There are Khmer temples that predate Angkor. The Chenla empire was headquartered at Sambor Prei Kuk near Phnom Penh from the late 500s through the 700s. Hundreds of temples remain.

Prasat Chrey temple in the grip f a strangler fig at Sambor

Angkor (near Siem Reap) was the capital city of the Khmer empire from 802 to 1431. All that is left of the approximately one million people and their hundreds of square miles of urban sprawl are more than one thousand stone temples in various states of ruin. Angkor Thom is the name of the walled, 3.5 square miles at the empire’s center that contain many, but not all, of the Angkor period remains. Temples were constructed either as Buddhist or Hindu shrines, then re-purposed and switched around according to the current king’s preference.

Angkor Thom’s west gate
Incredibly, you can mountain bike on top of Angkor Thom’s south and west walls. To the left is a very large moat.
Bayon temple stands at the very center of Angkor Thom and was built in the late 1100s. Like many large temples, it has its own moat, representing the ocean.
Bayon has 54 towers, each of which has this benevolently smiling face on four sides.
Biking some great single track to the entrance of Ta Keo.

Cycling has to be the best way to visit Angkor, since you can get into the forest and visit ruins most visitors never experience. Our guide Nak is not only an excellent cyclist, he is very knowledgeable and proud of Angkor, sharing with us the best views, interesting details, and fun routes.

Ta Keo temple
entrance to Ta Prohm temple
The movie “Tomb Raider “was filmed here.
I thought strangler figs covered all of the temples at Angkor, but in most cases they have been removed since they are destructive. Preservationists balance the trees and temple at Ta Prohm to let us see the beauty and interplay between man and nature, and to understand what the temples looked like ca. 150 years ago before restoration began.
small temple along the way
Banteay Srei was constructed in the 900s of hard red sandstone. Its delicate carvings have survived in stunning detail.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is just one temple complex out of the Angkor region’s approximately one thousand temples. The largest religious monument in the world, it was built in the early 1100s.

Long galleries on lower levels protect amazing wall carvings depicting daily life, battles, and other stories, histories, and mythologies of the empire.
At the top level of the highest tower. Yes, those stairs were very steep! (The tourist access side has a hand rail.)
The view from the top, which only the king and highest priests would have enjoyed. The complex grounds are so vast that you cannot see the large moat surrounding them.
Young monks enjoying the view.

Siem Reap and Angkor, 26 miles, warm and sunny
Siem Reap and Banteay Srei, 40 miles, rainy/muddy/70s

Naga, the serpent deity

3 thoughts on “Angkor

  1. Wow! Absolutely amazing! I don’t think I really understand how vast the complex was. I think I envisioned the single iconic Angkor Wat temple as being more or less the extent of it. I love the Serpent Deity sculpture So cool!


  2. Like Nathan, I didn’t realize it was a whole complex of temples. In some of the pictures it looks a bit eerie; in others, it looks like other ruins. Very interesting. I’m so glad your tour leader is getting you places you might not see otherwise.


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