Must See Temples of Siem Reap
You’ve come to Siem Reap to see the wonder that is Angkor Wat for yourself. Then you discover the sometimes overwhelming number of other temples you should visit. Small circuit, Grand circuit, will this temple be worth it, will it be enjoyable with crowds/midday heat/hunger pains. Just the thought of it can make you want to crawl back to bed. Every temple has something special and there are many that I haven’t yet visited. But here are just a few of the ‘other’ temples which shouldn’t be missed during your trip to Siem Reap (most of which I’ve made a return visit to). In fact, if you only went to these, you would leave Angkor feeling satisfied. They could be visited in one very long day, but it’s best to break it up over two or three.
Ta Prohm is my favourite temple in Angkor Archaeological Park. Best visited in the morning before the crowds have left Angkor Wat or Bayon temple. This one is also known as the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple as some of the Lara Croft movie was filmed here. I love this temple for its ‘man meets nature’ features. The jungle is trying to reclaim the temple to such an extent that it’s now holding many of the walks together. The stone and the tree branches rely on each other here.
Without the crowds you can explore Ta Prohm and imagine you’re an Indiana Jones type explorer, stepping over stones and ducking through tiny doorways. Along one of these tiny corridors you can see the smiling face of an Aspara (heavenly nymph) as it peeks out from overgrown tree roots.
The smiling faces of Bayon form the centrepiece of Angkor Thom, the last and most enduring capital of the Khmer Empire. 216 gigantic faces smile across the valleys. Their serene beauty is definitely worth spending some time among. Bayon is becoming an alternative to Angkor Wat for a sunrise viewing. The crowds generally start to thin in the late afternoon.
King Jayavarman VII built Preah Khan and dedicated it to his father. Like Ta Prohm, it’s being taken over by the jungle, making it another ‘man meets nature’ spectacle. It’s much less visited though so you won’t be battling with the crowds.
The temple itself is an impressive structure with a centre stupa and four long corridors leading off it to the North, South, East and West. At the right angle, with the right light, the stupa can look like a candle with a wavering flame atop. It’s worth taking some time to explore as there are some hidden gems, such as the carvings of the King’s sister-wives.
[pics of wives]
Banteay Srey is also known as the ‘pink temple’ (though it mostly looked orange to me) and is said to be particularly beautiful at sunrise. Being over 30 kilometres from Siem Reap so this is probably one for ‘morning people!’ In terms of scale, it’s not as impressive as other temples in Angkor but the carvings are incredibly detailed and well preserved. There is something about the red sandstone that lends itself to detailed, intricate and delicate carvings of devatas and dvarapalas.
Pre Rup is a lesser known temple within Angkor Park but still worth the visit. Like others, it was originally a Hindu temple, dedicated to Shiva. It’s a mountain of a temples with high steep steps. It is believed to have been a site of funerals. A lot of the temple is in ruins but you can still climb to the top of it for some wonderful views across the jungle.
These are just a few of the temples you can visit, you could easily spend a full week touring the park.
Blog and pictures by Simone