For the Têt Holiday this year, we went to Siem Reap, Cambodia to see the temples of Angkor. These temples have been on my bucket list for years, but I never, ever thought I would have the opportunity to get there. It was an incredible experience. Each and every building we went into took my breath away.
I'm not sure that my children felt the same about the temples, but they did enjoy the tuk-tuk rides and putt-putt golf that Siem Reap had to offer. But let's face it. This trip was more for Derek and me than it was for the boys. I promise we'll do something fun for them for Spring Break.
All temple goers must purchase a pass to view the sites. We bought the Three Day pass for $40 which was plenty of temple going for a five year old and a two year old. We broke up the temples and only went every other day so that the kids wouldn't get burned out.
On our first full day, we spent the morning walking through Angkor Thom. This is a huge site with dozen of temples scattered throughout, the most notable being Bayon. Thank goodness it was a relatively cool day because it was quite the walk for a five year old. The site was busy with a plethora of tourists, but it was so open that it never really felt crowded.
I think I'll let the picture speak for themselves, though it is important to note that they do not do these temples justice. The feeling you get walking through a stone doorway that was built a thousand years ago is beyond words. As we walked through the site, I was in a constant state of awe.
The above pictures are all from Bayon. Each of the towers, has four faces carved into the massive stones. Impressive as they are, there's even more to the temples. Every where you look you can find ornate, still detailed relief carvings etched into the stone facade a thousand years ago. I couldn't stop taking pictures of them! They represent battles, mythology of the time, and everyday events. Dancers, elephants, monarchs, and more!
And then there is the sheer beauty of the structure of the temples as well. The blocks of stone were all hauled from a far away site, and they were made to fit together perfectly. There was no cement used. The blocks are stacked, lego style, but without the pegs. The engineering behind these temples is incredible!
Angkor Wat & Ta Prohm
On the second day of our three day pass, we went to Angkor Wat at sunrise and then to Ta Prohm in the afternoon. Watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat was an incredible experience. It was well worth waking the kids at 4 AM and a tuk-tuk ride in the dark. Simply breathtaking.
I could have done without the hundreds of other tourists, but we still managed to get several great pictures of the event (even though we are amateur photographers).
After sunrise, we spent a couple hours walking around the grounds, taking pictures of the galleries, towers, and monkeys. The walls surrounding Angkor Wat were covered with images of battle scenes, demons, gods, and royalty. The detail was stunning, and you could see the spots on the ways were a thousand years worth of people had touched the stone. Again, I was in awe.
After lunch, we took the tuk-tuk to Ta Prohm: the site where "Tomb Raider" was filmed. I found Ta Prohm equally, if not more, beautiful than Angkor Wat simply because the jungle was reclaiming the site as its own. Six-hundred year old trees have wrapped their roots over and around the walls and temples as Mother Nature reclaims what was once hers.
Again, the carvings in the walls of the temples within Ta Prohm were breathtaking.
My favorite spot was a doorway built into a wall with a giant tree growing over it. The doorway was rather small which made the contrast even greater. So extraordinary!
The final temple we ventured to was a bit further away, a bit more run down, and lacked many of the restoration activities the bigger, more "popular" temples were experiencing. It was quite similar to Ta Prohm in that the jungle was well underway to reclaiming the site, but becuase the restoration activites havn't realy started, you could get a reall sense of what was still standing without any modern intervention after nearly a thousand years. Some of the temples within the area were simply collapsed, but a remarkable number still stood. And in many places, the trees had become part of what was still holding the structures up.
Preah Khan was also significantly less crowded than the previous three sites we had been to, so the boys had the opportunity to run around the grounds a bit and really explore the site. Actually, I would have to say that this site was my favorite of the four we visited because I could still see the impressive structures, the detailed carvings, how nature was infiltrating, all while not being completely surrounded by other tourists. I felt like we had more of an opportunity to discover the site on our own rather than just walk through, following a herd of other tourists.
What an incredible experience! It was an awe inspiring vacation and I hope to go back again when the boys are a bit older and can better appreciate the majesty of Angkor.
The blog entries from our trip to Siem Reap during the Têt Holiday in 2014.
Swanson Family Travels
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