best tree for taking pictures with", and a few other little structures that apparently were enough for most people's viewing pleasures. For the rest of us, who like to get out of the crowds and wander on our own, you could easily navigate yourself over and around some of the ruin and find yourself in a back corner of the temple completely alone, just you, the ruins, and hundreds of buddhas.

The sister and I on our third and last day of wandering around the temples. This temple was far off the beaten path and most people didn't venture out this far. The temple itself was quite Egyptian-Pyramid like and not very intricate save for the awesome elephant statures that lined the corners of the temple. 

I have so many more pictures from this trip, perhaps i will add more in the future. 

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