Temples. Where else to find THE crowning glory of all than in Siem Reap?
It was an overcast morning the day we visited the small circuit so it was a good decision that we skipped the Angkor sunrise. :-)
We thought 7am was still early but we arrived in the ticketing booths with bus loads of tourists already lining up for passes!
First time so I didn’t know photos were taken. They just mumbled in Khmer to stand there and look at the cam which I thought was an eye scanner (what? duh) so this is the result. Fyi, to get ready for the morning snap.
Then off we went to our first temple – the grand Angkor Wat. And it was GRAND indeed.
By the time we arrived on the temple grounds, there were already thousands of tourists so most of my photos had people in them. Too late to dodge the crowd.
A great lake comes into view the moment you arrive in the parking lot. You walk on slabs of huge rocks that serve as walkway towards the entrance but then you stop for a moment as you get caught by the site of a stage facing the lake where cemented arena-like seats were built. I assumed this may have been a place for programs or announcements from rulers during the active empire.
Every corner and edge was crafted in artistic fashion.
Large under and upper ground walkways meet at intersections.
Bas reliefs of warriors and animals display pictograph stories while apsara dancers and gods decorate the huge walls.
As we trudged higher, we became all the more amazed by the beauty of the surroundings. We were afforded a different point of view which is way, way better up top.
You just need to brave the steep staircase with only a thin metal rail for support.
It’s incomprehensible how men and beasts worked to build such masterpiece for the glory of their gods and king.
If Angkor Wat is devoted for the Hindu and Buddhist gods, Angkor Thom is primarily devoted to Jayavarman VII who defeated the Chams and re-built the Khmer Empire.
Unlike Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom is a gated complex, having the largest area covered with various landmarks inside.
Bayon was my fave temple located inside Angkor Thom. It is smaller than Angkor Wat but has more complex designs.
Imagine face sculptures all over – sculpted even high up rock towers!
You walk into narrow underground paths, sometimes with dead ends then go to a higher ground where carved busts in rocks face all directions.
Some say it was built to venerate Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara while others observed that all sculpted faces resembled King Jayavarman VII.
Before leaving the Bayon grounds, I braved the steep steps of a nearby temple to take more shots. It was scary since there were no hand rails but when to do it than now, right?
When you’re already there, you’ll eventually know how to navigate the walls and rocks.
Capped it off with a yoga pose before moving on to the royal palace.
The royal palace ruins is a short walk away from Bayon. Once you reach the footpath, you get the feeling of royalty looking back at you as you gracefully stride its long catwalk-y entrance.
It was humongous!
Imagine living in this imposing structure.
If you led building the great Angkor, you would not sell yourself short on your palace of course.
Good thing we decided to use rubber shoes. There were lots of walking up and down the massive structures. It was a bit of a challenge but it was fun. If it were not for my sprained foot, I could have walked longer but midway, we needed to rest.
We knew there were more places to see and it was already noon time but not yet hungry, we continued, walking to the forested area into the clearing that was the location of the Terrace of the Leper King and the Terrace of the Elephants.
I hated myself for not having a handy charger nor battery replacement since my phone battery drowned early so I wasn’t able to take photos of the rest. Here’s the last snap taken of the grounds from the Terrace of the Leper King.
After lunch, we headed to Ta Prohm which was a gift by King Jayavarman VII to his family where the main image was dedicated to his mother. It was a sweet gesture which just proves that no matter what age, status or disposition, men will always revere their mothers. :-)
One thing that identifies Ta Prohm is its state of ruin left to Mother Nature.
Big roots hug the temple all around that made the fusion of temple and nature the charm of Ta Prohm. This was made more popular by the Tomb Raider movie, starring Angelina Jolie, where some of the scenes were shot.
The Angkor Wat Heritage Site is a huge complex covering acres of land.
One day is not enough to see all temples and structures. But a day’s visit is good enough to visit the main sites of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. You can wake up early to view the sunrise or stay late for sunset viewing in Phnom Bakheng.
The small circuit tour covers other temples and places that are also worth visiting like Ta Keo, Banteay Kdei and Sra Srang. But once you get to see the larger structures, these now pale in comparison. So the next time I come visit the complex (which I def will in the future, maybe with some other friends), I’d probably take the 3-day pass and do the reverse trip; that is, to visit the smaller structures first and save the best for last to build up the excitement – a suggestion I’m putting here for consideration for first timers who want to visit the complex soon.
Don’t ever miss visiting the Angkor Heritage Site when in Siem Reap!
Overall, it was a very satisfying day. Exhausted but satisfied and we even did some exercise! :-)
- Guidelines for the passes and other details can be found here.
- Hiring a tuk-tuk for the entire day costs around $10-$15. Almost everyone offers $15 but you can get it at a lower price based on your bargaining skills. It’s better if you’re in a group of three or more to share on the fare. Also, hire an English-speaking driver for easier communication.
- Bring liters of water, lunch and snacks if you want to save. Food prices within the complex cost $5 up.
- Wear comfortable clothes and footwear.
- Ignore anyone who sells books or materials. More so, those handing you incense to offer to the buddhas. Everything comes with a price even if at first it seems like it’s a gesture of respect. Lesson learned.