Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Majestic Temples of Angkor


We woke up very early on our second day to see the sunrise in Angkor Wat. We woke up at 4:00 AM and I literally jumped out of bed because of too much excitement. It was a chilly morning and I would love to sleep some more if only we're not catching the sunrise. When we went outside, our driver/tour guide Mr. Tihm was already there waiting for us. I guess, Cambodians are very much on time hehe.

We secured our admission passes on the entrance gate first and then immediately proceeded to the sunrise viewing spot. Hoards of tourists were already there when we arrived. Everyone was excited to watch the sun come out.


the glorious Angkor sunrise

After a few minutes, the colors of the skies started to change. Blue and orange hues began to spread. The pine cone spires of the temple stood out magnificently against these hues. It - was - simply - breathtaking! It was one of the best things I've seen in my whole life. :)


bathed in sunlight

It didn't last for long. No matter how much we want to, we can't stop the sun from shining. The orange color started to disappear, slowly exposing the temple in bright light. Now its beauty was reflected through the pond, still gorgeous.


what a wonderful morning :)

Too bad, that's the best shot I had. There were so many people that time that it was so hard to get a nice angle with the temple in the background. And, I still have my old camera back then so the photo quality is not that great too. I'm actually thinking about going back to Siem Reap just to get awesome photos with my new camera haha. I'm crazy like that.


We went back to the guesthouse after seeing the sunrise. Well, to grab some breakfast and to prepare ourselves for the whole day temple hopping activity. We weren't expecting a "free" breakfast would be this fulfilling. I ordered my fried noodles and Beau got his beef noodle, both of ample servings and with some fruits. Simply awesome! :)


loved our breakfast :)

As I've mentioned earlier, we purchased our passes before we were allowed entry to the temple complex. We bought the 3-day pass for USD 40 (we decided to temple hop for 2 days). That means we can explore as many temples as we want in Angkor Archaeological Park in a span of 3 days. Mind you, this should be used on consecutive days. Other passes available are 1-day (USD 20) and 7-day (USD 60). You should always bring your Angkor Pass with you or you might be denied of entry.


my 3-day pass :)

We were ready to seize the day after having our first meal. Mr. Tihm was our guide during our entire stay in Siem Reap. We got this package in Bou Savy that includes everything, so we had a very convenient experience. Guess what else was included? Ice cold water during the tours! Isn't it fantastic? :)


Our first stop was the Angkor Thom. It literally translates to "Great City". It was one of the largest city the Khmers had ever built.


Angkor Thom South Gate entrance

The naga-carrying figures in the entrance were very noticeable. I read the book Ancient Angkor, to fully understand the symbolism used in every temple structures. Oh well, I'm a history geek. ;)


The south gate entrance leads to its city center which is Bayon. There are many face towers when you look around and all of them have that one signature look.


Bayon

There are different interpretations to this face structures and one of them is that these represent King Jayavarman VII himself. Yup, the king who built this city.


Faces of Prasat Bayon

When I travel, I don't just travel. I pay respect to the local's culture and religion. I am a free spirit and very much open-minded. A famous saying goes "When in Rome, do as Romans do." :)


praying to a Hindu God

We went to Baphuon next. It is a temple mountain dedicated to a Hindu God like any other structures in Angkor. They said it used to be an astonishing temple. Unfortunately with Chinese influences, it was converted in to a Buddhist temple. They started building a giant reclining Buddha statue which required the demolition of a tower that caused the collapse of its huge portion. Honestly, I felt sad about it.


Baphuon

The Elephant Terrace came next. Back then, it served as the King's platform for his audiences. It used to be his giant viewing stand for public ceremonies and this was also where he sees his army.



Terrace of the Elephants

Another terrace is that of the Leper King. Originally built for another Hindu God Yama, the God of Death. It was later called as the Terrace of the Leper King due to the discoloration on it which looks similar to a person with leprosy. It fits to an Angkorian King Yasovarman who had leprosy.


Leper King Terrace



We were starving and it was also very hot that time which made us exhausted faster than usual. We decided it was time for lunch. I suck at remembering restaurant names, oh well my memory in general is sucky. But this one restaurant served the best Beef Loklak I've ever tasted. It was kind of pricey but boy, it was so worth it! And serving is good for two so it's not bad at all. By the way, I love how Cambodian dishes always have veggies on it.


my Beef Loklak


From Central Angkor, we moved to the East. Our first stop after lunch is Ta Keo. Pretty similar to Baphuon, this is a huge temple-mountain. This one stands out because this is the first to be built entirely of sandstone. The inscriptions say that its name literally translates to "Mountain of Golden Peaks".



Ta Keo Ruins



We went next to the famous one, Ta Prohm. It became more popular than the other temples because it was where Angelina Jolie shot some of her scenes for her Tomb Raider film.


the ruins + the trees = eerie :)

This one was built to be a temple-monastery. The French restorers decided for Ta Prohm to be left in it's "natural state" to give people a preview of how the temples looked like when it was rediscovered in the 19th century.


trees claiming the temples

Seeing the trees intertwined to the ruins gave me goosebumps. I was thinking how the hell was this possible? It made the temple looked mysterious and lovely in a destructive kind of way. See? Even my description became twisted. ;)

Awe-struck from Ta Prohm, we went ahead to Banteay Kdei which is a smaller version of the former. Its name means "Citadel of Chambers". Architectural style is also Bayon, so it also has face towers. They say this place used to be occupied by monks.


lost inside Banteay Kdei


On the east side of Banteay Kdei is Sra Srang. It used to be the royal bathing pool for the King and his wives. We did not check it out anymore. They say it is spectacular during sunrise and we were there in the afternoon.



and we were back to Angkor Wat...


We returned to the world's largest religious temple, The Angkor Wat. Its name means "City of Temples". It is the grandest among all the temples, an architectural masterpiece in great proportions with very elaborate details. It is not in my bucket list for nothing. Definitely a temple-freak's paradise. Did I say I am one? Go figure. ;)


narrative bas-reliefs

The bas-reliefs cover the exterior walls of Angkor. Its subject are the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.


super amazing

The carved area was so immense. If you have enough time (and money), it is best to hire a guide who can explain or tell you the story behind these reliefs. It could be pretty interesting. As for me, I just read the guide book hehe.


temple afternoon delight :)

After going around the temple complex, we decided to ascend to the steep stairs. There's just one staircase that you can use now. All the other stairs are now prohibited to the public. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to do so because I am wearing shorts. What was I thinking? It is a temple of course!


view from the top

The view from up there is not that great, so I didn't feel bad missing it. Weh? Just making myself feel better haha.


I was so happy at the end of that day. I enjoyed exploring the temples very much. I finally set foot in Angkor Wat! Wee! I used to day dream about it back in high school and it certainly became a reality.


"If you can dream it, you can do it." ~Walt Disney




This is Part 2 of my Cambodia travel series.