Leaving Coconut Beach on the 23rd of December, we spent the Christmas period in a beautiful retreat just outside of Phnom Penh, doing yoga, drinking lots of green juice, and with our phones and cameras firmly switched off. We went into Phnom Penh city on Christmas Day for a delicious lunch at a social enterprise restaurant that gives work and training to underprivileged kids, followed by a 5 hour extravagant pampering treatment that left us feeling like pools of melted butter.
We set off to Siem Reap on the 27th, and spent a couple of wonderful days exploring the temples. We stayed in a beautiful hotel called Po Residence which I can’t recommend enough (the service we received was excellent). On our first morning in Siem Reap, we woke up at 5am, jumped into our waiting tuk tuk with a packed breakfast waiting for us, and headed off into the night to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat. Whizzing through the streets under the cover of darkness, with the warm air blowing in our sleepy faces felt like such an exciting adventure.
When we arrived with 20 minutes to go before sunrise, we stumbled our way to the best viewing point in front of the moat, and felt truly disappointed to find hundreds (if not thousands) of tourists already there, bickering and elbowing each other out of the way to get the best snap on their phones.
Nevertheless, as the sun began to illuminate the temple, we all (mostly all) hushed and enjoyed the show as the rising light bounced off the incredible carved sandstone towers.
Within a few minutes, it’s true beauty was revealed as the sun rose and bathed Angkor Wat in golden morning light.
Angkor Wat was originally built as a Hindu temple, dedicated to Vishnu the god of protection, early in the 12th century. It was gradually converted to a buddhist temple by the end of the century, and stands today on a site measuring 402 acres, as one of the largest religious monuments in the world. It was thankfully unspoiled during the Khmer Rouge rule, although art thieves in the late 1980’s from Thailand lopped off as many head as they could from the statues.
The intricate carvings are awe-inspiring to look at up close.
Just as we were leaving to go to the next temple, this little king of the swingers came out to say hello.
Every temple has it’s own personality and feeling to it. Each one different from the last.
There are many, many temples to see in the Angkor Wat area. The tuk tuk drivers kindly wait for you outside of them all. I have to admit, I did get a little weary after the third one, what with the early start, and there are so many stairs to climb in these temples!! I did perk up though when we arrived outside Ta Prohm, otherwise known as the Tomb Raider Temple. Loads of scenes from the Angelina Jolie film were shot in this temple, and it shows! We practically had to queue all the way through this temple, as tourists flock here every day. It is the wildest and most overgrown, which adds a magical, other worldly feeling to it.
A morning well spent, exploring one of the new wonders of the world.