By Josh Saunders
An urban explorer has revealed the hidden delights of Cambodia’s remarkable abandoned temples in the jungle and Wonder of the World runner-up.
Angkor Wat, which translates to ‘City of Temples’, was built during the 12th century and is now the largest religious monument in the world.
The sites numerous places of worship took 30 years to build and lie buried in the Cambodian jungle, a mere 3.4 miles from Siem Reap.
Since soaring to popularity the location lures over two million visitors each year and was declared Lonely Planet’s top destination in its 2015 guide.
Urban explorer Bob Thissen, 36, from Heerlen, The Netherlands, chose to seek out the lesser known monuments after being disappointed to see more ‘selfie sticks than rocks’ last year.
His incredible images of the ruins show the raw beauty that remain hidden away from typical tourist routes and part of what made it a runner up for the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Bob said: “Angkor Wat was really high on my bucket list to visit, it’s the biggest temple complex in the world and it’s cool to see how nature slowly has taken over.
“You can make great photographs there and you feel like you’re exploring the remnants of a lost civilization.
“I saw a lot of great pictures on the internet before but was baffled when I arrived at the place.
“There were more selfie sticks than rocks and it was really crowded.
“The areas around the temples were clean, there were paved paths and wooden fences just next to the temples.
“It ruined the experience of exploring the remnants of a lost civilization, by making it just like walking inside a museum and standing in line.
“I even skipped the sunrise because there were thousands of tourists crammed together trying to get the same shot.
“So The next day I decided to approach it in a different way and avoid the mass tourism by making my own route.”
Angkir Wat was initially built as a funeral temple for King Suryavarman II and was dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu, designed to highlight the symbolism between the setting sun and death.
Later it would become a Buddhist monument and now the sites are the remnants of a civilisation reclaimed by nature.
Bob visited three different sites, including the remote Angkhor Thom East Gate, which he described as more authentic than other locations as it was less tailored for tourism.
He said: “There are a lot of beautiful gates near the Angkor Thom Temple, but the roads are paved and it’s like a highway of passing tourists.
“The east gate is the only one that is not paved and can’t be used by busses and cars, only bicycles and Tuk Tuk can go through this gate.
“It has the most authentic feel and nobody drives there, because the road is very bumpy.
He also visited the crumbling ruins of Ta Nei and Banteay Thom temples.
Bob said: “Ta Nei was a really cool temple not far away from all the big famous temples, but nobody seemed to care about this one.
“The area had not been cleaned and rocks were lying everywhere, inside you had to climb over the collapsed parts of the temple.
“Trees were growing out of the temples, it had a cool, authentic atmosphere.
“Then for Banteay Thom, literally none of the Tuk Tuk drivers knew this temple nor how to get there.
“The roads became more narrow and we had to leave the
bigger part of the Tuk Tuk at someone’s home to continue on a motorbike.
“The driver had to ask locals how to reach the temple.
“We drove in muddy roads in the middle of nowhere and after a while we reached this temple.”
For more work of Bob Thissen visit here.