Our second day of exploring the Angkor archaeological park took in three temples on the Roluos Circuit: Prasat Lo Lei, Preah Ko and Bakong.
We had already bought our three-day visitor pass and we hired a tuk-tuk to take us around the circuit for $17 for the day. The temples are about 13km away from Siem Reap and it was a pleasant journey there and back, going through the villages and looking at the countryside. The roads were much better than I remembered. I recalled them being all red dust and potholed, but a lot of them have been tarmacked now.
Prasat Lo Lei
The first temple was a bit disappointing as it was covered in scaffolding! We had the place to ourselves though which was much better than Angkor Wat and it was fun looking all the intricate carvings and structures without being surrounded by other people.
Prasat Lo Lei dates back to the 9th century and is known for its decorative elements. It consists of four brick temple towers built in honour of the king’s grandfather, grandmother, father and mother. The Hindu temple is the northern most temple on the Roluos circuit.
There was a modern temple there as well, which was very interesting with unusual murals inside. Outside, butterflies flitted about, adding to the serene ambience.
Preah Ko (main picture)
We drove a short distance to the next temple Preah Ko which was one of my favourites of the trip. There were six structures, similar to the ones we saw at My Son in Vietnam, and some beautifully preserved carvings. Again, we had the place to ourselves which meant we had a lot of time to explore.
Preah Ko was built in 879 and is one of the oldest monuments in Angkor. Named after the sacred bull, it is dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva.
Our final stop was Bakong and this was really worth visiting. If it were closer to Angkor Wat, it would definitely be included in more of the coach tours. It was a very grand temple on different terraces rising like a pyramid and it had a moat and impressive gateways on all four sides. You could see quite a distance from the top.
This was the first of the large mountain temples built in Angkor. The sandstone monument is enclosed by two moats and the five receding terraces in the inner enclosure were built to represent Mount Meru, a sacred mountain in Hindu mythology.
There were lots of intricate carvings again and a real sense of grandeur. This was one of my favourite temples, and I’m really glad we made the effort to go beyond the short circuit.
After the temple, went to get a drink at one of the stalls and was accosted by a brilliant saleswoman. On top of our drinks, she managed to sell me two t-shirts for $5, a drink for the driver and nearly persuaded me to buy a handbag that she had made from abandoned ring pulls. It was quite extraordinary and if I had just been visiting, I may have been tempted to buy it, but I didn’t have room in my backpack so I had to leave it behind. Later, in the art market in Siem Reap, I saw the same thing on sale, so perhaps it wasn’t so unique after all!