Going Back in Time on a Tomb Raider Adventure…….. Part One …Siem Reap

Woolly says – An overnight storm had cleared the air and as our tuk tuk cruised through the tree lined roads it was lovely to smell the scents of freshly watered foliage. We had booked our trip for the day to enable us to see some of the other temples that come within the Angkor Archaeological Park and the same admission ticket that we had purchased for Angkor Wat itself (given the amount of research we had undertaken regarding the tickets here we will give you a mini overview at the end of this adventure). As our smiley driver pulled up at the first destination I clambered down from our vehicle and took in the magnificence that greeted me. My eyes were confronted by a bridge lined with heads with a wonderful gate house at the end, which formed the South Gate of Angkor Thom, it is a rare occurrence that Jo is unable to speak and as I glanced at her all I could hear was a few burbles of delight as she raced from one viewing point to another to get the best pictures. Taken as a whole scene it was stunning and as I started to walk towards the gate house I was able to look at each head in turn, they seemed to start with ones that smiled but the closer we got to the city entrance the grumpier the faces got, whether by design I was unsure, but it was a little disconcerting and I wondered if they had been done like that to put people off entering the city itself! Having admired the huge faces that graced the gate house we climbed back on board our vehicle and set off to the city compound.

The bridge was incredible and one of five that provide access to the ancient centre, I’ve never seen anything quite like it and having joined the other two in the tuk tuk I realised that I had already taken over thirty photographs, so I apologise now for the number of pictures that the blogs will contain.

Woolly says – Angkor Thom means “Great City” and was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by King Jayavarman VII and covers an area of 9 km², as we pulled up into a tuk tuk parking area it was my turn to become virtually speechless at the view in front of me. A huge temple rose from the ground with high towers that had serene faces looking in all directions. The Bayon Temple was built in the late 12th or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII and stands at the centre of Jayavarman’s capital, Angkor Thom. Following Jayavarman’s death, it was modified and augmented by later Hindu and Buddhist kings in accordance with their own religious preferences. As Jo pulled on her shirt to cover her shoulders I tried to count the faces, it was impossible as just as I thought I had seen them all another five or so would spring from the walls and into my eyeline. Suitably attired we followed the mass of tourists into the building, up close it was even better, with each and every building covered in statues and bas reliefs it was difficult to know where to look next. As we climbed up and down the many towers each new space provided us with more photo opportunities, although taking pictures seemed to involve quite a lot of waiting around as the selfie lovers indulged themselves.

Almost gothic in looks it was stunning and having eventually had our fill we found a large tree to stand under to rehydrate and remove the additional layers.

Woolly says – Mister Smiley our driver greeted us cheerfully with cold bottles of water which we gulped down as we sped towards our next destination. As we pulled up at the Baphoun Temple it didn’t have quite the same wow factor as our previous points of interest but then looks can be deceptive. The Baphuon was built in the mid 11th century and is a three tiered temple mountain dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. In the late 15th century, the Baphuon was converted to a Buddhist temple and a 9 metre tall by 70 metre long statue of a reclining Buddha was built on the west side’s second level, as the temple had been originally built on sand the added weight made things a trifle unstable and it has had to be restored many times over the centuries to keep the structure upright. I trotted across the bridge passing a large bathing pool which looked rather pretty with it’s green water, before taking a closer look at the temple itself, it was easy to see where new work had been done and as we circled the base using the long narrow corridors you had to admire the work they were putting in to restoring the building, even down to matching the carvings to the originals. It wasn’t until we arrived at the exit that we realised that the Buddha was there, it looked almost like an illusion until you focused your eyes, Jo took aim and snapped away.

Sadly, the resulting images didn’t show the Buddha at all.

Woolly says – The brown tour signs pointed towards a tree lined route and we found ourselves walking through a glorious forest beside immense trees that must have seen so much in their lifetimes, if only the could talk and tell us the tales of what life had been like! The Royal enclosure would have once housed palaces and accommodation for the Royal family and its workforce but having been constructed from wood there was nothing left to see.

The temples however had stood the test of time and as we wandered along we had delightful views of large and small religious structures, many had trees growing through them which made for a great snap. Two large pools must have provided areas for bathing and relaxing for the King and his followers, given the heat they almost looked tempting to me! As we found our driver once again I sat back in the tuk thinking how lucky I was to be seeing these wonders as we drove onwards. A quick stop at the East Gate of the city to admire another road of heads, slightly in need of repair and no where near as incredible as the first ones, it was still worth seeing. As my tummy started to rumble it was as if Mr Smiley had read my mind as we pulled into a parking space and he directed us towards lunch.

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