Honestly? There’s so little I can say about the Angkor temple complex that I haven’t already mentioned: it’s vast, jungle-y, ancient, and absurdly intricate. It may not be as great a mystery as Easter Island, or the perfect geometry of the Great Pyramids, but it’s more than enough for me to take hundreds and hundreds of pictures (which, by the way, are turning out pretty good! I LOVE having a smartphone!) and provide commentary so obvious that a manatee could have written it.

But let’s be real… when did not having anything original to say ever stop me?

This is just a smidgen of the central part of the complex. For scale, Angkor Wat is 3 km wide.

Let’s look at more pretty things that humans were able to do without computers…

Picture-heavy post ahead!

First things first – check out these pictures of dawn over the main temple of Angkor Wat. This involved getting up at 4:35am… but it was so crazy worth it.

Firstly, wow much beauty. Secondly, the busloads of tourists that come for dawn go back to their hotels right after sunrise – which meant that we effectively had 4 or 5 temples (part of the Long Circuit, today!) all to ourselves.

No exaggeration – we were the only people here for at least 4 hours, and it was unbelievably grand.

Heading back to our tuk tuk guy, our first stop was Preah Khan. There is a sign that reads:

‘The Preah Khan Conservation Project – A cooperative project of the National APSARA Authority and the World Monuments Fund (USA) for the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia. 

The conservation and presentation of the temple of Preah Khan has been an endeaver of the World Monuments Fund since 1991. The approach used by the international team in partnership with APSARA Authority has entailed discretely repairing the monumental remains of Preah Khan as a stabilized ruin within its rare jungle setting. Since its inception the project has emphasized the training of Khmer [Cambodian] architects, engineers, archaeologists and a cadre of local craftspeople who are increasingly assuming roles in Angkor’s protection. WMF’s work at Preah Khan continues to serve as exemplars of privately-supported architectural conservation work in the Kingdom of Cambodia.’

The restoration team at Preah Khan is ahead of the game – 2 noggins out of 6 ain’t bad! This walkway goes over a man-made reservoir approaching the temple’s front door (on the West side, of course).

6am in a jungle temple. Oh yeah.

Many pieces of the temples are either propped up to prevent further collapse or already in a state of rubble. Here you can see the intertwined nature of the temples in an un-restored section of the middle wall of Preah Khan. Nature vs. Man in action – but who won?

This is so pretty it makes me wanna barf. Note that the head is still attached – surviving 1000 years with only a ‘tear’ in her skirt is pretty impressive. Again (and again and again and again), check out that motif of flowers, not to mention the symmetry of the inner ornament design. I was pretty much slack-jawed from here until 9 or 9:30. Just beauty after beauty after beauty.

The entryway to the next temple was a fun obstacle course. Occasionally I’d see someone in a wheelchair inside one of the temples that were up stairs or avenues like this, and my question was always, “How the hell did you get in here?!”

Such door. Much carving.

One of the signs would have said “No Possibility of Visit.” Look at the size of the pieces on the floor (the doors are about 6 feet tall throughout the temples). I was really hoping to see some repairpeople in action inside one of the temples, but no such luck. I assume most people were off for Tet when we visited.

I was took so many pictures. You don’t know how hard it was to cull them for these posts. I was a picture-taking machine. Here’s some more ridiculous carving. People were seen touching carvings frequently, which I have to imagine is bad for the long-term state of the craftwork. People are pretty stupid sometimes.

This was behind the temple (at this one, the tuk tuk dropped us out in front and we met him on the opposite side). Each of the blocks was numbered and sorted. The holes you see in the block to the left were literally EVERYWHERE inside the temples – my personal guess is that these are evidence of some kind of construction technique. They seem fairly regular, and are about the size of bamboo.

COOL. This was out back, next to our tuk tuk, and appeared to be a grand entryway to the temple we had just left. Strangely, this structure is on the Eastern side. These guys were just getting to work about 7am.

The next temple we visited was pretty boring, so I’ll just say that it was built on an island in a man-made lake (well, four lakes, actually) which were fed from the center of the temple. I wanted it to be so much cooler than it was. For the sake of this page loading a hair faster, I’ll leave them out, except for this picture of Erin walking across the water (Hi, Jamison parents! Sorry they’re all pictures of her walking away from me… but in a great travel hat).

We made a pit stop at a temple that was pretty bare bones (relatively speaking), except for…

…THE ENORMOUS ELEPHANT STATUES EVERYWHERE! This picture does not do them justice. They were awesome.

Man vs. Nature, the Re-Beginninging: Part Tree. I crack myself up.

Finally, in a land much farther away (35 km, however far that is in Imperial-speak), lay our last destination, Bantay Srei

…Which is apparently the place everyone goes to first after their late vacation breakfasts. We got here about 10am. Erin is boldly diving into the mix. I seriously lost her inside this (extremely tiny!) temple – there were throngs. Throngs, I tell you.

Tour groups or no, this temple is pretty much the cat’s pajamas of temples, everywhere, always.

It’s known as the Crown Jewel of Khmer art for it’s pristine condition and surviving history and records. It’s really hard to argue with that assessment.

It was primarily a religious city that provided many services for women and housed over a thousand Apsara dancers at one point.

There are actually 100’s of people around me… but I’d prefer to remember it as if I had been there alone! This place is a genuine marvel. South Korean tourists are just not as interesting to me.

These spindle things were pretty much everywhere, with only minor variations in their designs. Notice the repeating patterns, again… there’s not a doorframe or post that doesn’t feature what would be days and days of painstaking detail work using today’s technology. Humans – Mostly Pretty Neat.

Thus concluded our trip around the long circuit, and our entire exploration of Ankor Wat and the temple complex. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, hot diggity damn. This place deserves that UNESCO World Heritage site like those kids that keep turning my headlights on in the morning deserve a kick in the pants – a lot. I look forward to visiting this place again… on my list of things to do is rent a bicycle and tour the 120 square miles on two wheels. It was unfortunate we didn’t get to go this visit, but we got busy having fun elsewhere.

Stay tuned for food foood fooooood, and did you mention you wanted to go to the circus? You’re in luck!