Angkor - part two

So, the "big three" of Angkor are the actual namesake, Angkor Wat, the central structure in the royal town next door, Bayon, aka the one with all the faces, and then Ta Prohm, aka "the jungle temple", famous as the location for much of the Tomb Raider movies.

My buddy from Halong Bay had talked about what a moving, life changing (!) experience sunrise at Angkor Wat was, so that was my goal. I met my sweet driver, named Chart, pronounced like Chad, at 5:15 in the morning for the dark & chilly ride out (it's about 30 mins from Siem Reap into the actual park). He let me off, with the absolute hoards of other people, and explained where he'd be when I was done. I had no clue where to go, and his limited English wasn't that helpful. All I got from him was depends- some like to be in the temple, some like from far away. Great. So, I followed some flashlight-led groups over the causeway & through the gate (interesting without any light!), and sat down the first spot I saw others congregating with their guide. I furiously whipped out my new book to see if it had any advice. Sadly, no. It tells what the bas reliefs on each corner of everywhere mean, but not practical info, like, if you watch from here, you see this. Sigh. I could see just enough to realize that I wasn't in a good spot though, as there was some sort of building blocking my view of the towers, so off I went in search of a better view. The hoards seemed to be headed left off the central aisle, so I went right & picked a relatively quiet spot on the steps of one of the libraries. And then I waited, and waited. It started getting lighter, and lighter, and there was a horse grazing off to the side which was entertaining. But eventually, I decided that my spot just wasn't that exciting or picturesque, and when the sun actually rose, I wanted to be more on the east side of the building, to catch some good light. So, off I went, and boy was I rewarded. It wasn't crowded really at all, and there were some just gorgeous spots. Eventually, the sun did crest the tree-tops, which was cool to see from inside the temple. Sadly, the very tippy-top level is closed until about 7:30, and I wasn't quite brave enough to jump the makeshift gate, as some were doing, which I quite regret actually. But, still super cool stuff. The interiors actually also still have some color left on the walls/ceilings, which make you realize just how much more spectacular these were back in the day. Back out front, on the west side, I finally figured out that the very best view is in front of the lagoon on the NW side, b/c you can see all 5 towers AND the sun, all reflected as well. Luckily, I got there still in time for a decent shot or two. Now THAT would be the spot to just sit & wait & watch (but you'd also have to deal with twice the crowd & tons of teeny Cambodian children begging you to buy something - in many languages, and they're smart enough to try to trick you by offering their thing for 4000 real, instead of $1... But 4000 real = $1. Makes you think though!).

Once I'd had my fill, I moved on to the Temple of the Faces, which was amazing & had some great light on it. I then had to make my way through a series of highly decorated terraces, which were cool, to find my driver. He tried to have me stop at a smaller couple of temples, but my camera battery was running low, it was getting hotter by the second, and I knew the Jungle one was going to be great, so we pushed on. So, yes, Ta Prohm is amazing. It was also, unfortunately REALLY crowded, and it's so small & compact that it was harder than ever to avoid the crowds. Especially when each person had to get their photo taken in front of each tree/root spot. I really almost got myself completely lost, b/c I kept just turning away from crowds hoping to circle behind/in front of them. It finally mostly worked, and MAN, it is just super cool to see so many trees sprouting out over these old structures. Other temples have maybe a tree or two invading them, but this one was crazy! I can't imagine what it would've been like to discover it.

Once I was done wandering around & around, I called it a day. Around 10am it was already above 90, and I'd spent far too long out there in mid-day heat the day prior. Plus, there was a lovely pool next door that just had my name all over it. :). I did intend to head back into the park for sunset, but in the end I didn't want to pay another tuk-tuk driver another $15-$20 or bike 20-odd kilometers in the heat, so, instead I caught up on some things.
So here is a selection of pics from day 2 - hope you enjoy!