The Amazing Angkor City

So we arrived in Siem Reap via a minivan. This was a less taxing 6-hr ride and this time, we made sure we weren’t going to be left behind. We stayed in Mandalay Inn and were greeted with some durian and yogurt drinks (I definitely recommend staying here for cheap rates and good accommodation). Our adventure starts the next day on our much anticipated tour of Angkor City.

Angkor City is a temple complex where there are different temples built by different rulers at different times during the Angkor period. I think that sums it up. It should definitely be on someone’s must see places before they die because it is magnificent.

We booked a guided tour through our hostel at $100/head which already included our lunch and the buffet dinner at night. However, the $20/head one-day pass in Angkor City wasn’t included. There may be lower rates for larger groups, this was kind of expensive since there were only the two of us.

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Our amazing tour guide Borey, with Om Nom 🙂

Our lovable tour guide Borey picked us up at the hostel after we had our breakfast. Our tour included the full day car and driver service to and from the hostel. So we get on the car and headed to our destination. It wasn’t far from where we were staying but I never realized how big Angkor city was. It was definitely as huge as a city, you ride through a bunch of forested area before you get to the entrance to get your picture taken and pay the entrance fee. After that, you head to the nearest temple on the tour. But before you see the temples, you get to see the entrance to Angkor City where ultimate good and ultimate bad is depicted. I think for Buddhism, left is bad and right is good. So you see gods and demons holding a snake, which they say is the mother of all life; this one is according to Hinduism.

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Bayon Temple
Our first temple to see was Bayon temple with all the smiling buddhas. There are four faces on each head which makes you feel a Lara Croft vibe from the towers. You imagine that any moment those heads will turn and get up to reveal stone protectors that will kill you for. I think the cool part of this temple is you get to see (among all the Apsara carvings) a depiction of the war against Chams (which were Muslims). It’s fascinating to see the military formations and weaponry at such an age.

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Bayon temple and its towers

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This is Apsara. She’s trying to attract people to enter the temple.

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One of the pathways in Bayon

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One of the depictions of the war

Elephants and Leper King Terrace
From Bayon, we walked for about 5minutes to get to the next temple which wasn’t exactly interesting except for its long bridge towards the temple. This was supposed to depict the crossing between the human world to the world of the gods which is the temple. We walked towards the Elephants Terrace which was long since it was more than a kilometer long. It was built for the king so he can view his subjects below. You will see that there are several other towers in front of the terrace, about 50meters, and that is where the entertainers were to put on the show.

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The long-ass bridge to the home of the gods. There is supposed to the water in between but there’s none when we visited.

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Part of the length of Elephant’s terrace.

After walking the distance of Elephant Terrace, you get to the Leper King terrace which has a very good story behind it. Our tour guide tells us the story of how the Leper King became a leper in the first place. So this king battles this huge snake, and in the process, gets a skin disease from the venom that came out of the snake. To cure him, he sent for the best healer in the land. However, the healer did not come himself, instead sends his apprentice to tell the king what to do. The apprentice tells the king to jump into 2 medicated pools to cure him; but the unimpressed and unconvinced king did not comply. He asked the apprentice to jump into the pool to check whether it is effective. But since the apprentice did not need to be cured, he died in the process. The healer found out about this and faced the king to curse him that he will never rid of his sickness and that he needs to abandon his kingdom because bad things will happen to those who stayed there. Myth has it this was the reason why the temple to where this terrace was attached was abandoned.Ta Prohm
If you didn’t get the Lara Croft feel from Bayon, you will definitely get it in Ta Prohm, because this is where the movie was shot. From the Leper King terrace, we had to drive to get here so I had no idea how far it is from the entrance. You will get off into what I assumed was a parking lot and have to walk the rest of the way to get to the temple. The walk to the temple was short and there are a lot of children selling beaded bracelets along the way. I got my beads there from this cute little girl for 3 for a 1USD which was actually cheaper compared to the night market.

This temple is different to from the other because, as they describe it, this one is being taken over by nature, which is actually a very good description of the temple’s state. There are trees and vines growing inside the temples which destroy the temple itself. Since these things weren’t built using concrete. The fascinating about these trees is that they merge to build bigger tree where the old tree dies and becomes part of the new tree.

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Trees growing inside the temple

Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is one of the most amazing structures in the world in my opinion; it rivals the Pyramids and Machu Pichu in my top 3 awesome things on the planet. When you get there, you realize how huge it actually is. Nothing I saw in pictures and documentaries really gave justice on how huge the structure was. Everything about it was on a large scale, the moat, the 5 door entrance and the walk towards the temple inside was big. It was very surreal for me to see all that since I’ve always wanted to see it. When you enter the temple, you notice that the carvings portray a lot of things, of how the gods watch over and react with the people, how the king lived (of course with a lot of slaves, wives and concubines) and how heaven and hell is depicted among others.

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One of the entrances to Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat from afar

For me, the most fascinating story is the one regarding the tug of war between good and evil. You see good (gods) on one end and the bad (demons) on the other end of a snake. These 2 forces pull on the snake to make the world turn so that the things at the bottom come to the top accompanied by the dancing Apsaras. What’s really interesting about it is that good and bad both make the effort to keep the world in balance. It’s not a good VERSUS bad type of relationship but a good AND bad scenario where they both join forces to keep the balance of the world.

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Good and evil for justice!

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The King depicted in the walls of Angkor Wat

When you step inside the temple, you marvel at the structure because you know that the temple is built ONLY in stone with no adhesive whatsoever, so you think about a ton of stone falling on you in the form of the roof but it doesn’t. The temple is 3-floors high so you also think about fall down with only the softest stones to fall on. It’s really a work of genius how the architecture and design of how it was built. It’s a testament on what people can do with their imagination when given a deadline.

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Wishing the ceiling doesn’t fall on me 😀

Second level of Angkor Wat

The 3rd level of Angkor Wat.

The 3rd level of Angkor Wat.

Phnom Bakheng
Our last stop was Phnom Bakheng which was a temple on top of a hill. The sunset there was supposed to be amazing there because of the reflection of the sun from the water reservoir. But this temple closes at around 5PM and there are only a limited number of people allowed inside (since it was a small temple). To add to that, the sun did not set at the time that it needed to so we ended up just going down with the sun still up. But the trek up the hill is not a complete waste of time since there’s still a cool view Angkor Wat from above.

I know this was long but there are still a lot of things I didn’t get to mention, like the history of some of the temples and the history of the people. This is such a culture enrich place that the stories are not enough to visualize it, you really have to see it on your own. I will have a separate Siem Reap post for our other Siem Reap experiences so don’t worry about that.

If you have any comments or suggestions, just let me know. Your feedback is very welcome and will be very much appreciated. Just leave a comment or send me a message. It would be nice to hear from the people who read my blog 🙂

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