Angkor, which was the old capital city of the Khmer Empire, lies to the north of the modern day Siem Reap. Angkor was once a great capital, a mega city of its time which has now been recognised as the largest pre-industrial city in the world.
These days the city is in ruins but the old temples/Wats still draw in a mighty crowd of tourists. There are over a thousand temples in various degrees of ruin within the old Angkor region. We visited three of them: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm.
Outside of Angkor you can also find ancient temple ruins. Near to our volunteering site we clambered through the ruins of Beng Mealea and Chrey Temple.
Angkor Wat is the most famous temple from the old city. It’s the largest religious monument in the world and is pretty awesome to walk around. We got there for sun rise (although not early enough to see the full transition from night to day – our guide’s fault) which was cool to see.
When you walk around Angkor Thom you can’t help but feel as though you are being watched. This may be because of the numerous faces carved into the temple…or may simply be due to all the tourists.
Ta Prohm is the temple most associated with the Tomb Raider movie. Unfortunately we didn’t see Lara Croft but we did see a lot of Chinese women trying to pose with elegance and poise.
As Beng Mealea is not part of the Angkor site and is a little further out from Siem Reap it gets a lot less attention. Whilst this means there has been little to no restoration work, it also means less tourists. However, we did bump into a big group of Japanese who wanted a photo with us. The best thing about this was they pulled out roll away signs which read “You should be here” for the photo which we though was hilariously brilliant.
Chrey Temple is very close to Beng Mealea but is not visited by tourists. It’s just ruins in a forest so very few foreigners know about it. I think this is pretty cool and it’s the place our volunteering Camp Manager rembers coming as a kid to play – I would have loved playing tig over temple ruins when I was young (heck I was well up for a game when we were there!).