Angkor Wat (the largest religious monument in the World and an UNESCO World Heritage Site (in case you are not the know) has been on my bucket list WAY longer than Laura Kroft (aka Angelina Jolie) filmed Tomb Raider there. ;)
While booking a work trip to Saigon, I decided it was high time to scratch through that number on the list. I booked a flight from Saigon to Siem Reap for a 1.5 day layover en route to Burma, a hotel from a recommendation of fellow travel junkie, Amy Kerner, and sat back quite pleased with myself.
It then dawned on me I had no idea anything about Angkor Wat actually. My first google search left me feeling as if I had taken the first bite of an elephant on a full stomach. Further research confirmed it was going to be impossible to see it all.
So I did what any good traveler does. Buy the best guide books with the top things to see?
No. I bought a historical fiction book called, Temple of a Thousand Faces. I have a longstanding habit/tradition of reading historical fiction while I am actually visiting a place. Its kinda history for romantic dummies I guess. But it works for me! 100 pages in and I was already in love with the history of this magical place called Angkor Wat.
Originally Hindu and later Buddhist the temples go back to the 12th Century. What I, and many others, learned quickly was that Angkor Wat Temple, itself, is just one of thousands in this area of Cambodia and around Siem Reap. So, while I could do Angkor itself in a day, that was only sticking my big toe in.
Hire a guide to get me around to the most important tourist things to see? Hell no. I was going to do it Tomb Raider style and blaze my own trail.
I was going to make this an adventure from sunrise to sunset and do it my way…by the seat of my pants and with a good map.
I arrived to Siem Reap at 10am to a welcome heat wave of humidity and a sign for Mr. Heather Antonelli. Happy that my online Visa actually got me into the country, I didn’t care what the driver wanted to call me. It was go time. He was noticeably shaken by the fact I was I woman however. That error did score me a free cocktail later that night courtesy of the hotel.
I could bore you with a long list of every temple, shrine, pagoda, building and bump I covered in the next 1.5 days but you can read a guide or history book for that. Here is my photographic story of the visit, covering only architecture in this post. I am going to post a few more covering Banyan Trees (obsessed) and life around Angkor later. I give you Angkor Wat and a few grumpy pics of me. (It was HOT and SWAMPY!)