Nowadays, everybody has an acquaintance who has trekked to see the enormous towers of Angkor Wat, which has somewhat become Cambodia's de facto flagship temple – it graces the center of the Cambodian flag and it is also on the label of the "national beer", Angkor Beer.
But there are hundreds of temples in the Siem Reap, in various states of repair or disrepair. Unless you're visiting for several weeks, there is no possible way to see all of them. However, here are three of my top favorites that I suggest you make time for. I'll skip Angkor Wat for two reasons: 1) it wasn't one of my favorites and 2) it is such a historically-significant and massive temple complex you can't miss it anyway.
Photo Credits - dalbera
Bayon is known as the 'Temple of Faces', and once you've been there you'll easily know why – as you climb the steep stone steps and make you way into the inner sanctum of the temple, looking up you are struck by the hundreds of large stone faces looking down upon you. Although they are all smiling, I felt a bit of an ominous electric buzz in the air, perhaps waiting for the builders of these stone statues to come walking in from the forest. Although much of this temple is in ruin, it is still easy to imagine what an awesome sight it would have been when initially constructed – truly an earthly home fit for the gods.
Photo Credits - Chi King
If you've seen the Tomb Raider, a handful of the temple scenes were filmed here at Ta Prohm, and it didn't take any special effects to give the film its eerie, surreal qualities. The temple is in fairly poor shape and over the centuries trees have taken root in the temple walls. Conservationists have left the trees in place because they are in so deep they actually strengthen the temple and to remove them would destroy those remaining pieces.
Ta Prohm has a magical effect similar to Bayon in that it feels as though whomever built it or lived there might be just out for a walk and to explore the hidden spaces is a violation of trust. Find a quiet corner, relax and just soak up Ta Prohm's mystical qualities.
Photo Credits - Christian Haugen
For the first ten minutes you spend at Banteay Srei, you'll continue to stare in awe at the elaborate carvings covering every single inch of stone, wondering if they're actually made of wood. Even with today's technology it is almost unbelievable that such precise and intricate patterns and sculpture can be made from stone. This temple, unlike many of the others, is made red sandstone that is easier to carve and gives the complex a wonderfully golden-reddish hue.
Many of the entrances and towers of the temple are well preserved and still intact (watch your head – the doorways are quite short!) but some of the statues alongside the stairways are actually replicas, the originals stolen or in museums. If there were an art contest, Banteay Srei would win hands down for originality and attention to detail.
If You Go
You'll need a ticket to get into any of the temples themselves. You can find more information about the ticketing process over on the APSARA Authority website, which manages temples. Bayon and Ta Prohm are in the nearby vicinity of Angkor Wat, whereas Banteay Srei is about half an hour's ride along bumpy roads out of Siem Reap. If you book a personal guide (which I recommend), you will likely travel via air conditioned private car. Other options include hiring a tuk-tuk driver for the day (have your hotel book this for you to get a reputable driver) or cycling the entire route (not recommended in extremely hot weather).
About the Author.
Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy's other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Experiences
Source: Yahoo Singapore Travel