Traversing the Temples – Angkor Small Circuit

Day two of temple madness dawned bright and early. I was on Dory by 7:30 am and making tracks to Angkor Historic Park. I took the same route into the park as the previous day but instead of going green (i.e. taking a right and doing the grand circuit), I went red (i.e. I turned left and took the short circuit). Please see the same pilfered map as last time for further clarification.

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I’m pretty sure I did the small circuit backwards by taking the same route in again but I wanted to see smaller temples first and the forwards route takes you through the big ones which I wasn’t ready for yet.

The first temple on my backwards small circuit route was upon me pretty quickly. Actually, the entrance is slightly before you turn. The temple is called Banteay Kdei and here’s the entrance you can see from the road (get used to the faces, you’re going to be stared at a lot from now on in these temples).

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Banteay Kdei was a fun temple to venture around. It’s not quite big enough for you to worry you’ve missed something but it’s not small enough for you to feel like there’s nowhere to hide (should you need to because you’ve run out of ammo and you’re down to your last medi pack). There’s some pretty awesome nature:architecture interactions too.

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Some bits of Banteay Kdei need more help than others to stay standing. A lot of the temple has been or is undergoing conservation. Other parts look like they’ve been ‘bodged’. See what look suspiciously like big cable ties holding this roof up for proof.

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Once Banteay Kdei was done (in about an hour), I was back on my blue beast headed for my next Lara Croft impersonation session except, I really could pretend to be Lara in the next temple as it was used in the rather shockingly bad film ‘Tomb Raider’. On to Ta Prohm! In the movie, Lara is air dropped in by the Army and then drives a massive 4×4 around. I preferred Dory.

Ta Prohm is big. It’s huge actually. I wandered around it for just over two hours. You think you’ve just seen it all and then you discover another entrance or an extra section. One of my favourite parts was this completely conserved arched roof walkway. It was an actual pile of rubble before the smart people applied their brains to it.

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This is one of the best conserved pieces in Ta Prohm. It’s in a fairly open area of the temple where tourists gather in droves for pictures next to a tree woven interestingly around a wall. Unfortunately I didn’t get any good photos of the tree wall because of the hoards of tourists so the nice looking shrine thing will have to do instead.

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I did manage to get one decent photo of different but equally cool tree roots against a wall but only because the people hogging the good shots spoke Cantonese and I was able to ask them to move out the way (thank you Hong Kong).

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Ta Prohm really is an impressive temple and I enjoyed it an awful lot.

Make sure you allocate enough time for the temples because I was surprised at how long it took me to look around them to my satisfaction. Sure, I could have rushed around them but then what’s the point in going? Go at your own pace and, if you do have a tight schedule, don’t try and see too much. See fewer temples but see them properly.

Once Ta Prohm was done, I ate lunch and then moved on. The next temple is, possibly, my favourite one at Angkor. Ta Keo is a health and safety inspectors nightmare. The stairs are incredibly steep and worn, there’s more trip hazards than you can count and some bits look decidedly like they might drop on your head. Here’s Ta Keo from a distance.

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Naturally I took it upon myself to scale as far up Ta Keo as I could. The stairs are truly very steep and narrow. A few were no wider than my hand. Some verge on knee high and require actual climbing to ascend. Coming down is far more scary than going up. Here’s a picture from the top of Ta Keo. High innit?

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Ta Keo took me about 45 minutes to climb my away around and what fun it was! It was fast nearing the very hottest part of the day though. I had planned to see the temples of Angkor Thom too but it was looking ever more unlikely. The sun was beating down too hard so I amended my mental schedule and decided I would do three of my five things in Angkor Thom and off I cycled.

My first stop was the terrace of the elephants. It is a huge, raised terrace with elephants carved into the supporting wall for the entire length. Here’s a little picture of the elephants facing off.

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Once on the terrace, I was headed for Phimeanakas. This temple is set some way back from terrace so you go through several impressive entrance gates on your way. Phimeanakas is also surrounded by a wall for the most part so there’s plenty of smaller entrances set into the wall that you can find. Here’s the entrance gate I took.

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Phimeanakas itself is small but tall.

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You can climb it via a set of wooden steps found at the rear and its worth the climb, it’s a good view. You can see the two lakes that flank Phimeanakas. One is considerably more covered in green life than the other. Here’s a picture of the clearer lake.

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If you follow the signs around Angkor Thom, once you’re done with Phimeanakas, they lead you down via the terrace of the leper kings. You can actually walk in the cavity between the outer and inner parts of the wall which feels rather like being in a maze. The outer wall is very heavily carved indeed. Here’s a shot I got of it

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By the time I had walked around this section of Angkor Thom you could have stuck a fork in me. I was done. The terrace of the leper king was my signal to head back to the hostel where I could wring out my soaking clothes and shower off immense amounts of temple dust.

Day two cycling Angkor was complete and only the behemoths remained.

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