There’s more to Angkor than Angkor Wat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 Banteay Samre at the Angkor Temple complex—C.Helbig

Before visiting Cambodia, I had no idea that there was more to Angkor Wat than Angkor Wat! The largest religious monument in the world is just the big daddy of over a thousand temples spread across 400 sq. km in the Angkor complex (Angkor Archaeological Park). In my last post I wrote about our first day at Angkor, on a cycling tour that included visits to the most popular temples: the busy “big three”—Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm. Our next two days, now via tuk-tuk, took us to temples a little further afield. While they may lack the grandeur of Angkor Wat, our overall experience was perhaps even grander.

First, a little background on the size and layout of  the complex. The most popular sightseeing route is known as the small circuit (about 17 km). It takes in Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm and several other temples and monuments (route shown in yellow on the map below, and roughly what we covered on our first day bike tour). The grand circuit is 26 km and includes the small circuit plus the adjacent area right above on the map, outlined in white. Beyond these two circuits are many more sites. That’s how big this place is! It takes a good three days to do justice to the Angkor complex, and even then you’ve really just scratched the surface.

img001

Map of main section of Angkor Archaeological Park

So, off we went rattling down the road with Mr. Sophead, the tuk-tuk driver we had hired for our two days. Based on my research from the night before and recommendations from our cycling guide, our plan was to visit temples on the grand circuit and a few beyond. Even this paired down itinerary was a lot to take in, but it gave us a great feel for the diversity and enormity of Angkor. Here are a few of my favourite temples:

Banteay Srei

Don’t bother looking for it on the map; it’s 25 km north of the main complex. But, it’s worth the drive! The magic of Banteay Srei is in its well-preserved carvings. The 10th century temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva is also known as “The Citadel of the Women”. It has been suggested that the intricate carvings in the pinkish sandstone are so fine that they must have been crafted by the small, delicate hands of women. This temple is all about the detail, and it’s a total feast for the eye.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carvings above doorway at Banteay Srei—C.Helbig

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Elaborately carved doorway at Banteay Srei—C. Helbig

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Temple guardians at Banteay Srei—C.Helbig

Ta Som

Ta Som, part of the grand circuit, is often overlooked because of its relatively small size. It’s one of the “jungle temples”—the wonderfully atmospheric ones that much to the chagrin of archaeologists and restorationists are being taken over by giant strangler figs. Ta Som is much less crowded than Ta Prohm (of Tomb Raider fame) and huge Preah Kahn. You can wander around Ta Som in relative peace, admiring the forces of nature, the weathered carvings, and the mesmerizing Bayon-style faces.

Just a little note: Preah Kahn was among my favourites but we had a camera malfunction, so sadly no photos of this very impressive temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pretty lady striking a pose at Ta Som—C.Helbig

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bayon style carvings at Ta Som—C.Helbig

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Weathered carvings at Ta Som—C.Helbig

Banteay Samre

I can’t think of one distinguishing physical feature that makes Banteay Samre more special than other temples in the Angkor complex, but it was my favourite of the temples we visited. Just slightly off the beaten path, Banteay Samre was beautifully deserted. It felt wonderfully soothing to poke around the pretty temple and contemplate what life must have been like there in the 12th century. Walking along the the perimeter passageway with its gorgeous columns and door frame detail was especially magical. I highly recommend this temple if you need a reprieve from the bustling main temples. Take time to also wander through the vast grounds and see the imposing lion guardians.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fantastic passageway at Banteay Samre—C.Helbig

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Peaceful grounds at Banteay Samre—C.Helbig

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Quiet contemplation at Banteay Samre—C.Helbig

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lion guardians at Banteay Samre—C.Helbig

If you haven’t been to Angkor Wat, I hope this post gives you some sense of how much there is to see beyond the main attraction. The Angkor Archaeological Park is huge,  impressive and quite overwhelming. If you go, give yourself as much time as possible.

I’ll finish off with a few more photos that show the diversity of this amazing place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The elephants alone are worth a stop at East Mebon—C.Helbig

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pre Rup is an imposing-looking temple along the grand circuit—C.Helbig 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Baphuon is a quiet gem right next to busy Bayon—C.Helbig

Next, I’ll be moving on in Cambodia, to Battambang and Kampot.

