The Big Trip: Day Seven - temples of Angkor

I woke up on Monday morning ready to start exploring the magnificent temples of Angkor. My Lonely Planet guidebook told me that it was possible to explore the heavy-hitters in one day, but I wanted to take my time and explore some of the lesser-known (and presumably less touristy) temples. After breakfast, Mr. Bill picked me up from my hostel, and I went and got my three-day pass. The process of getting the pass wasn’t too difficult. All I had to do was show my passport, tell them which pass I wanted, pay the fee, get my picture taken, and claim the printed pass. The line for the three-day passes wasn’t that long; it seemed that most of the tourists were getting the one-day passes. Plus, I was out and about early enough to avoid the crush of people getting passes, so the whole thing went by more quickly than I thought it would. From there, it was off to see the wonders of Angkor with my trusty tuk-tuk driver, Mr. Bill.

It’s hard to describe in words how one feels when one sees the magnificent temples of Angkor. Some are more magnificent than others, but everything still feels grand. In the face of modern means of construction, it boggles the mind that people thousands of years ago were capable of building such complex structures without the aid of modern technology. Plus, seeing how steep and tiny the steps on some of these temples made one wonder how they managed to climb up and down some of these temples. (They certainly weren’t made for large tourists such as myself.)

I didn’t expect to do much climbing, either, but once I got there, I completely understood the “because it’s there” philosophy of many climbers. I am not very athletic, have zero background in climbing, and have a sometime crippling fear of heights (or, more to the point, a fear of falling), but once I saw those tall, steep steps to the top, as well as other tourists making the arduous, dangerous climb, it was a no-brainer for me. I had to make the climb. In the end, I was rewarded with spectacular views from the tops of some temples. (And for your information, going down is way more difficult and scary than going up.)

As I said, it’s difficult to put into words what I saw and how I felt, so the next best thing is to share some photos and videos from my first day exploring the temples of Angkor. You can check out my hi-res photos at Flickr, and view all my travel videos at YouTube. Enjoy! (Be warned: It gets pretty graphic-heavy after the jump!)

PREAH KHAN

I made an expensive newbie mistake here, allowing a guide to take me through the temple. I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if I were in a group, but unfortunately, I had nobody to split the costs with. While it was good to have a guide to explain some of the things I saw, ultimately, it just wasn’t worth the $30 (or just about the cost of the three-day pass) I paid. Ouch. (In retrospect, perhaps I should have gone to the museum before going to the temples instead of after.) Oh well, lesson learned: Say NO if you can!

Preah Khan

Preah Khan

Preah Khan

PREAH NEAK PEAN

Preah Neak Pean

Preah Neak Pean

TA SOM

Ta Som was like Ta Prohm on a smaller scale. Much like Ta Prohm, nature had begun to overrun this temple. Also, just like Ta Prohm, Ta Som has a spot where you can have your picture taken next to a segment of the temple where a tree’s roots have begun to climb over the temple walls and gate. It’s much easier to snap a picture here, though, as you don’t have to wait for batches of fellow tourists to snap their own pictures.

In another show of nature’s strength, we also found a colony of ants (or termites, or some other social insect) crawling up and down one of the doorways. We were all careful not to touch or disturb them, lest we suffer their wrath. (Think the scene with the scarabs in The Mummy.)

Ta Som

Ta Som

Ta Som

EASTERN MEBON

Eastern Mebon

Eastern Mebon

PRE RUP

The first temple I climbed. The climb wasn’t as difficult as that on some of the other temples, but it was still pretty steep. Seeing a bunch of other tourists climbing it encouraged me to try it out, as I didn’t want to kick myself as I walked away for not doing it. So I climbed it, and the view was worth the exertion.

Pre Rup

Pre Rup

Pre Rup

LOLEI

Lolei

Lolei

BAKONG

Another temple that I climbed. From afar, it didn’t look very high or very steep, but as I approached it, it became clear to me that Bakong was going to be pretty high. This one had a gorgeous view from the top; see for yourself!

Bakong

Bakong

Bakong

PREAH KO

Preah Ko

Preah Ko

And that was the last stop on my first day touring the temples of Angkor. Of course, when I wasn’t climbing temples and all that, I was having some delicious Khmer food.

a Khmer dish

Loc Lac

All in all, it was a great introduction to the wonders of Angkor, and I was pumped to see some of the “stars” of the show, leading up to the big one on the third day: Angkor Wat!