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Making a Trail

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Angkor Wat is actually part of a gigantic archaeological park that includes the ancient city of Angkor, known as Angkor Thom. It also includes some smaller, lesser known temples that are on the periphery of the park. According to wikipedia, “a team of researchers using satellite photographs and other modern techniques concluded that Angkor had been the largest preindustrial city in the world, with an elaborate infrastructure system connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) to the well-known temples at its core.” Thus you can imagine how hard it was for us to see the whole park, but here are some highlights, besides Angkor Wat:

1. Ta Prohm:
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The Angkor empire was at its height from the 9th to the 15th century. Once the city was abandoned, many of the temples fell into disarray, with a lot of wildlife taking over. These strangler fig trees covered and became part of the architecture. When some French explorers “rediscovered” the temples (Cambodians lived around the area for hundreds of years), they felt this temple looked more beautiful with all the encroaching trees, and so it was left as such. This temple was featured in the movie, “Tomb Raider.”
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2. Bayon:
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This temple was built right in the heart of Angkor Thom. The structure is unique in that all the facades are covered with huge stone faces. Some archealogists say the faces are of the King who reigned at that time. Others say they represent a deity. Either way, this site was one of our favorites, maybe even surpassing the beauty of Angkor Wat.
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3. Banteay Srei:
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This tiny temple is one of the older structures. It is smaller than the newer temples, but because it is made of red sandstone, the carvings have weathered the test of time, and many of the bas-reliefs are still remarkably intact. We schleped about 32 km in a tuk-tuk to see this little temple, and it was gorgeous.
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It is also known for its detailed statues from Hindu mythology. Unfortunately, these statues are replicas, as the originals were so cool that people kept stealing them and their replicas.
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4. The Roluos Trio (Bakong, Preah Ko, and Lolei):
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These are the oldest dating structures of the Khmer empire. They were part of the first capital, before Angkor became the city center. They’re a little smaller, but still pretty cool.

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