From the UNESCO World Heritage Site: Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations.
My first full day in Seim Reap, Cambodia was spent temple hopping around Angkor with Urban Adventures‘ Angkor Adventures. This is the same travel company that I used exploring Mexico City last year. Best. Day. Ever. is its motto and from my experience in Mexico, they really step up to expectations. They specialize in small group walking tours and this time around, there were three of us in the group – an Australian couple from Brisbane and me.
The highlights of the tour according to its blurb in the Urban Adventures website:
* Visit the world’s largest Hindu temple: Angkor Wat
* Marvel at Bayon with its 54 towers decorated with more than 200 enigmatic smiling faces
* Trek through Ta Prohm the jungle temple made famous in the Tomb Raider movie
* Taste a delicious Khmer lunch
We met at a central location in Siem Reap at about 8 am which, in terms of temple exploration, is already late (there are about 50 Buddhist and Hindu temples dating back to the 12th century within Angkor.). But Urban Adventures has a strategy – instead of approaching the first site which is Angkor Wat, from its West Gate, the tour started at the East Gate, thereby avoiding the mass of people who descended into Angkor Wat to see the sunrise. While the throng of people were still in the west side, we were exploring the east side which was basically empty. We eventually met the early birds at the middle of the temple.
The East Gate was actually a good introduction to what to expect when going around Angkor Wat. Our excellent guide, Dy (or Dee), was able to point out the features of architecture that abound in the temple, such as, apsara dancers (there are supposed to be 3,000 of them with 37 distinct hairstyles), columns (or balustrades), windows and other features.
Have a look!