Siem Reap is a reasonably-sized city in western Cambodia, but it’s generaly known as the gateway to Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the single largest religious building in the world, but really it’s just one in a series of temples and ancient cities north of the great Cambodia lake of Tonle Sap. We spent two days exploring temples in various states of restoration, ruins entangled with jungle, soaring Hindo-Buddhist towers, incredibly detailed stone carving and crumbling statues.
It’s tough to describe the scale of the ancient Khmer capital, there are giant reservoirs and extensive irrigation systems throughout. Much of it was built in the 8th-12th century and is an incredible example of what could be achieved then.
We also headed out onto the Tonle Sap lake. This lake spends much of the year at ~2500km^2, but during the wet season, the Mekong flows so fiercely that it reverses the course of the Tonle Sap river and swells the lake to ~11,000 km^2. There are a number of floating villages on the lake, of Cambodian and Vietnamese origin. Every few months, the houses relocate, depending on the waxing and waning of the lake. It plays out as a wonderful natural counterpoint to the architectural glories of Angkor.