Angkor Wat, Cambodia
We had been looking forward to our visit to Siam Reap and Angkor Wat, and the three days spent there did not disappoint. AmaWaterways has a special arrangement with the luxury French hotel chain Sofitel, and we were fortunate to stay at the beautiful Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Resort during our time in Siam Reap. We arrived in the evening with enough time to relax and enjoy the beautiful resort.
We started our first full day in Siam Reap with a guided sightseeing tour of the Angkor Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visited the temple complex at Angkor Thom, established in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, and the last capital city of the Khmer empire. The Angkor Thom tour included stops at the famous Bayon Temple, known for its gigantic smiling stone faces, the Baphuon Temple, the Terrace of the Elephants, and the Terrace of the Leper King. We also visited Ta Prohm, known as the "Kingdom of the Trees" for the way in which thick forest vegetation has intertwined with temple stones over the centuries. Some of you may recall that Ta Prohm was featured in the movie, Tomb Raider, when characters visited Angkor Thom to recover the first piece of the Triangle of Light. Our final temple stop of the day was at the pink sandstone temple, Banteay Srei, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and known as the "jewel of Khmer art" for its elaborate decorative wall carvings.
Our second day in Cambodia included a full-day tour at Angkor Wat, the most iconic temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park and the largest religious monument in the world! Angkor Wat was built by Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century to honor the Hindu god Vishnu, but was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century. It felt almost surreal to be climbing around the Angkor Wat complex. Crowded in some areas, but easy to find places with no one else in sight. The temple complex was massive and there were relatively no areas out of bounds for visitors to explore. It was an amazing day of exploration and history, and we all agreed that AmaWaterway's local guide (Trang) did a great job of sharing the history and highlights with us.
I would love to visit Siam Reap again in the future, and particularly the Angkor temple complex. Angkor Wat is a bucket list item, right up there with the pyramids of Giza, Machu Picchu, and the Taj Mahal.