South East Asia: Part III of IV


Located in western Cambodia, Siem Reap is named literally the Defeat of Siam (old-world Thailand) and has a history dating back to the year 1,200 years. The city is viewed as the gateway to the UNESCO world heritage site of Angkor Wat and other Khmer-era architectural treasures in the surrounding region.

The area is quite developed and clearly aimed at the flocks of international tourists who come to see overgrown temples (the inspiration for Tomb Raider), markets and the colonial-style architecture.

These things always make me chuckle, how many people take/buy these things? Anyways I went for the chair, toilet cover and information kit.

Siem Reap colonial architecture

The Blue Pumpkin - A western-inspired patisserie with a Cambodian touch, though I can't imagine many locals venture here however.

Haggled this to a fair price, yet to be framed though!

Night Market

Traditional and French cuisine is blurred to create some interesting dishes


Located just outside Siem Reap is Angkor Wat - the world's largest religious building. It is at the core of Cambodia's identity, going so far as to feature on the country’s' flag. Built in the Khmer architectural style, the outer wall and moat is 3.6km long with a quincunx of (five) towers and surrounding galleries, dating back to the 12th century. Unlike many of the wats that litter the surrounding countryside and were subsequently engulfed by jungle growth, Angkor was protected and as part of the wider Angkor region, received UNESCO world heritage site recognition in 1992.

While the scale of the site is pretty awe-inspiring in its own right, there is an immense level of carved detail covering every visible surface. In excess of 5mn tons of sandstone were used to build the monument (sourced 40km away) and would have required thousands upon thousands to quarry, transport, sculpt and construct.

To get some perspective, here is a satellite view (Angkor Thom to the north, Angkor Wat to the south):

To see Angkor Wat in its beauty, you have to view the sun rise behind the structure at around 5 in the morning. Unfortunately the cloud's didn't agree!

A gatehouse.

50% of tourists to Cambodia come to Angkor Wat and the surrounding wats.

The moat surrounding Angkor Wat

Moving northwards, you come to the South Gate which was the southern border to what was known as Angkor Thom - the last and longest lasting capital city of the Khmer empire. Not visible in the following pic to either side is the vast moat and 8m high wall (far larger than that around Angkor Wat) that surrounded the city. The 9km x 9km defences contained a city that was home to some 150,000 people at its height.

Unfortunately when the Khmer empire went into decline, so did the city and when economic and political wealth relocated to Phnom Penh (the current capital on the Mekong), the city withered away between the 14th and 16th centuries, eventually succumbing to the jungle roots and vines. Little survives except for a few temples such as the Bayon.

Once home to an empire that spanned Thailand, Burma, modern-day Cambodia, Laos and chunks of Vietnam. Now nature rules abandoned Khmer architecture.

Roots, vines and overgrowth.

Trees have fused with stone creating awesome juxtapositions.

No idea what this is (about the palm of my hand), but fortunately it was dead.

The more you traverse the ruins, the more you understand how Tomb Raider got its inspiration; its an odd if untimely reminder that it isn't just people that come and go, but entire civillisations. Could London or New York ever go the same way?

South East Asia Series
South East Asia: Part I of IV
South East Asia: Part II of IV
South East Asia: Part IV of IV