Global Programs Blog

International ​Internship:
Marializa Kelly (JD '15), Vishnu Law Group, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Trip to Siem Reap and Angkor Archaeological Park

During one of my last weekends in Cambodia, I traveled to the Siem Reap Province to visit the Angkor Archaeological Park. This park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains magnificent remains from the Khmer Empire. In the park there are many temples, the most famous of which being Angkor Wat.

In order to beat some of the crowds (and the heat), we woke up at 3:30 a.m. to arrive at temples to see the sunrise. Over two days we saw about 15 different temples.

The first day we went to Phnom Bakheng, which is a temple mountain in a seven-level pyramid form representing the seven levels of heaven. Standing on top of this enormous temple watching the sunrise through the early morning mist was breathtaking and magnificent to say the least.

The second morning we went to Angkor Wat and watched the sunrise with thousands of our closest friends. Little food carts with coffee were set up for ​the crowds at 5 a.m. People from all over the world come to visit the temples, and over two million people visited the temples last year alone. It was eye-opening to walk around and hear so many different languages being spoken in such a small place.

It is difficult for me to even begin to describe what it was like visiting the temples. Pictures do not do them any justice (see gallery below). You can’t possibly capture the essence of the site on film. These incredible structures have such history, and it is amazing they are still intact.

Temple highlights and factoids:

  • Angkor Wat was originally built as a Hindu temple and slowly transformed into a Buddhist temple. We climbed the stairs all the way to the top of one of the temples. You are not allowed into the higher level ​if not dressed appropriately. The workers at the bottom of the stairs turned away a woman who was in an off-the-shoulder dress.

  • One of the other temples, Bayon, has different gates surrounding the main structure. One gate was only used when the king returned victorious from battle to show victory while another gate was only used when the king was defeated in battle.

  • Cambodia- carving detail at Banteay SreiMy favorite temple, Banteay Srei, is also known as the Citadel of Women. Made largely of red sandstone, it has the most intricate wall carvings. Per Angkor scholar Maurice Glaize, "the work relates more closely to the art of the goldsmith or to carving in wood than to sculpture in stone."

  • I also went to see Ta Prohm, which was the temple used in the “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” movie. This temple was a great example of how the forest has grown in and around many of the temples.

For anyone traveling to Southeast Asia, visiting the Angkor Archaeological Park is a must. For me, seeing the temples was a perfect way to learn more about the Khmer culture and round out my trip to Cambodia. The three months that I spent in country were nothing short of phenomenal.

I want to thank Texas A&M University School of Law, especially Dean Morriss, Dean Alkon, Professor Ku and Professor Eckstein for helping me make this opportunity a reality. This trip pushed me out of my comfort zone and turned what was once a young professional’s dream into reality with many open doors.

Thanks and Gig ’em!

Cambodia- monkey at Angkor Wat

The monkeys at Angkor Wat are accustomed to visitors.

Cambodia- Phnom Bakheng at sunrise

​Part of Phnom Bakheng at sunrise.

Cambodia Angkor Wat temple tower

The top of the temple inside Angkor Wat.

Cambodia- Banteay Srei Temple

Banteay Srei Temple, also known as the Citadel of Women.

Cambodia temple
Elaborately carved Banteay Srei is a 10th century temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.

Cambodia Angor Wat Hindu to Buddhist
Details inside Angkor Wat. Originally built as a Hindu temple, it gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple.

Ta Prohm Temple, made famous by the "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" movie.

Cambodia-Angkor Wat in the distance
Walking down the hill from visiting Phnom Bakheng, we saw the very top of Angkor Wat in the distance.

Cambodia Bayon Temple faces
Detail of Bayon, known for the many faces carved into the​ towers.

Cambodia- Roluos temples
Part of the Roluos group of temples, some of the oldest temples dating back to the late 9th century.

Cambodia- overgrown temple
Most of the temples are pretty well preserved. Some, like this one, are overrun by the surrounding greenery.

Cambodia- TAMU Law at Ta Prohm
This is the outside of Ta Prohm temple, visited by the fictional Lara Croft in the movies and by Aggie Law former students in real life.

Cambodia- Angkor Wat at sunrise
Inside the outer wall at Angkor Wat. I am so glad we woke up early to see the sunrise and avoid the crowds. By 9 a.m. ​it was swarmed with thousands of people.

Cambodia- Angkor Wat steps
Angkor Wat has incredible detail. There is an outer wall, these outer steps, a moat and even more expansive grounds.

Cambodia- Angkor Wat Mari ChristianAt Angkor Wat with Christian. It took us a few hours to wander through this temple; it is so expansive.

Cambodia- Angkor Wat Gigem
Final "Gig 'em" from Cambodia.

Photo Gallery

See all of Mari's photos from her visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

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