Despite exponential growth, Siem Reap retains a degree of charm, and the nearby temples are still astonishing. Angkor itself is one of those extraordinary places, such as Machu Picchu or the Taj Mahal, that simply has to be seen, even with 2 million annual visitors. The golden age of Angkor came during the reign of King Jayavarman VII (1181-1218), when the city controlled an empire covering much of Southeast Asia. Abandoned in 1431, the enclave slowly disappeared into the jungle, only to be rediscovered (for the West) in 1860 by Frenchman Henri Mouhot. At least three full days should be set aside to appreciate the dozens of temple complexes: the otherworldly Angkor Wat, with its five pagodas; the colossal enigmatic faces carved into the stone columns of the Bayon temple at Angkor Thom; and the jungle ruins of Ta Prohm, where ancient temples are gripped by the python-like roots of strangler fig trees.