Rising before dawn, proceed for your exploration of the Mother of all temples, Angkor Wat. Believed to be the world's largest religious building, this temple is the perfect fusion of symbolism and symmetry and a source of pride and strength to all Khmers. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, this is most famous temple at Angkor. Arrive at the monument as the sun rises and then proceed into the great structure to discover its intricacies, as described by your guide. You are driven back to the hotel afterward for breakfast and some time to freshen up.
Next, pay a visit to the immense walled city Angkor Thom that was the masterpiece of King Jayavarman VII. Following the occupation of Angkor by the Chams from 1177 to 1181, the new king decided to build an impregnable fortress at the heart of his empire. The scale is simply staggering and you will be awed by the achievement of King Jayavarman as you enter the city’s gates. The causeway is lined by an intricate bridge depicting the Churning of the Ocean of Milk from Hindu mythology in which the Devas (gods) and Asuras (devils) are engaged in tug of war with a naga (seven-headed serpent) to obtain the elixir of immortality. Begin your visit at the Terrace of the Leper King. This intricately carved platform was the royal crematorium and the statue that was originally thought to be the leper king is now believed to be Yama, the god of death
We continue along the Terrace of Elephants, originally used as a viewing gallery for the king to preside over parades, performances and traditional sports. At the southern end lies the Baphuon, once of the most beautiful temples at Angkor, dating from the reign of Uditayavarman 1 in the 11th century. It has undergone a massive renovation by the French and is now once again open for viewing.
Then proceed to the enigmatic and enchanting temple of the Bayon. At the exact center of Angkor Thom, this is an eccentric expression of the creative genius and inflated ego of Cambodia’s most celebrated king. Its 54 towers are each topped off with the four faces of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), all of which bear more than a passing resemblance to the king himself.
There is a break for lunch at local restaurant.
Next up is the mystical Ta Prohm, which has been abandoned to the elements, a reminder that while empires rise and fall, the riotous power of nature marches on, oblivious to the dramas of human history. Left as it was ‘discovered’ by French explorer Henri Mouhout in 1860, the tentacle-like tree roots here are slowly strangling the surviving stones, man first conquering nature to create, nature later conquering man to destroy. This was one of the settings for Lara Croft’s adventures in “Tomb Raider”.
Complete your exploration of the Angkor ruins with a visit to another temple that makes you feel like you have traveled back in time - Preah Khan. This large temple is left unrestored for the most part and is a fascinating maze of narrow passageways and windows that each offer their own unique view into the past. You are driven back to the hotel in the late afternoon.
Overnight in Siem Reap