My second day in Siem Reap and Angkor was spent exploring the so-called “heavy hitters” of Angkor, which included the magnificent complex of Angkor Thom, as well as the nature-ravaged ruins of Ta Prohm. These were places featured prominently in travelogues, as well as in pop culture, including shows such as The Amazing Race and movies like Tomb Raider. It’s not hard to see why these were such popular places; they were quite picturesque, and definitely left me with a sense of awe.
Angkor Thom was my first stop in the morning. The first clue that this was a popular destination was the hordes of people and tourists massed at its entrance. My tuk-tuk driver Mr. Bill dropped me off at the South Gate of Angkor Thom, and waited for me inside while I snapped pictures outside, just like all the other tourists there.
I saw many different modes of transportation entering Angkor Thom: Tuk-tuks (perhaps the most common), cars, and even elephants. I almost wished I’d taken an elephant as well, just for the tourist-y fun of it, but oh well. It was nice seeing the pachyderms marching into Angkor Thom.
Once inside Angkor Thom, I was taken to one of the most iconic (and most photographed) places in Angkor: Bayon. A good friend of mine had actually given me a brass figurine of the faces of Bayon back in seventh grade (1996), so on a personal level, it was even more exciting for me to see Bayon in person. Bayon definitely did not disappoint, and I spent quite a lot of time exploring the whole place and snapping pictures of its many famed faces. The place was vast; no wonder a couple of teams got lost on The Amazing Race. There was also ruins of a library on the grounds, which I naturally climbed up to despite the steep steps.
It was then one highlight after another in Angkor Thom, snapping pictures and climbing ruins whenever possible. I checked out Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of Elephants, and Terrace of the Leper King. One thing I noticed was the surprising number of fellow Filipinos in the area; a family of three here, a pair of college-aged girls there, a noisy group of call center agents somewhere else. It was fascinating and puzzling to me, until I realized that it was already Holy Week. It probably meant that many Filipinos saving up their vacation leaves took the rest of the week off (Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are holidays in the Philippines) and went to Cambodia.
From there, I checked out Thommanon, Chau Say Tevoda, and Ta Keo. I was enjoying myself so much that I didn’t even notice how tired and hungry I was, or that it was already way past lunchtime. I grabbed a quick lunch at one of the many stalls outside the temples (upon the urging of Mr. Bill).
After my late lunch, it was time to see the wonder that is Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm may be best known for being featured in Tomb Raider, but even without that association, it definitely earns its place as a must-see destination. It was quite a sight to see, with trees growing out of the ruins of the temple. There were lots of places for photo ops, and I was lucky that I bumped into two girls who offered to take my picture at those spots. (I reciprocated the favor, of course.) It was such a gorgeous place, and I spent a lot of time just taking everything in even when I wasn’t taking pictures.
I finished off my day by visiting Banteay Kdei, Sras Srang, and Prasat Kravan. It was nice hanging out at Sras Srang, relaxing and taking in the gorgeous view of the water. It was relatively quiet, and it allowed me to breathe in the fresh air and reflect on all the wonders I had seen that day.
Here are just some of the pictures taken on that day. You can take a look at more photos on Flickr.
SOUTH GATE OF ANGKOR THOM
TERRACE OF ELEPHANTS
TERRACE OF THE LEPER KING
CHAU SAY TEVODA