Day two exploring Angkor Wat brought us to the Grand Circuit. The Grand Circuit takes you further out from the center of the complex to older and less visited temples. Most people who buy just a day pass choose the Small Circuit, so you can expect fewer crowds when doing the Grand Circuit.
We had a quick breakfast and arrived at our first temple at around 9am. The Grand Circuit, although using the word “Grand,” is actually a shorter day with less temples, which was good after a long and exhausting day before.
Our first stop was a temple built for the father of the king who commissioned for many of the temples to be built. It was an interesting temple that had a couple special things about it.
For one, there were a few halls in which there were literally hundreds of small, round holes dug into the stone. Long ago those holes were filled with diamonds, gold, and gems of all kinds so that when sunlight crept in from the roof it set the entire chamber a glow. Most of these rooms were used for worship. After the temples were raided, of course the gems were taken, but it’s a pretty cool visual nonetheless.
Secondly, as the door frames move closer into the room dedicated to the king’s father, the doorways got shorter and shorter which makes even the most petite individual bend down. The king wanted to make sure that everyone payed respect to his father with a bow.
At the end of the temple is a huge and gorgeous courtyard with a two story structure still in great condition. This temple was the largest that we visited that day.
Preah Neak Pean
This was probably the most unique off all the temples we saw. PNP, as I am going to call it, was a short jaunt down an orange, dirt road away from the main road. The swampy forest on either side was quite eery and beautiful.
Once at the temple it was simply a small structure surrounded by water. Ciara said it reminded her of the scene in Harry Potter where Harry and Dumbledore are trying to destroy the locket and are attacked by those creatures by which name has completely escaped me. Golden reference.
We also saw a big ass centipede.
Sadly, just as we arrived at Ta Som the rainy season decided to begin and we were caught in a torrential downpour. We still went in and looked around, but we didn’t get to appreciate it as much as we would have liked. Don’t be a dummy like me and not bring a raincoat during Southeast Asia’s rainy season. This was one of the smaller temples we visited and consisted of a number of smaller buildings for which we had to run to in order to avoid the rain. Heads up, ancient temples tend to have a lot of leaks in the roof.
Preah Rup is surrounded by dense jungle and the view from the top is something out of a movie. The three structures at the top are all small temples for which you can glance in. for the umpteenth time, I was flabbergasted thinking about how this place was constructed 1,000 years ago. Much of it is made of an igneous rock, however, no volcanos are found in Cambodia. The massive stones were transported down the river from other nations, hundreds of miles, in order t build these temples. Wowza.
This temple is surrounded by large, stone statues of elephants. I love it all ready. This one reminded me a lot of Preah Rup in color and architecture. The older temples seemed to have larger and much easier to manage staircases, which was a plus from the day before. The view from the top overlooked a nearby lake and masses of jungle. Very, and I’ll say it again, Indiana Jones. All I needed was a pit of snakes and a giant boulder.
East Mebon is actually the end of the Grand Circuit tour, however, there is an option to drive 45 minutes outside the complex and visit a famous temple called Banteay Srei. This temple is famous for its pink color and is loosely translated to “Lady Temple” or “Lady Citadel.” I couldn’t find a good reason for why the temple is named this, only that it seems to have been translated so many times that this is what it has become. Cool story, bro. It was a fairly easy decision for us to make the journey and see this final temple.
The price is included in the Angkor Wat ticket. The drive out was beautiful and gives you a nice look at the Cambodian countryside. Once you arrive there is a small exhibit that tells you the history of the temple before you venture in. The grounds are also impeccably clean, we actually saw someone sweeping the grass, I kid you not.
We decided to get an official guide for this temple, however I believe they were severely understaffed as we ended up with this little, security guard who spoke broken English with a very strong accent. He was very giggly. Banteay Srei is home to the most exquisite carvings of any Angkor temple, and boy, are they magnificent. Even better, every last carving comes with a detailed story for which our guide told us every. last. one. He would tell us quickly, and we would nod and smile at (what we thought were) the appropriate times but then he would ask us questions to make sure we understood. I don’t think we ever did.
There was also a moment when he found a crack in one of the pillars and, being the swell security guard that he was, he called it in. Later, when we asked to get a photo with him, he brought us back to the crack and we awkwardly stood around it while a woman with a very confused look on her face snapped our photo. “Is there something special about that?” She whispered. “He discovered it,” is all we could reply.
Overall, Banteay Srei was absolutely worth a visit and I would recommend it to anyone doing the Grand Circuit. It was very, very well preserved and totally unique.
There you have it! A much shorter post than Day 1, but equally exciting. If you have a chance to visit Angkor for more than one day I would say jump on the opportunity. This was one of the best travel experiences I have ever had and just can’t be explained in words or photos. Get yourself to Cambodia, please!