Based on my good friend Gary’s recommendation, on the second day we decided to do sunrise at Angkor Wat then go to Banteay Srei and Banteay Samre via tuk tuk. We arranged the tuk tuk through our guesthouse (Millennium Guesthouse, a chill family run place that has double rooms for 6USD/night) for 20USD for 4 people. The driver was ready before we were; when we came outside at 04:50 he was already ready to go. We picked up our friends at their guesthouse and then off we went to Angkor Wat. We arrived before sunrise and there was already a crowd of people at the sunrise point. Ridiculous! We managed to stake out a good spot where we could see the five towers of the temple reflecting off the water and waited for the sun to ascend over the temple. It wasn’t the most spectacular sunrise I’ve ever seen from an aesthetic point of view but the temples made it special nonetheless.
After the sun had fully risen we had breakfast at the stalls nearby who more than prepared to discount their inflated prices when I looked at the menu then said “too expensive”. They gave us a 25% discount on everything on the menu which was quite nice. The drive out to Banteay Srei took about one hour but it was totally worth it. The temple is located about 37km from Angkor Wat and has been lovingly restored. While not spectacular in size, the things that set it apart are the type of stone used (sandstone) to build it and the intricate carvings and statues found throughout the temple. The carvings are exquisite. Next up was Banteay Samre. It’s made out of the same sandstone as Banteay Samre and follows typical Khmer temple architectural style.
On the last day of my 3 day pass I hired a mountain bike and cycled the entire grand tour, a return trip of approximately 38km from the Old Market in Siem Reap. Unfortunately for me it was REALLY hot and sunny that day so it was slow going once I got into the Angkor complex since there’s not much shade to be had along the road. I stopped off at Angkor Thom’s Elephant Terrace, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, and Terrace of the Leper King. Of all these the Elephant Terrace interested me the most. Judging from the name and the way it’s structured it’s safe to assume they used to mount and dismount elephants. The carvings along the walls of the terrace are really detailed, numerous, and absolutely stunning to behold.
After cycling through the north gate of Angkor Thom, I wound my way around the northern part of the loop to Preah Khan. This temple is still in the process of being restored; there are piles of temple rubble everywhere which lends it an eerie ghostlike feeling as you walk through from west to east. At the eastern entrance there’s a massive tree growing over and into the temple wall. Trees like this are a big part of why this particular temple is in ruin. Over the centuries nature flexed its muscle and reclaimed the land from man and as a result toppled much of the temple in the slow onslaught. I weaved my way around Chinese tourists and returned to the western gate to retrieve my bicycle and headed east to Neak Pean and Ta Som. Neak Pean consists of five bathing pools with a stupa-like structure in the middle. Ta Som is another fine temple to visit but at this point I was templed-out so I took a quick poke around then headed back to town in the sweltering heat. The cold shower that awaited me at the guesthouse was a glad respite from the tropical weather outside.