The Genius of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat Temple

Beware… this one is a doozy.

We have been in Cambodia for a day now. We are currently in Siem Reap, a city widely known for their incredible temples, Angkor Wat specifically. Upon arriving, we were blown away by the unique beauty of Siem Reap. You can see their culture embedded in everything from architecture to the dress–it is very conservative compared to Thailand, woman must cover their shoulders and wear shorts/skirts to their knees. However, this has become a lot more lax due to tourism, but it is still respectful to abide by their cultural rules. I should have looked this up… My landlord at our Airbnb told me my shorts were too “sexy,” strongly advising I change. They were Lulu shorts. I’ve been rocking my cozy elephant pants ever since. :- )

Our day of temple touring began at 8:00 am, where our Airbnb’s driver, Gūn, drove us to buy our tickets in a Tuk Tuk (a motor bike with an open wagon attached) and drove us 20 minutes to the first stop. Angkor Wat.

ANGKOR WAT

The Capital Temple is the world’s largest monument, constructed in the early 12th century on 402 acres. A bit of background, the temple was originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu by King Suryavarman. Only recently holding the position of King, he used the temple to demonstrate his immense power. Even today, the grandeur of the architecture is admirable. It is believed the temple took over a million people about 30 years to construct. I’m not surprised. The intricacy was unbelievable. Every nook and cranny held amazing detail. Even the floor was intricately carved with one of various decorations: written scripture, the Apsara dancer, devatas, among others.

It is difficult to imagine millions of hands attempting to build such an impressive structure, with such huge blocks of stone. A majority of the stone was gathered more than 50km away, and was floated down the Siem Reap River on rafts. Then, female elephants were the work horses that moved the bricks into place. Note, they only used female since the male elephants were too aggressive. There is an estimated 300 million tons of stone within Angkor Wat. Absolutely insane. My dad builds homes, if you’re reading this dad, can you imagine slugging that much stone into a location and putting together a building? Woof.

Our experience was mind blowing. It is incredible to see the artwork in person, taking into account the enormous size of the temple. We spent about two hours walking through and inspecting everything. Once we exited, we met our driver and he took us to stop number two.

BAYON

A hundred years later in the 12th century, Bayon is built. This temple was gothic in nature, with towers throughout all decorated with both Hindu and Buddhist faces. The temple is meant to blend Hinduism and Buddishm.

After touring Angkor Wat, Bayon is dramatically less well-kept. From a distance, it looks like a pile of rocks while Angkor Wat holds its structure from afar. But, Bayon has aged well considering it was built in the 12th century… The details are still evident up close, as well as the various faces.

BAPHUON

The temple following Bayon is Baphuon. It was built in the mid-11th century. We only walked by this one, but was similarly spectacular as a passerby. We then walked into the jungle where the Royal Palace once was. The final of this stop we enjoyed the Elephant Terrace that was intricately built to recognize the tremendous effort of elephants. Some pictures for your pleasure below.

We were nice and sweaty, and took a pit stop where a woman was selling coconuts for $1. She hacked away at the top so we could drink out of the coconut, and it was amazing. Honestly, the coconut water that we buy in grocery stores at home doesn’t compare. I don’t know what that stuff is… The next stop was our favorite.

TA PROHM

You may have heard of this temple under another name. The Tomb Raider temple movie with Angelina Jolie. It is an impressive, beautifully intricate maze of a temple. King Jayvarman built the temple to honor and model his mother. The picturesque temple was riddled with winding hallways, and massive trees that have grown in the stone.

We stopped at a couple others, but they are a lot smaller. One had an intriguing story, however.

TA KEO

The unfinished mountain temple. It is believed that the temple was never finished because the middle tower was struck by lightning–a bad luck curse in the Cambodian culture–and the King immediately halted construction. Or they were tired and ran out of money. Jk.

Our temple journey ended at The Banana Leaf restaurant near Angkor Wat, where you sit outside on blankets surround by banana leaf trees. It was incredible relaxing, and absolutely delicious. I got my fresh spring roll fix in. Now that temple day is over, I’m a bit sunburn and exhausted, but still mind blown.

Up next is the Floating Village!