Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The other temples of Angkor

Although Angkor Wat is by far Cambodia's most famous temple, the Angkor Archaeological Park is actually home to many other temples.  Some people will rent bikes and ride the different loops (small and large circuit), but other people like myself hire a tuk-tuk driver for a less exhausting day.

I visited the small circuit temples on the same day as my first trip to Angkor Wat with a guy from Denmark.  I honestly don't remember the names of the majority of the temples, although there are a few that I remember.  I didn't know a ton about the history of each of the temples, but walking around them leaves quite the impression on you regardless.
Bayon, one of the more famous temples in Siem Reap because of the unique faces carved into the stone that can be found throughout the temple.  This was a really beautiful and interesting temple, but there were SO many people it was difficult to get any good pictures. 

These next photos are from Ta Phrom.  Besides Angkor Wat, this is probably the most famous temple in Siem Reap because it was used in the Tomb Raider movie.  It's an amazing temple because of the way in which the jungle taken over the temple, but actually I didn't enjoy visiting it at all because of the absolutely insane number of tourists.  There were so many tour groups there that the place was flooded with people, and I didn't really feel like I could appreciate the temple, never mind even attempt to get any good pictures.

Ta Prohm was the last temple we visited in the Small Circuit, and after that I was pretty much ready to go back because we had such an early morning to see the Angkor sunrise.  Plus, I don't think the guy I was sharing the tuk-tuk with was really that into the temples, and I felt a little rushed in order to not keep him waiting too long.

The following day I decided to go see the rest of the temples in the Large Circuit, but this time I decided to just take my own tuk-tuk so I wouldn't feel rushed at all.  This ended up being a good decision, because I could just go at my own pace and enjoy taking in these amazing works of art.

My tuk-tuk for the day! I have to admit, it's nice having your own personal driver. 

Although the temples in the large circuit aren't quite as famous as the ones in the small circuit, I actually enjoyed my second day a lot more than my first day.  I think this was in part because I felt more free to go at my own pace, and also because the temples themselves were quieter.  It's really exhausting to climb around these temples in the hot weather, and it was nice to at least have some more peace and quiet on my second day.

I'm not an expert on the history behind these temples, but even without knowing all of the history behind them, it's easy to be amazed by the knowledge and artistry that went into creating them. Furthermore, being in the presence of these temples was a sober reminder that nothing is forever.  These temples once were part of one of the Khmer Empire--one of the world's greatest, but often overlooked, empires.  However, as mighty as these temples and the kings who ordered them built once were, today they are crumbling to the ground and are falling to the forces of nature.  As I walked around I couldn't help but wonder about the people behind them--the people who built them, the people who worshiped there, the  kings who had them built to prove their worthiness.  These people are gone, and in large part their stories and their lives are gone too, never to be uncovered.  What a humbling reminder that no matter how great we think we are, we and everything we own are all temporary on this earth.

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