Exploring Cambodia’s Angkor Temples

 
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The seventh wonder of the world, the temples of Angkor in Cambodia are truly astonishing. Getting to them is a journey in and of itself, and exploring them properly can (and should) take several days.

My journey started with a short flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Archaeological Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park spans many temple sites, the most famous and popular being Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm — the three we visited.

Our wake-up call came at a painful 4 a.m. in order to see the famous sunrise at Angkor Wat.

I was tired. It was hot (already). It was crowded. People were pushy. I slipped and fell in the mud while wearing a cast, as I had sprained my ankle two weeks earlier.

It was worth it.

As the sun slowly rose over the temple’s triple peaks, the colors in the sky swirled and changed, a show gloriously mirrored back to us in the small lake at the foot of the temple.

And the crowd was no joke.

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But once the sun rose, the crowd dispersed and we took to exploring. Our guide, who we hired to transport us between the sites as well as take us through the temples themselves, knew exactly how to navigate the crowds and the sprawling complex. His knowledge and insight on the temples’ history made the experience so much richer and more enjoyable.

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It’s easy to get lost within Angkor Wat, perhaps the most famous and best preserved of all the temple sites.

Not to mention the steep staircases, which were super fun to walk down while wearing a cast.

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The bas-relief carvings, the sculptures, the long sandstone corridors — they all tell the stories of gods, goddesses, and warriors from centuries past.

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There seemed to be something mesmerizing around every corner.

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Then it was off to Angkor Thom — the temple of the faces. Dating back to the 12th century, it is famous for its hundreds of giant smiling faces.

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We saved the best for last — the jungle-ravaged Ta Prohm.

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