The Magic of Angkor

We discovered the concept of “Hotel Bus” on our way to Siem Reap! A bus that actually has beds to sleep in a fully horizontal position. Not bad right?

Well, it only comes with two flaws: Some buses have a row of single beds, but in most cases the beds are double. So if you are a solo traveller, the chances are you will end up with a total stranger in bed! The second thing is, in case of an accident, there is not much to hold on too…  But we reached Siem Reap safely at 7am after a rather good night of sleep!

Siem Reap is a nice city, very touristic for sure, but with a good atmosphere, many restaurants and bars, shops, markets, spas and night life. It is the starting point to visit the incredible site of Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire.

The entrance fee for Angkor is rather expensive but really worth it. After all, it is the biggest archaeological site of south-east Asia, surfacing over 400 square kilometres, and declared world heritage in 1992.

Additionally to being a real piece of art, some of the most ancient constructions date back from the 9th century and testify of the incredible ingenuity of the Khmer civilisation… Angkor is just one of those spectacular place in the world that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. A place where nature meets history…

For our experience, we took it easy and visited on day one Angkor Wat, the Elephant Terrace and Baphuon. On day two Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm. And on day three we went all the way to Banteay Srey and walked through the jungle to see Kbal Spean, the came back and stopped at Banteay Samre and watch the sunset from the top of Pre Rup.

Each of these temples has its very own magical atmospher: Angkor Wat is just incredible for its majestic entry, its size and amount of details, Bayon is breathtaking with its great amount of Buddha faces and has something almost mysterious to it, Ta Prohm with its massive trees that have been trying for hundreds of years to make their way through the stones is mystical, and Banteay Srey is an absolute jewel, away from the tourist crowds its beauty is a delight…

It is very hot in Angkor, the kind sticky hot… The roads are dusty and the earth is red which just adds to the unique atmosphere of the place and makes a simple TukTuk ride from one temple to another a special moment. 

The colours and cool air of early morning in the temples is precious, and the heat becomes almost unbearable when the sun reaches its peak. But the best part of the day is the end of the afternoon, when the sun is lower in the sky, the air is still hot and yet light is less intense and the colours of the sun reflected over the stones of the temples become almost perfection… This moment is the best to wander in your favourite temple, visit it maybe for a second time and see it under a different light…

Now, it goes without saying that Angkor has become a very popular destination, especially among Chinese tourists. We have managed to take a few nice pictures to reflect the beauty of the temples, but these are the reward of looong minutes of patience… The reality of Angkor is somewhat different, especially in the most famous temples (Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm) there the crowds (of mostly Chinese groups) have overwhelmed these places. It is sometimes so intense that it is like being caught in a fast current of selfies and guides flags that goes from the entrance to the exit, and unless you hold on tight to a side wall while the strong current passes, you might find yourself washed away towards the exit…

Sometimes, you just have to take a deep breath and try to make abstraction of the crowd to appreciate the generous beauty of Angkor and don’t forget to take a detour to the some of the smaller sites, those where you can quietly take the atmosphere all in… (Banteay Samre late evening is the perfect place).

We stayed a total of 5 days in Siem Reap. The added bonus was that we spent the 2 first day with my father and little sister who were visiting friends from France on holiday, Alain and Annick, (some of our faithful followers :-)) It was quite unexpected but great to meet in such a magical place again!

And as Alain is passionate by the history of Angkor, we were lucky to have him telling us about the stories of the site on our first day visit!

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