The most magical part of Angkor Wat is the fact that someone like me is allowed to go there. Centuries years ago these temples connected gods and kings, I can’t imagine what they’d say to see me standing here; probably get the hell out.
I think there are two types of tourists who visit Angkor Wat. Those that are satisfied in a day, and those who could make good use of a year long pass. I am the latter. The structures, the scope, the grandiose intricacies all humble me as much as they interest me. Visiting Angkor Wat feels in a way like time travel. Standing on the lava stones transports me back through the cycles of civilization to a once mighty empire; an empire so changed that it now stands as ruins beneath my humble feet. (An even more poignant thought considering my government recently shutdown back home.)
In total we spent three days exploring the ruins at Angkor Wat; twice by tuk-tuk and once by bike. We didn’t see anywhere close to everything, the area is so vast I don’t think you can ever see everything. At one point on all three visits we had to surrender and say, “That’s the last temple of the day; we can’t see everything.”
Our second day by tuk-tuk was my favorite day in Angkor Wat. On day one we were so inexperienced yet excited that we tried to go to too many temples, climbed too many stone staircases and tired ourselves out completely. Thus we learned what not to do on our second day.
For our second tuk-tuk voyage through Angkor Wat we selected our three favorite areas and spent our time and energy there. On that day our itinerary started in the grand Angkor Wat followed by the faces of Bayon. From Bayon we walked along the Elephant Terrace to an area where 40 tiny, identical stalls serve lunch. After eating we hit Ta Prohm completing an abbreviated form of what is called the small circuit through Angkor Wat.
Day three in Angkor Wat was drastically different than the first two because we did it by bike. It’s been a good five years since I’ve propelled myself using peddle power, and on that day I made up for my half decade of absence. We attempted what is called the grand circuit not realizing that by the end of our trip we’d rack up over 25 miles. (Well maybe Josh knew but didn’t tell me because I’d say he’ll no).
The grand loop connects the less visited and smaller temples around Angkor Wat. It also covers some of the most beautiful terrain in northern Cambodia especially during rainy season when the green fields of rice are full and shaded only by occasion palm trees.
Rainy season also made Neak Pean an unforgettable experience. This temple on a manmade island in a manmade reservoir floods during heavy rain. On our visit walking the semi-submerged walkway to Neak Pean was as amazing as the temple itself.
This third day on the bike might have been my favorite day at Angkor Wat was it not for the ride back to our guesthouse in Siem Reap. Cruising around the temples all day is fine and dandy, but once you’ve reached your daily temple quota and decide to head home those last few miles become excruciating. Then to add to the throbbing in my thighs and numbness in my butt a rain storm hit. I’ve never wanted windshield wipers on my glasses so badly. When we finally got back to our guesthouse I was tired, wet and my ass was officially pissed at me (a grudge it held all the next day).
Perhaps next time we can try another mode of transportation; I did see elephant rides, a hot air balloon and a helicopter all of which I’d love to try. I wager each one would put a whole new spin on this wonderfully old place.