To Siem Reap or not to Siem Reap?

The end of our wonderful journey was almost nigh and we started to wonder about visting Siem Reap the gateway to the Angkor temples. Did a pair of atheists really feel the need to see yet more temples? The long journey to the North West of Cambodia meant we would have less time in Vietnam and Bangkok, places we both loved. So, we’d taken to asking everyone we met what they would do?

To Siem Reap or not to Siem Reap?

That was the question.

If you're reading this as a previous visitor to these temples in Cambodia, you'll know the answer everyone gave.

I have to say I was sceptical. I mean, what was going to beat the pure beauty of Bhutan's buddhist stupas. Or ballooning over the temple-strewn plains of Bagan? Or the intricate carvings in the Jain temples in Jaisalmer. Or the mother of all shrines: The Flippin’ Taj Mahal?

Well, thank goodness we ignored me and my atheist scepticism, and listened to everyone else. We were utterly blown away by this collection of temples in the Angkor region.

We started with a sunrise jaunt to Banteay Srei, a hindu temple built in 967AD and discovered in 1914! It came recommended by a photographer we had met in Ho Chi Minh City. He explained how the light of the sun at sunrise made the stones glow, and how that early in the morning the hoards of tourists were all at the better known Angkor Wat. And he was right both times. We were alone! And the ruins were glowing a beautiful red in the sunlight.

That afternoon we headed to my favourite temple of them all; Bayon, a Buddhist temple from the 12th century with no less than 216 giant faces smiling down from it's towers. Not long after we arrived the heavens opened. Thank goodness, the heat was stifling. We took shelter in an alcove in Bayon and happily watched the world go by.

The following morning we followed the crowds for sunrise at Angkor Wat, only for the sun to rise behind a cloud which was a little disappointing and the gaggles of tourists were rather off-putting so we headed back to Bayon again to appreciate its beauty, this time in the sunshine.
Monks on tour

Next stop, Tomb Raider territory. The 12th century, Buddhist Ta Prohm, Duncan's favourite. A beautiful scene of nature vs man, where trees had refused to budge and had grown, through, over and under the stones placed by man. It was such an impressive sight.

Thank the Gods that we went to see these and many of the other amazing temples in Angkor. I'd go again tomorrow if I could so if you ever ask yourself the same question you know my answer.

Next up, Bangkok and our final blog post!


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