Cambodia

Cambodia travel: The mighty stone temple of Angkor Wat | Activity Holidays | Travel

Cambodia travel: The mighty stone temple of Angkor Wat | Activity Holidays | Travel


Cambodia: See Angkor Wat in Siem Reap

They did. As he rounds a sharp corner and the forest is cleared, we get our first glimpse of the 12th-century stone structure on the outskirts of Siem Reap.

“Something Bigger” barely covers it, and my wife Debbie and I stare into reverent silence, trying to understand the scale of this temple city.

Pack your superlatives, you’ll need them here.

So, some numbers: Angkor Wat is considered the largest religious building in the world, covering 400 acres with 2.2 miles of walls.

It was built between 1112 and 1152 on the orders of Suryavarman II, the “God-King” of the Khmer Empire, employing 300,000 workers and 6,000 elephants, using sandstone and laterite blocks quarried 30 miles away, Transport along the Siem Reap River.

Mr C picked us up from our hotel in Siem Reap, a luxurious and very good French colonial Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa – the hotel car is a vintage Citroen – and took us first to the Angkor Wat ticket office, which The ticket office is heading to a Hindu-Buddhist temple (you can’t get through the gate. TravelCambodia.com $37 a day, $62 three days). Dropped us by the moat to check we had enough water (absolutely necessary, it was a nasty muggy 34ºC), Mr C arranged to pick us up later to visit two other temples in the area, which are Unesco The park is part of a 154 square mile archaeological site on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Around 500,000-750,000 people are thought to have lived in the park at the height of Khmer power, making it the largest city in the pre-industrial world.

The mighty Angkor Wat stone temple (Image: Daily Express)

Travel by tuk tuk in the city

Travel by tuk tuk in the city (Image: Daily Express)

(Mr. C, although a driver rather than a tour guide, happily shared a lot of superb local knowledge.) Again, we stared in awe at the vast grounds; we’ve seen it in photos and on TV, of course, but only You can really appreciate the sheer scale when the human eye sees it.

The stone embankment across the moat was being renovated, so we included a floating, temporary, 510-foot-long replacement, 6,720 inflatable white plastic bags, to make it a fun bouncy experience.

We then stopped and stared again in amazement (there is a lot to stop and stare at Angkor Wat) as we saw the 770ft wide entrance porch for the first time before continuing on to the central temple complex by A 1,560-foot avenue surrounded by a large pond is reached.

Finally…has got to be the grandest grand entrance in the world, leading to the temple itself.

It is here, among the ancient black stones, full of intricate carvings, that you really feel the heaviness of the years; human beings have a limited period on earth, but you do feel this shabby but defiant (and still works) The magnificence will be here for a thousand years, no matter what happens to humanity.

You have to queue for half an hour or so to be at the absolute high point of Angkor Wat (in any sense). The 210-foot-tall Bakan Sanctuary is the centerpiece of the complex, with dizzyingly steep staircases for Khmers to challenge the heavenly climb to see their chosen deity.

Buddhist monk walking to Bayon Temple

Buddhist monk walking to Bayon Temple (Image: Daily Express)

It’s all pretty spectacular, so be sure to queue for Bakan and don’t miss it – it’s an exhilarating high point, and no matter how you look at religion, it’s a triumph of the human spirit.

Of course, a wealthy king and an army of labor would help.

Temples abound in the Angkor area, and Mr. C took us to the Bayon Temple, which consists of 216 ingeniously carved stone faces, and was used as a filming location for the first Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movie Tabulun Temple. In a rather striking way in the jungle, trees grow out of stone structures.

Selfie opportunities are top-notch in both atmospheric locations, and you’ll once again feel the centuries immersed in you…surrounding you.

Siem Reap will be your natural base for visiting Angkor Wat, it’s a nice place to be.

The Victoria Angkor Hotel proved to be perfect for us, and our stay was part of a river extension for the fabulous Lotus cruise ship sailing on the mighty Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Two nights at this delightful high quality hotel – I can still imagine those happy hour cold beers and luxury suites with four poster beds by the gorgeous pool – gave us plenty of time to visit Angkor and the city.

We drift from deep cultural immersion at the excellent Angkor Nationalmuseum (angkornationalmuseum.com, $12) to take you through the six lands of the Khmer Empire through a dizzying array of handicrafts (there’s a nice al fresco lunch cafe next door) century. Sophisticated 21st century, but dazzling in a different way, with the charm of Pub Street.

It’s just what it is: moving music, brilliant lights, Angkor Wat-sized booze, everything from pizza to curry to Mexican, and lots and lots of people hanging out.

We ate a very cheap street food-style Cambodian meal around (the tangy stir-fried Khmer beef was my favorite), rejected the raucous grinding, and retreated to the tranquility of Victoria Angkor.

The museum and Pub Street are walkable, but taxis and tuk-tuks are very cheap. We just love to walk.

Before flying home, we spent a day and a night in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

Once again we were lucky with our stay, this time at the Palace Gate Hotel & Resort, directly opposite the magnificent Palace complex, with the Throne Hall and the mesmerizingly ornate silver tower with crystal, gold and 9,584 diamonds and 500 Flooring made from nuggets of silver (cambodiamuseum.info $10).

Not to be missed, but expect crowds.

Ta Prohm Temple in Angkor Wat

Ta Prohm Temple in Angkor Wat (Image: Daily Express)

The adjoining National Museum is less fanciful and, like in Siem Reap, houses a fine collection of Khmer art (cambodiamuseum.info $5).

(I’m a little obsessed with the power lines on the streets of Phnom Penh – incredible black cable spaghetti. You have to see them to believe them!) Just like in Siem Reap, we succumbed to the temptation of a cold beer by the hotel pool during happy hour and Strolled into town looking for delicious cheap street food (boring, I know, but again tangy Khmer beef for me).

Back at the hotel, we also took the opportunity to have a drink at the lovely rooftop Orchid Sky Bar, overlooking the floodlit Royal Palace at night.

If you do the Instagram thing, this is your place. We will be ready to suffer this pain again.

We are really fascinated by Cambodia. The country endured the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and 1980s and is fully back on its feet, welcoming tourists warmly.

So, once the coronavirus outbreak is over, go if you can; it’s an amazing, safe, value-for-money and friendly destination, Angkor Wat is worth traveling alone…a wonderful and magical place – You won’t regret it.

Knowledge

Thai Airways flies from Heathrow to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh via Bangkok for £579 return in October. (thaiairways.com)

Angkor Air flies from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh in October with a one-way fare of US$74. (angkorair.com)

Rooms at Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa Siem Reap start from £82. (victoriaangkorhotel.com)

Rooms at the Palace Gate Hotel & Resort in Phnom Penh start from £92 per night. (palacegatepp.com)

Visit the Travel Cambodia website for more information.





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