Exploring the Siem Reap Ruins

Everyone recommends seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise, but during monsoon season you take a gamble of actually seeing the sun rise. Despite our high hopes, we were greeted by gray skies and rain in our faces instead of the warm orange-pink glow of the rising sun. Being a traveler, you cannot let a little rain get you down, so we put on our raincoats and our smiles and set off to explore the ruins.

No matter the weather, Angkor Wat did not disappoint. The sheer size and detail on every stone was magnificent. At a quick glance, one may think all of the carvings are repeated, but a closer look shows differences in facial structures, poses and decorations.

I guess tourism is low during this time of year because of the rains, but I still have not found any disadvantage of visiting this place during monsoon season. I understand that during the dry season you are almost guaranteed a gorgeous sunrise and sunset each day, but the heat and the crowds are enough to turn me off immediately. This time of year is warm, but not sweltering and the rains keep most of the crowds away. To have the entire sections of the temples to ourselves was well worth a little rain.

After a couple of hours exploring Angkor Wat, we grabbed a quick bite and were on our way to the next set of ruins, Bayon Temple. The details of this temple were even more impressive than Angkor Wat. Every angle, every corner was intricately carved and no matter where you stood, many stone faces were watching. Out of the thousands of faces, they all resembled the same King, but again, each face was different.

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By the time we arrived at Bayon Temple, the skies turned blue and the sun came out. It ended up being an amazing day. The stones against blue skies is a much different picture than gray skies. We were even lucky enough to witness an area of restoration in progress. A different country has donated to restore each temple in Angkor and the one we witnessed was the Japanese.

The third and final stop for the day was Ta Prohm, the famous temple with the tree growing through it. This area felt the most like ruins to us. Maybe because of the flora taking over the temples or the giant piles of stones beside each structure that was still standing. At each stop during the day we had found quiet corners, but at this temple we actually felt alone in the middle of the jungle. That experience and feeling is well worth the trade of a sunrise.

After six hours of exploring the ruins we were done for the day. It was a perfect amount of time and the sights had completely satisfied us. Only having one day to see Angkor can be plenty for some people, but having three days would have been better, as each route and each temple is different. I don’t regret the amount of time we had, but I would gladly spend a few more days given the time.

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