Running and Tourist Dodging at Angkor Wat

We travelled to Siem Reap just for the weekend to run in the 10k at the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon event. For the last seventeen years it has raised money for various charities and NGOs in Cambodia that work to help children and the disabled. It was an absolutely fantastic event. The run started at 6:30, shortly after sunrise, and then wound through the massive temple complex which had been closed off to tourists.

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Of course we went back after the run for some sightseeing. I had last been six years ago and it seemed as if tourism has grown considerably since then, both in terms of the number of new hotels and restaurants in Siem Reap town and the number of tour groups and their buses around the temple complex. Despite the tourists, the ancient temples of Angkor are so incredibly beautiful it was still really enjoyable. We only had three days but one could easily spend a lot longer. There are so many temples we simply didn’t have time to explore them all. It definitely feels quieter if one visits sites shortly after sunrise before 8am and also at midday, when it’s very hot and everyone has gone to eat lunch. We also visited some less popular sites like Preah Khan which we had pretty much all to ourselves.

Preah Khan - a fusion temple dedicated to Buddha, Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. Amazing how Roman the columns looked

Preah Khan – a fusion temple dedicated to Buddha, Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. Amazing how Roman the columns looked

At Angkor Wat, apparently the world’s largest religious building, one could quite quickly get away form the crowds by heading off down the vast corridors. Clearly the majority of tourists just want to just get one shot of the whole building and then move on to tick their next box. Rather sad, as I think so much of the beauty in the building is found in the intricately carved corridors. In my attempt to avoid tourists cluttering my photos I actually didn’t take one of the whole building other than the sunrise shot above. Bas-reliefs, carved in the 12th century, stretch along the 800 meter long corridors with some incredible battle scenes including some very ancient horses and dogs.

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ancient horses

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On to Ta Prohm where the trees have engulfed the buildings in a spectacular fashion.

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The bridge at the South Gate of Angkor Thom was beautifully lit by the late afternoon sun. Pictured below are the rather weather worn men pulling a giant Naga/snake.

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And finally – Bayon. One of the most memorable temples because of the 216 faces of Avalokiteshvara which ‘stare’ off into the distance. Again the bas-relief carvings are fantastic here too.

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