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Our first day on the Angkor Temple Tour Trail took us to the Big Three: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm, but there is more to see at the UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Archaeological Park than just those.
We routed out a self-guided tour based on the ‘Big Circuit’ and ignored some of the suggested itineraries and ‘best times to visit’ as a way to attempt to escape the crowds. At a few of the temples we felt like we were there alone, which was a stark contrast from our first day of temple exploring and while watcing the sunrise at Angkor Wat.
Angkor Temple Tour: Temples
The nine temples we chose to tour were: Phnom Bakheng, Prasat Kravan, Sra Srang, Banteay Kdei, Pre Rup, Eastern Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Poan and Preah Khan. At the end of our tour, we again rode through the gates of Angkor Thom, from north to south, past Bayon and Baphoun Temples and then we had one last peek at Angkor Wat as we continued the drive back to the hotel.
Angkor Temple Tour: Phnom Bakheng
A hotspot for sunset, we skipped the crowds and visited shortly after sunrise.
At one time there were 108 towers at Phnom Bakheng, but many have crumbled only leaving a few standing
Built on a hill, we had far views from Phnom Bakheng in all directions and could even see Ankgor Wat in the distance
Angkor Temple Tour: Prasat Kravan
Looking eastward at Prasat Kravan, doors only open on the east side
These were the first carvings we saw in brick
Well preserved carvings have survived on the inside of the temple
Angkor Temple Tour: Sra Srang
Nothing left of this temple but the foundation, this is the former royal bathing pond
Sra Srang is also known as the Pool of Ablutions
Angkor Temple Tour: Banteay Kdei
Walking up to Banteay Kdei
While the buildings are not in the best condition, the carvings are striking
Banteay Kdei was occupied by monks until the 1960s
A colorful shrine can be seen through the door of the temple
Angkor Temple Tour: Pre Rup
The approach to Pre Rup was staggering
The main tower at Pre Rup
It is thought by some archeologists that Pre Rup was a crematorium and this box is where the cremation took place
Angkor Temple Tour: Eastern Mebon
Eastern Mebon was built in the same style as Pre Rup, the top platform looks almost identical
The intricate carvings over doorways have survived over time, even though the rest of the building is deteriorating
Large elephant sculptures sit at the corners of Eastern Mebon
Angkor Temple Tour: Ta Som
The temple at Ta Som
Four faces look down from the gated entrance
This sacred fig tree has practically taken over the eastern entrance
Angkor Temple Tour: Neak Pean
The long boardwalk to Neak Pean took up past vastly different landscape than we’d seen in Cambodia
The final approach to Neak Pean
The island temple of Neak Pean sits in the middle of a square pond, surrounded by four smaller ponds
Angkor Temple Tour: Preah Khan
The approach to Preah Khan is similar to Angkor Thom with the large gate and the ‘Churning of the Ocean of Milk’
This large temple was sprawling…and crumbling
Like most of the temples, statues have been stolen or demolished over the years
Detailed carvings have weathered time as nature is slowly taking over
Statues (although now headless) guard the entrance to Preah Khan
We want to know: Have you been on an Angkor Temple Tour? Which temple was your favorite? Why? Tell us in the comments!