Have you ever felt like you’ve stepped back in time? Like you were thrown into a story, like The Jungle Book? Well, I have. It took place in the huge ancient jungle ruins of Angkor Wat, near Siem Reap, Cambodia.
I first heard about this spectacular destination in my college archaeology class, and I just knew that I had to go there. Please watch the below video from my trip (click here if you can’t see the video):
My wife and I had originally thought that Cambodia would be a third-world experience, but we were blown away when we arrived at the very modern Siem Reap airport, and then at the luxurious Prince D’Angkor Hotel and Spa.
Until a decade ago, much of western civilization had been shut out from this amazing part of the world because of the violent aftermath of the Vietnam war. But now that Cambodia is nearly as safe as Thailand, tourists are flooding into the country, especially to this northern ancient attraction. These tourists aren’t finding the primitive accommodations of Nepal & Tibet, but luxurious 5-star hotels at a fraction of the cost of American hotels.
For crying out loud, we hired a private Took-Took (motor cycle taxi) for the whole day for a measly $15! You couldn’t get a taxi in America for 15 minutes at that price. Plus, you feel great about supporting people who so badly need your money.
From the moment we arrived, the Cambodian people smiled at us and treated us like royalty. It was quite the contrast from where we had just left, northern Vietnam.
Great shopping areas dotted the city of Siem Reap, where you could find amazing bargains on clothing, backpacks, art, antiques, electronics, and a host of other products.
Brief Wiki-History of Angkor
“Angkor is a region of Cambodia that served as the seat of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from approximately the 9th to 13th centuries. The Angkorian period began in AD 802, when the Khmer Hindu monarch Jayavarman II declared himself a “universal monarch” and “god-king”, until 1431, when Ayutthayan invaders sacked the Khmer capital, causing its population to migrate south to the area of Phnom Penh. The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the magnificent Angkor Wat, said to be the world’s largest single religious monument. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together, they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture. Visitor numbers approach two million annually.” (Click here to read more).
The ancient ruins of Angkor Wat are surrounded by a massive mote and stone walls. After crossing the mote, you’ll enter through the outer gate (pictured above).
Once inside the ancient city, you’ll become overwhelmed by a sense of awe. I kept saying to my wife, “this is unbelievable, this is incredible.”
The ruined city still serves as a center of worship for many Buddhist monks and nuns. The saffron orange robes of the monks offer a beautiful contrast against the old-worn stone, compelling you to pull out your camera.
Angkor Wat’s ruins haven’t been spoiled by all the restrictions that you find at the pyramids of Mexico or Egypt. Visitors are encouraged to climb the steep steps and peer into all the antique rooms.
I was stunned by the intricate carvings that cover nearly every square inch of the ancient city. I just couldn’t comprehend how the Khmer people could have created so much perfect art on such a grand scale.
Walls, the length of many football fields, are covered by carefully-carved murals, which tell the history of the Khmer civilization.
Bordering Angkor Wat sits another ancient city called Angkor Thom (pictured below):
Angkor Thom definitely appears to be more in ruins than Angkor Wat, but is no less impressive. (Read the history of Angkor Thom by clicking here).
What instantly impressed me were the massive faces carved into the towers and buildings. Check out my video to see the incredibly detailed faces!
Vines and trees still cover the stone buildings:
My wife Laura especially loved the “standing outhouses”…more sanitary, but a little more tricky. 🙂
When visiting the Angkor ruins, make sure you try to speak with the wonderful people, and definitely don’t miss photographing the main Angkor Wat palace at sunset:
Please share your questions or comments about Angkor below. I’d love to hear from you! Below are some great Cambodia travel guides from Amazon:
[amazon1] [amazon2] [amazon3]