This is a guest post by Trippy community member Vicky Iskandar, who is a nature- and road trip-loving travel writer, yogi, Afro-Brazilian dancer.
My journey to Siem Reap, Cambodia was inspired by Wong Kar Wai’s movie In the Mood for Love. At the end of the movie, the main character played by Tony Leung travels to Angkor Wat, where he whispers his secrets to a hole, caresses it, and leaves, his secrets buried forever in the ancient ruins of the temple. The scenes at Angkor Wat perfectly capture the temple’s mystery, melancholy and grandeur.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Angkor complex consists of more than 200 temples built by the Khmer between the 9th and 15th centuries, surrounded by lush jungles and temple villages. To fully appreciate this world wonder, spend a week in Siem Reap if you can. Many of the major ruins deserve more than one visit, and you could have the quiet, smaller temples to yourself. Photographers will want to come back to the ruins at different times of day to capture the magical shifting light.
If you only have three days or less, here are the top five things to do in Siem Reap/Angkor:
1. Angkor Wat
Angkor’s main temple evokes melancholy, its lonely corridors an appropriate site to ponder life’s mysteries. Magnificent bas-reliefs depicting gods and demons of Hindu mythology and headless statues of Buddha in the lower level galleries are a reminder that the kingdom was once devoted to Hinduism before it converted into Buddhism. Come here at sunrise for an unforgettable view.
Upper Level Gallery at Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat at sunrise
2. Ta Prohm
I was instantly transported to another world as soon as I walked into Ta Prohm. The jungle-temple’s crumbling buildings and 200-year old trees make for the most dramatic temple of Angkor. Thick tree trunks and wildly grown roots, crushing and gripping the structures, lend this atmospheric temple a haunting, out of the world feel. It’s truly the world’s best outdoor, living museum.
Another can’t miss temple, Bayon impresses all who visit it. The line-up of gods and demons at the gates welcoming visitors into this walled city didn’t prepare me enough for the overwhelming sense of awe and astonishment when I climbed up the steps of Bayon and saw at first one, then three others, and then eight and more giant faces (of Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Bodhisattva) smiling down at me. Best visited in the early morning and late afternoon, when the light illuminates the giant faces and bathes them with a golden glow.
4. Banteay Kdei and Preah Khan
These adjacent Buddhist monasteries are off the major tourist path and quieter than the rest of the temples at Angkor. I find the endless corridors and moss-covered walls – whose colors morph into differing shades of pink and green depending on the light and time of day – most inspiring and captivating to photograph. Look out for an eerie mirror-like effect when you stand on one end of either temple and see another person at the other end of the temple’s long passage.
5. An afternoon massage
Afternoons are hot and humid in Siem Reap and best spent relaxing with a massage after a morning at the temples. As a former Beauty Editor who’d tried great, good, and bad massages from the cheap to the most luxurious, I find mid-priced, stand-alone day spas tend to offer the most authentic massage treatments at the best value. Try Frangipani Spa’s foot reflexology massage – a blissfully relaxing toe-to-head massage.
Bonus: Vicky shares her recommendations for must-try foods in Siem Reap on Trippy!
Vicky Iskandar is a Los Angeles-based travel writer, yogi, and Afro-Brazilian dancer who has a thing for nature and road trips. Catch her travel recommendations on Trippy and be sure to follow her adventures on Twitter and on her blogs VickyGoes.com and Journeys to Bliss!
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