There’s really too many temples in the complex of the temples of Angkor. Trying to plan a trip is pretty mindblowing. Especially when you try to start factoring in the weather (which wears you out in a minute) and the light to catch the best temples at the best time of day. You could spend more time planning where to go than doing it.
We took two very busy days to visit the temples, as many as we could cram in. We exhausted ourselves from sunrise at Angkor Wat to a late afternoon visit to Ta Prohm. We occupied ourselves with the main temples (and that should tell you something, if that took us two full days). What’s incredible about the temples is not so much their sheer size and scope, but the detail with which every nook and cranny is filled. Angkor Wat, for example, is covered floor to ceiling with galleries depicting Buddhist and Hindu mythology.
Every wall is filled with Apsara (celestial dancers) imagery.
Angkor Wat itself is impressive, but we found a few other temples more to our liking.
My favorite was Ta Prohm, a temple in the process of disintigrating into the forest. Big, beautiful trees grew through and around everything. It was best when we went back late in the afternoon when the tour groups had left and the light was softer.
Theresa’s favorite was Banteay Srei, an ornate and beautiful reddish sandstone temple with intricate and expressive carvings. It was rather small, but it definitely embodied the quality over quantity mantra.
The other particularly impressive temples and buildings are centered inside Angkor Thom, a large wall encircling an entire city worth of temples. Five gates lead in, four in the cardinal directions and one Victory Gate also in the east.
At the center is the Bayon, another temple full of faces and intricacies galore.
Just north of the Bayon are the Terrace of the Elephants, very aptly named considering it is a terrace containing tons of bas reliefs of near life size elephants, and the Terrace of the Leper King, which is less clearly named and a more confusing story.
And the thing about Angkor is there were plenty of other temples we visited that we didn’t talk about here, and even so, there were plenty of temples that we didn’t have time to visit. The complex is that vast. And that impressive. And that astounding.