SIEM REAP, Cambodia, March 23 – 25 – The largest temple in the world, an amazing story of a lost city and empire, the centuries of history of the local Khmer people, a fabulous five star ‘history book’ hotel … RUN to Siem Reap, Cambodia for this incredible place of Angkor which is a longstanding World Heritage Site as well as the place of Angkor Wat – largest manmade temple and national symbol of Cambodia – being one of our 7 manmade wonders of the world. A country emerging out of devastation to a new renown, we easily reach Siem Reap, Cambodia by private jet, and we love our cultural connection with these friendly respectful Cambodian people.
Our hotel is the most impressive and historic Raffles Grand D’Angkor – built by the French – with its luxurious suites, fabulous tropical gardens, vast lagoon pool, heavenly Spa, and excellent Franco-Khmer influenced dining. What more can we need as our base from which to explore the wonders of nearby Angkor.
Our visit included an initial late afternoon “tuk tuk” ride through the small city of Siem Reap to the night market at Phsar Leu followed by fine dining dinner of choice at our hotel’s excellent dining room. Some guests elected to Dine by Choice a good restaurant in Siem Reap.
At the ancient city of Angkor we visited three historical temple sites. This sprawling ruined city and temples complex (almost 100 ruined temples in all), was built between 800 – 900 years ago and thrived for 500 years. Due to marauding invasions from its neighbors (modern day Thailand and Vietnam), Angkor was conquered and ransacked and then entirely deserted about 400 years ago. In time the area was entirely overrun by thick tropical jungle growth and so lost to the world. In the 1930s French explorers in the country started to rediscover this ‘lost’ place.
On our day of exploring Angkor, we traveled as three small groups, each with a professional Lakani local guide. Our first visit was to the main vast principle temple, Angkor Wat, built during the early 12th Century, taking 70 years to complete, towering in the distance on our approach. It was believed that approx 20,000 laborers per day with at least 4000 elephants built the great temple over 70 years. At the main entrance of this largest temple in the world, each group is joined by a local Khmer archaeologist specific to Angkor Wat. Crossing the large moat, we head into the vast temple complex and our guided explorations of this best preserved and most significant temple. Angkor Wat’s impressive massive scale and amazingly proportioned layout as well as beautiful delicate artistry of its all around stone carvings, make for an awesome visit. Around this temple, along its outer gallery walls, exists the largest continuous ‘bas-relief’ stone carving in the world all depicting ancient mythology of the Khmer. Through the massive main buildings we access smaller galleries and courtyards (with huge cleansing pools), and we ascend to the second and third levels of the main tower. On the 3rd level is the most sacred place off all, considered like ‘heaven on earth’ and only accessible to the King and holiest of holy Beings.
We continue from extraordinary Angkor Wat to explore nearby ancient city of Angkor Thom … a walled fortified city also surrounded by a moat. We enter through the south gate of this imperial city and within the walls we find the ‘youngest’ of all the temples, Bayon. This is also the ‘liveliest’ of all the temples in terms of the many large smiling stone faces, seemingly looking down happily at us from all angles. At this temple the carved stone ‘bas-relief’ around the temple depicts all facets of everyday life of the ancient Khmer, and interestingly very similar to life of Cambodia today. We also drive over to visit the impressive elephant terrace from where the Royal family embarked by elephants to travel.
Ta Prohm temple has been left much as it was discovered by the French. This shows incredible example of the large powerful strangler fig and banyan trees growing through and over the ruins for centuries. In places it seems as though these enormous tropical forest trees ‘devoured’ large parts of the temple. It is a superb reminder example of what the French explorers found over the entire Angkor complex, and over 30-40 years of work to reclaim and rebuild much of what had been lost. Ta Prohm is one of the most well known of the temples of Angkor mainly for the reason that it was used as a set for the Hollywood film ‘Tomb Raider’.
Much like Easter Island we all enjoyed Angkor as one of those most extraordinary and almost inexplicable places on earth. How can we ever really know how it all came to be … and then ‘vanished’.
We travel on to incredible India … our new home for 3 days … visiting first the world-renowned Taj Mahal, that ultimate ‘monument of love’, … And then on to the “pink city” of Jaipur, capital city of Rajasthan.
Check our photos from the vibrant night market, ancient ruins, and our luxury private party… Click any photo to enlarge.
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