Our Perfect Gamer Holiday Guide day 3 takes us to Angkor Wat amd Ta Prohm in Siem Reap. Make sure to bring your Uncharted Flashlight and your camera as this Tomb Raider experience demands you wake up at 4AM!
Perfect Gamer Holiday Day 3: Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm & Khmer Breakfast
The most iconic of Cambodia’s locations is proudly depicted on their national flag. To witness this temple in all of its glory, you must get out of bed before the sun is even out. Then make your Tuk-Tuk way to enter the magnificence that is Angkor Wat. Here I’ll teach you some tricks to truly avoid the crowds and get the experience all to yourself.
Do get up at 4 AM and enjoy the ride with a rather empty city!
We arrived at the back entrance for the site (East). Nobody thinks to do this, because they all want to see sunrise from West.
What you don’t know, is the sunrise will blind you. So use this time to get Angkor Wat all to yourself!
As dawn breaks, only the security guards are inside, giving you a great feeling
The sun slowly creeps in, highlighting the silhouette but this picture is all yours!
The steep steps going up are closed since a Chinese man and Korean woman fell to their death some years back
The inner walls are delicately carved with beautiful Apsara, and once upon a time 700 of them danced to please the gods in this very place
Seeing the carvings come to life on the sunrise is a beautiful experience
A peak to the outer walls of the inner sanctum lets you see the sun getting ready over the trees
Now check this picture with some people in it to understand just how massive it is!
An early 12th Century Hinduist temple, and the only one with a Western Entrance
The lower portions are carved in all sides, with amazing depictions of the “Churning of the Milk”
The head of the Demons holds the head of Naga in the representation of the Myth
The demons pull on the body of the Naga across a mural extending more than 20 meters
In the center, Vishnu holds the lines to ensure cooperation on the tug of war.
Notice the pattern of the shade from the cylinders. Yes, the relief of the temples decorates with shadows!
Other walls depict daily life, military, and a detailed account of the 37 heavens and 32 hells of Hinduism
After exploring the lower courtyard, a line of 100-300 people leads you to the upper towers
The magnificent upper courtyard – visit early and avoid other tourists
Just as the sun touches the upper towers, the play of light and shadow on the sandstone begins
Angkor Wat is now an active Buddhist Monastery. Here you see 30 day candles, that burn an entire month
Statues of the Buddha sitting on Naga have been beheaded by looters and military
Whereas Hindu carvings of Apsara have thankfully survived the war
The views of the Angkor Wat complex from atop the tower (over 1 square kilometer)
Seeing the sun bring the green to life as the sandsome changes from greyish to reds is truly gorgeous
Apsara carvings coexist peacefully with Buddhist tradition in Angkor Wat
More beheaded statues led local monks to repaint old carvings to reduce their loot value
The temple was never properly completed, and some subpar and incomplete work remains in the Northern side
Vertigo! Steps are my nemesis
Exiting through the main hall, you are greeted by the remains of the bright red colors that adorned this location
To right and left, one pool for each element of worship: fire, water, air and earth
Each column carved delicately with scripture and history
The center of the universe, according to Angkor Wat. Yes, press here to trigger an Uncharted cutscene!
As we exit, a sobering reminder of the Civil War. Angkor Wat was used as shelter and bullets have dented its doors and surfaces
Angkor Wat is truly magnificent and it’s understandable why it’s regarded as the largest religious complex in the world.
The view from the main door of the inner sanctum, looking out to the libraries and towards the West
1000 years ago, this path was sided by wooden properties that housed the rich of the city
The beautiful silhouette that everyone wanted to see at sunrise
This panorama shows a side view of one of the libraries, the purification pool, and the Angkor Wat’s skyline. Once upon a time, the area was used for ritual dances, military processions and receiving foreign dignitaries.
During its time, Angkor Wat boasted 1,000,000 residents, where a European capital would have had 50,000
The outer moat of the complex. During the civil war, it was completely filled with corpses and the stench made people run away from the structure completely
A monkey in a hammock. Yup.
After this is done, and in spite of the heat, we are off to visit Tomb Raider’s shoot location and a beautiful example of the jungle retaking man-made structures.
Our next destination is Ta Prohm, a Buddhist temple built in 1186 AD by King Jayavarman VII. With the fall of the Khmer empire, the temple was completely abandoned and overrun by the jungle’s massive Strangler Fig trees.
Approach this peaceful ruin by a rather quiet dirt path through the jungle
As soon as you arrive, you’re greeted by the odd sight of a tree sprouting from a structure
As you walk in, you discover this magnificent scene – prominently featured in the Tomb Raider movies
The iconic Tomb Raider tree in its glorious full height
Ta Prohm was abandoned and reclaimed by the jungle, and an ongoing restoration effort by India is bringing it back to life
Indian Restoration efforts have yielded great results
The reconstruction must decide if to keep or kill the trees. A difficult choice.
Within the temple, 650 Apsara are depicted mid-dance, but some have broken down
A prime example of how the collapse looks when its first discovered. Great effort goes into puzzling where each stone belongs
The massive trees house massive beehives!
The hallways within the temple are right out of Uncharted
A magnificent view of a tree that has overtaken an entrance
For scale, that little entrance at the bottom almost fits a basketball player
I found a blocked passageway, which meant the quest is the other way. But I did look around for treasure to make sure
If the trees are cut down, the structures collapse. But if they are not, they may break the structures themselves
These roots look like a python, which is seen by the locals as a sign of the protection of the holy site
Naga carvings next to the Python root
Tree roots devolve into beautiful webs and make for a fantastic display
Korean and Chinese tourist groups are avoided by local tourguides like the plague so you may take these pictures!
Restoration before and after
The beautiful pathway now fully restored
Once back at the resort, we had a wonderful evening thanks to a visit to the local circus. You can read about it in our Aman Amansaran Review.
You can also go to our other articles for this series: