Saturday, December 7, 2013

Angkor Grand Tour

We hired a tuk tuk this morning to take us on the grand tour of the temples of Angkor. Basically, there are hundreds of ruins in the area, a few dozen of which are major complexes. These are organized into two paths, the Small Tour and the Grand Tour. It really just depends on how much time you have and what you'd like to see.

We started at Preah Khan, one of my favorites. It's a single level (not a mountain temple like Angkor Wat) and very spread out, with lots of halls, doorways, and ruins to explore. I panicked a little when I thought that parts of it could be off limits, since safety seems to be a concern now.

Fortunately, signs near the ruins just say, "Be Careful," not "Do Not Enter." This alone made my day, and I was happy as a clam climbing and exploring all over the place. Especially because most tourists stay on the central axis, giving us most of the complex to ourselves.

We spent about 2 hours exploring Preah Khan and then we popped out the other side and met up with our tuk tuk driver.

Next stop: Neak Pean

This temple was built on an island in a swamp. Last time I came through here, it was after the dry season, so there was no water anywhere. It looked so different this time that I didn't think I had ever been here before.

We followed the boardwalk all the way out to the temple, which was completely closed off because they said the paths around the temple are slippery and they don't want us to fall in. Pfft, safety. You're losing part of your charm, Cambodia.

Ta Som

Ta Som is a good sized ruin that took us about 40 minutes to thoroughly explore.

Our favorite part is all the way at the back, through the temple and past the back ruin, you'll find this:

East Mebon

This is a mountain temple that was supposed to be in the middle of a reservoir, but the reservoir is all dried up, so we can access it easily. Our favorite thing about this one are the elephants on each corner.

It's a decently large temple with five towers on the upper level, similar to Angkor Wat, but much less detailed or preserved.

There's a lot of area to cover on the lower levels, but to be honest, it's not all that interesting.  We moseyed around for about 30 minutes.

Pre Rub

This is another mountain temple, very similar to East Mebon. You can actually see Mebon from the top level of Pre Rub. We took about 30 minutes here too.

Sras Srang

Nearing the end of our tour, we arrive at Sras Srang, an ancient lake.

It's not that impressive. Just take your picture and turn around to enter Banteay Kdei, which is much larger and cooler than I remember it.

Banteay Kdei

Exploring the temples is so much fun. Wandering through ruins, turning corners and having no idea what will appear when you emerge, it's exciting and addicting. Some people think each temple is more of the same old thing over and over again, and that may be the case, but I can never get enough of it. And each temple offers new views and angles, different trees and structures, and constant challenges in being able to capture it in photographs or in video. I love every minute of it, and I'm glad we have a 7-day pass.

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