The Ancient City of Angkor – Cambodia

After watching the recent BBC2 programme ‘Jungle Atlantis’, we were keen to visit the area of the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire between 9th – 12th centuries. Angkor is situated just outside Siem Reap, which made it an excellent base to stay. See Siem Reap Blog
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Many people refer to the area as Angkor Wat which is in fact incorrect. Angkor Wat is only one of the hundreds of ruins that can be found in the area, albeit it is the largest & most famous.

History
The history of the area is covered in this short National Geographic film on YouTube.

How to Get In
Tickets to the World Heritage site can only be purchased from the main entrance: at $20 1 day, $40 3 days or $60 for 7 days (details here). We choose a 1 day pass & managed to see the 5 main sites.
To get to the archaeological park there are a number of choices: bicycle, tuk tuk, mini bus, taxi or even limousine. We choose a tuk tuk & pre-booked a guy called Adam, who worked with our hotel, & had good English. We therefore decided not to pay for a guide.

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We set off with Adam by tuk tuk

Angkor Wat
The centrepiece of the Angkor complex. Angkor Wat was first a Hindu, then later a Buddhist,temple. It is the largest religious monument in the world. The temple was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century
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South Gate of Angkor Thom
The 3km2 walled & moated royal city was the last capital of Angkorian Empire. There are five entrance gates to the city. South Gate is often the first stop on the tour.
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Bayon
The state temple set in the centre of the Angkor Thom. The giant stone faces have become the most recognisable images of Khmer architecture.
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Te Prohm
This sprawling monastic complex is still partially overgrown by jungle. Massive silk-cotton & fig trees grow as part of the ruins. Is the tree holding the ruins together or vice versa?
Apparently one of the Tomb Raider films was shot here, leading the locals to call it ‘Tomb Raider Temple’ of ‘Angelina Jolie Temple’ much to the historian’s annoyance.
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Summary
Whether you choose a short tour (as we did) or several days, be prepared for hot tiring days. Most of the ruins involve either gentle climbing (stairs) or more vigorous climbing in the heat. Angkor is also extremely busy (especially during high season when we visited). Be prepared to get jostled, bumped or even pushed as tourists try to get a good photo opportunity. We picked a great tuk tuk driver who took us to Angkor Wat first (about 8.30) & therefore we managed to avoid too many crowds until the afternoon.
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