Angkor archeological park- self guided

It’s a Thursday the morning after a night on Pub street and I’m feeling up to some more temple exploration in the Angkor Archeological Park. What no one realizes at first by looking at the map is that the whole park is about 400 square km. My first thought was that it would be nice to explore the temples by bicycle but it’s 7.3km just to Angkor Wat temple from the hostel. Then another 7km from Angkor to the next temple, Preah Khan, on my list and today is going to be a hot 36 deg C.

I’m asking around if anyone is up to renting a Tuk Tuk and head for Angkor area. I had only one person as a maybe and we start choosing temples to check out. By 10am that maybe turned into a no, so I headed out to the street to hire a Tuk Tuk by myself. Negotiation price is based for which temples and how many. The first guy I run into wanted 20 USD for the 5 temples I chose to visit. I heard that was the best going price from other’s experience.

The cool breeze from the Tuk Tuk ride was welcoming. My Tuk Tuk driver’s name is Saveng. He has an idea for the order of temple visits which is he believes would be the best logistically by Tuk Tuk and I agree.

We pass through the Bayon (aka Angkor Thom) to get to Preah Khan. It’s actually a long way to pass through this temple complex, 3.3km from South Gate to the North gate but I’m enjoying the pass through.

Preah Khan Temple

Saveng drops me off and says to meet him at the other side which saves time. It’s also a long way (2km) for the Tuk Tuk’s to circumvent. At first glance the temple itself doesn’t seem all that much, except for the entryway of statues and wall carvings surrounding the gated wall outside. There’s nothing towering above the west gate wall.

The name Preah Khan means sacred sword and the temple was built 12th century for King Jayavarman VII to honor his father. While he dedicated Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider Temple) to his mother.

I take my time studying the carvings outside the temple first before venturing inside. I’m not seeing too many people yet and it’s quite pleasant. Many of the temples are surrounded by a square of waterways but they are very far out the outer rim except for this one is close by the temple itself.

Once inside the temple it is impressive with it’s restored condition. As I venture through the temple hallways I see a photo shoot which appears to be for a wedding. I’ve seen others the day before. What a backdrop for a wedding shoot.

Roaming the hallways of these temples is very cooling with breezes running through. It comforts you and lulls you to a serene state of being while being encompassed by ancient artistry and architecture. You are transported to another time in history briefly. This is what keeps me coming back to temples.

Spean Thma

More tree than temple, it’s actually just a bridge, but that’s why I did a quick stop here on the way to Ta Keo.

It was time for a cold drink break before checking out Ta Keo. From the previous day I remembered how tall this temple was with many steep steps when we were eating lunch yesterday. I need to refresh first.

I see Saveng at the cafe and offer him a drink or food but he’s already been there for awhile and said he’s full. After my icy cold strong coffee drink I was re-energized and ready to take on Ta Keo.

Ta Keo Temple

This temple is made entirely of sandstone and was built about a hundred years prior to Angkor Wat. Built by Jayavarman V and dedicated to Shiva. The early Angkor temples were Hindu and Jayavarman VII converted to Mahayana Buddhism with the later temples.

As you approach the temple your mind wants to get to the top but your body says ‘are you crazy’. My mind answers ‘yes’ to that question so let’s get going!

At the top of Ta Keo you are rewarded with wide views of the surrounding jungle. I’m taking some time out sitting in the shade of the temple towers to cool off from the steep climb and drink some water while staring outward.

Exploring the topside you see separate towers of which some are opened up and have offerings inside. I ponder getting down the steep steps is actually harder than going up. My legs are too short for the steepness of the steeps so I need to sit on each step and climb down. There are others at the base looking up seeing my position which gives them an actual reference of the steepness of the steps. This doesn’t stop many though. Seems everyone already here had made up their mind to get to the top.

Pre Rup Temple

Pre Rup is a 3 Tiered pyramid temple dedicated to Shiva by Rajendravarman II. The whole structure is supposed to represent the structure of the universe.

The five towers at the top represent the five mountain peaks of the sacred mountain Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Hindu mythology.

This temple also had steep steps to the top. However since I was exploring the around the base first I happened upon some wooden steps at the back of the temple which made the climb much more pleasant. It is believed the steep steps are meant to make you humble before ascending but I’m pretty humbled even with the wooden steps after the sun and the heat.

After returning to the Tuk Tuk Saveng asks me if I’m tired yet. I say yes but still one more temple to go then I’m done. Mind over matter. I’m now wondering if he’s hinting that he’s tired of hanging around?

Banteay Kdei Temple

Last temple to visit, Banteay Kdei means Citadel of Chambers. It’s one of those unrestored temples. I tend to like the unrestored ones to explore with the lichen-cladded grey stone.

It’s a Buddhist temple built by Jayavarman VII.

I spotted this mother hen and her chicks following her around and watched for awhile. There was a noise from some type of bird and the mother hen made a low grumbling sound. Then she and all the chicks froze in position for a long time. They didn’t move at all. I watched for awhile then walked away wondering what that was all about.

There were two enchanting courtyards that I enjoyed hanging out in for awhile with no one else there.

Finally the end of Banteay Kdei temple with the banyan tree. I take some time to get some great photos. Now I have to traverse back to the gate. I meet up with Saveng and we head back to the hostel. I give him $25 USD instead of $20 since we got back at 3pm. I don’t think he realized how long I would last when he made his original offer.

That’s the last of the Angkor Archeological park. I used 2 days of my 3 day pass but I need to save that for Kbal Spean, the carved river rocks an hour north of Siem Reap.