At its peak, Angkor was the biggest urban agglomeration on Earth, a royal city accommodating one million people, and it was the heart of an empire that commanded a major part of Southeast Asia. Today, the vast area around the city of Siem Reap is probably the reason most people visit Cambodia.
Most of the roughly 1000 (!) temples were built between the years 900 and 1200, spanning from a rubble of stones to the huge Angkor Wat. The temple-mausoleum of king Suryavarman is apparently the world’s largest religious monument ever built, figuring even on the Cambodian flag.
Despite its size, we were more impressed with the fascinating diversity of the smaller temples than with Angkor Wat itself. One of them was Bayon, whose towers supported two, three or four huge coldly smiling faces that exuded power and control. We explored Ta Prohm with its trees, which over the centuries have put their roots like claws into its walls. This temple is also famous today for being a movie set for Tomb Raider and Two Brothers. We also climbed the impressive Ta Keo with its five temples that represent the five peaks of Mount Meru.
Despite the heat, the exploration by bike was a good idea, as it gave a feeling not only of the sheer size of the area of over 1000 sqkm, but also of how nicely it is embedded in its natural surroundings. The whole site has a complex system of infrastructure, including canals, basins, and roads, on which we did at least 100 km with our rented bikes.
While two of the three days of our visit were extremely hot and busy due to the Khmer New Year and the weekend thereafter, the last day was calm and much cooler after a rainy night. We recommend going there in the early morning or the late afternoon, not only because of the heat, but also for better light. On the pictures you will notice the big differences of colours and shadows. Enjoy.