The Angkor complex near Siem Reap, Cambodia is a massive collection of over 1,000 temples ranging in scale from the legendary Angkor Wat to non-descript piles of brick rubble being quickly being lost to the ages. At its peak over a thousand years ago Angkor was the largest pre-industrialized city in the world boasting over one million inhabitants. While Angkor Wat gets most of the attention Angkor Thom is my personal favorite.
Angkor Thom (literally: “Great City”), was established by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. It was actually the longest lasting capital of the Khmer empire. These well preserved ruins lie on the Siem Reap River about a mile north of Angkor Wat. Surrounding Angkor Thom are walls, about three kilometers square which are over 25 feet high and about 20 feet wide. Inside the walls are wide tree lined boulevards, several ancient man-made lakes many temples including Bayon!
One of my favorite activities while I lived in Siem Reap was to take a day and ride a bicycle on the paths on top of the walls surrounding around Angkor Thom. There you can just sit and enjoy beautiful views of the river, unmolested by other visitors. Wander around the small outpost temples at the corners of the wall called Prasat Chrung or ride into the heart of Bayon and contemplate the massive stone faces of King Jayavarman VII with his enigmatic smile.
I just love little daily adventures like this. I know it may seem entirely unconventional but this is exactly how I pictured retirement.