So, one of the most difficult decisions when coming to Siem Reap is deciding which temples to see and in which order. Everywhere you look, people talk about the small circuit and the grand circuit. But, they overlap. And, we had difficulty finding clear maps showing which temples were on which circuit. Plus, some people recommend doing the small circuit first and other people recommend doing the grand circuit first. Our recommendation? Get on the internet, look at photos, look at blogs, and decide what you think looks cool — don’t feel you have to see everything or do it in the order everyone else does it in. After seeing Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm (which we knew we wanted to see based on our past visit), we did exactly that. And, for our day 2, we came up with the following itinerary: Banteay Kdei, Pre-Rup, East Mebon, Ta Som, and Neak Pean. These are all on the grand circuit, along with other temples, but most people do them in the opposite order. We thought our order worked out well — the temples weren’t overly crowded and we were back to our hotel in time for lunch.
First stop was Banteay Kdei. This is a Buddhist temple built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries. This temple was interesting (enough so that we spent a full hour exploring), but nowhere close to one of our favorites. (Note if you need to buy a pair of elephant pants or fisherman’s pants or a T-shirt, there were quite a few vendors here and they were way cheaper than in town. Pants started at $2 and tees started at $3).
Next up was Pre-Rup, a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. From what I can tell, not a whole lot is known about Pre-Rup, but it is suspected that it was used as a crematorium. We both loved this temple. At first, it was a bit off-putting, as we got dropped off on the side of the temple and had to climb a ton of very uneven, slippery, stone stairs to get to the top (word to the wise: there are wooden stairs on the other side of the temple and they are way easier to navigate). But it was worth the climb. It was stunning! And, when we climbed down, the view from the front was quite impressive.
Then it was off to East Mebon, another temple built in the 10th century and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The large elephants standing in the corners were a real highlight here.
Our next stop was Ta Som, a temple built in the 12th century. This one is a bit like Ta Prohm — it is largely unrestored and there are cool roots and trees growing around portions of the temple.
Our last stop was Neak Pean. This is a unique Buddhist temple and you have to cross a lake to get to it. It was apparently built as some sort of hospital — patients would bathe in the water.
We loved our modified grand circuit tour and would highly recommend it. (Note many people doing this circuit would also probably want to stop at Preah Khan. We skipped it because we are doing a special photography tour there next week).
Tomorrow, we are off on a scooter to explore the Cambodian countryside!