We spent our last day and a half in Angkor visiting some of the more outlying sites. This strategy served two purposes: we were able to explore temples in the company of far fewer of our fellow tourists, and the distances between the places we visited meant we had lovely long tuktuk rides allowing for a rest and a nice cooling breeze. I really enjoyed this form of travel, slow enough to appreciate the scenery along the way, fast enough that you don’t feel you’re wasting time, and open-air to see real life around us.
We fell into a comfortable routine. We’d arrive at a temple, get oriented and find a bit of shade to shelter in. Then using an Angkor guide app on my phone we read the historical overview about the site, then consulted our guide book for the original layout and the significant features we should look for.
Jack can never resist the urge to climb to the top of wherever we are so he made his way up steep steps to explore the upper bits, while I wandered the lower parts looking for the important carvings or other features.
I was often perfectly content to find a quiet corner taking in the peace, the majesty, the artistry, trying to imagine the place when it was first built and occupied. Often when we visit ruins we see them just as crumbling structures, beautiful in their current state of disarray, and it can be a challenge to paint a mental picture of newly finished monumental works in all their glorious perfection being used for their intended purpose.
Our penultimate stop was the temple of Phnom Bakeng, one of the taller structures, and a favorite for watching the sunset. The temple is so fragile that only 300 people are allowed at one time. We weren’t staying for sunset so our early afternoon visit found the place nearly empty. We both climbed to the top of this one, scary for me, routine for Jaco. The view was spectacular even in the afternoon heat haze.
We spent our last two hours back at the crown jewel, Angkor Wat, which by this time was packed with hot and tired tourists.
It was hard to tear ourselves away, and we both watched behind us as this magical thousand-year-old city disappeared into the forest and our tuktuk delivered us back to Siem Reap for our last evening before venturing on to Phnom Penh. We could easily have spent more time here but there are always more places to discover. Tick tock. Tempus fugit.