Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia Today we began Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic’s very first adventure on the Mekong River. Our explorations commence, however, in the majestic heart of the ancient Khmer Empire of northern Cambodia. The city of Siem Reap (meaning “the victory over the Thais”) is the setting for the incredible temples of Angkor. Our first visit in the morning was to a temple that seems to epitomize the mental image of the days when these treasures were first rediscovered by western eyes—Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm has suffered at the hands of the jungle that surrounds it, as huge trees have sprouted from its walls and fortifications. These trees are now such a part of the environment that to imagine the temple without them is almost impossible. Ta Prohm was built around the turn of the 13th century and the huge trees that have enveloped it are its most defining feature. Admiring the incredible craftsmanship surrounding us, we climbed through and around its crumbling walls. This was a wonderful way to begin our explorations of Angkor. We returned to the hotel for a break and many took advantage of the pool or walking around the town of Siem Reap. Everyone reconvened for a beautiful lunch in the hotel restaurant before our afternoon excursion. In the afternoon, we took advantage of the most interesting form of local transport, the ubiquitous tuk-tuks. These covered, open-air carriages are set on the backs of motorbikes, and offer a great way to experience the surrounding landscape and city. Our tuk-tuk drivers carried us to the heart of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple. Bayon is famous for the multitudes of carved faces covering its towers. At the heart of Angkor Thom, it is a wonderful place to explore and photograph. After climbing the different levels of the temple, we continued by tuk-tuk to the famous Terrace of the Leper King and the Elephant Terrace. Intricately carved stone blocks make up these beautifully preserved examples of ancient Khmer architecture. Lastly, we returned to the hotel for a Welcome Cocktail Reception alongside the Lotus Pond and enjoyed an explanation of the significance of Angkor by our National Geographic Representative, Paula Swart. Following this was a dinner that offered us a chance to meet and chat with our fellow travelers. It was a wonderful day, filled with a multitude of mental images and fascinating religious history. For many of us, our visit today was a perfect way to begin our explorations of the temples of Angkor and it brought anticipation of the things yet to come when we continue tomorrow.