Today is fantastic! Set out directly from your hotel to explore Angkor Park via bicycle this morning, pedaling through dense jungles of the magnificent temples of Angkor.
Arrive the back way for a visit to Ta Prohm temple (a setting of one of the Tomb Raider films), built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries in dedication to Jayavarman VII’s mother. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle, trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes Ta Prohm one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples.
From Ta Prohm, dive back into the jungle and pedal through hidden passages to the ruins of Ta Nei (Grandfather Nei) and Preah Khan (dedicated to Jayavarman VII’s father) before heading to Angkor Thom. This was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. An eight meter high wall draws a perfect square around the city ruin. Enter through the ancient East Gate. On each side of the entrance path a row of fifty-four gods and demons hold the sacred Naga snake of Hindu lore.
From the walls of Angkor Thom, head inward for Bayon Temple in the exact center of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its fifty-four towers with enigmatic faces representing the fifty-four provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs.
Southward now, through Angkor Thom to the famous Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing Mount Meru, the home of the gods. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people.
One of the first Western visitors to the temple was António da Madalena, a Portuguese monk who visited in 1586 and said that it “is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of.”
Tonight we’ll have dinner at Phare Café before the entertaining show at Phare Punleu Selpak. Known around town as the Cambodian circus, it is anything but. A nonprofit school for the arts, Phare is a demonstration of the graduate students’ acrobatic ability, and it has more in common wi th Cirque du Soleil with exceptionally talented players acting out anything from Cambodian folklore to the very real history of the Khmer Rouge. It’s a must see for anyone in Siem Reap.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Transfer from Angkor Complex to hotel: 20 minutes Cycling distance up to 40 km Difficulty: Easy