Categories: Cambodia, Places | Tags: , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Post navigation

31 thoughts on “There’s more to Angkor than Angkor Wat

  1. I loved all the temples and would love to go back.I was very impressed with how efficiently the loads of tourists were processed into the “park.” All the carvings were amazing.I know what you mean about finding the smaller, quieter temples. Louise

    Liked by 1 person

    • When we first arrived at the entrance to get our tickets I thought it was going to take hours (it would have in Canada with that many people). But the chaos was, as you say, efficiently processed. It took MUCH LESS time than expected and we were very impressive. I would love to go back too. Thanks Louise!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I did love how each of the temple complexes in Siem Reap had its own charm and personality from the thoughtful faces at Bayon to all that pink carving at Banteay Srei. Glad you were able to immerse yourself in all of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic and endlessly fascinating. I love how getting off the beaten path allowed you to really enjoy some the lesser visited temples which are so amazing right down to the intricate carvings. It would be hard to pick a special temple among the many beautiful temples you’ve shown but I’ll make sure to give your favorite, Banteay Samre, plenty of time. Loved this post, Caroline, and will be re-reading it again as my own time in Siem Reap approaches. Luckily, I’ll have timed my visit there for after the Chinese New Year! Anita

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Anita. I’m sure you’ll find your favourite temple(s)! Of course it’s all quite subjective and I think has a lot to do with timing and circumstance. They are all beautiful and it is certainly worth the effort to see as many as you can (without rushing too much and getting “templed-out”). I’ll be eagerly waiting to hear about your experience. Your trip sounds just amazing. Cheers, Caroline

      Like

  4. Such impressive photos. Beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So much to see! Wow, great to know that there’s much to see outside of the more crowded areas. I love your pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Absolutely gorgeous!! I’d love to travel in your footsteps. This looks so wonderful. Thank you. x

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a wonderful place😻

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s always worth it to get off the beaten path at these types of super popular tourist destinations. These look amazing, and so much quieter and relaxing than the more well-known complexes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re absolutely right that it’s worth putting in a bit of effort to visit some of the quieter temples. It is these ones, where I was able to peacefully take it all in that hold special memories for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I know people pop in there for a day, but I think I’d like more time at all those more deserted places! Of course, I’d have to see the main attractions, but the quieter places really appeal to me. Did you find there was enough to do beyond seeing the temples? Fun markets, nice hotels and restaurants, etc.?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lexi, the town of Siem Reap, a few km away from the park, is a happening place with tons of hotels (of all categories),restaurants, markets, activities. We really only used it as a base for visiting the temples but did have a few great dinners. According to my sis there is an excellent art/handicraft market with gorgeous textiles but somehow we missed this. Siem Reap (at least the walkable downtown core) is not a “typical” Cambodian town; it is a tourist hub, with the good and bad that goes with this. There are countryside and lake excursions you can take from Siem Reap but as we were continuing to other parts of the country for these things, we didn’t partake. We were there at a particularly busy time (Chinese New Year holiday) when it was a zoo, which definitely affected my feelings for the town (plus I still wasn’t feeling 100%).
      Happy to answer other/more specific questions.
      Cheers, Caroline

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Beautiful photos, Caroline! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Looks like an incredible place, we can’t wait to visit this weekend! How long do you think is appropriate 1 or 3 days? Ps those lions got buns!!! 😂😂😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • If one day is all the time you have you’ll only get to see the very top highlights, which is still great, but I highly recommend 2 or 3 days so it’s not as crammed. Plus, there’s stuff to do in and around the town of Siem Reap. Enjoy! PS: Yup, wouldn’t want to mess with those lions!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Brian Foster

    Pretty amazing complex (s). You must have been “Wat’ed out” by the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha. Yup, it’s the kind of place that would be really great to see in small doses over an extended period of time. Many of the wats are just a blur when visiting over several intense days, but still an amazing experience. I’m glad I took some notes!

      Like

  13. Howard Bridger

    Love your pictures and write up. It reminded me of the three unforgettable days my wife and I spent at Angkor a few years back. In fact we loved Cambodia and the rest of our 6 week visit there and to Thailand and Laos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Howard. I loved Angkor and the rest of our time in Cambodia, and especially Laos. It is a special part of the world. You are lucky that you got to spent six weeks there.

      Like

  14. Mike Hohmann

    Thanks so much for sharing all this, Caroline. Lovely photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Really Impressive pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: