Friday, June 21, 2013

Angkor Temples in Siem Reap Cambodia

Just last month, we visited a Singaporean friend who is currently working in Cambodia. Since there was no direct flight from Manila to Phnom Penh via Cebu Pacific, we had to land at Siem Reap and spent 2 days there before we headed to the capital city by bus.

As Cebu Pacific only had evening flights, we arrived in Cambodia around 10pm local time. Prior to landing, I remembered taking a look at the window and only saw the runway lights. Although Siem Reap was more of a province compared to Phnom Penh, their airport was impressive and well-maintained. It actually looked  more of a Phuket-inspired resort. Since it was already late at night, there wasn't much place to explore, we  went to the hotel to check-in and went out again to eat dinner at PUB Street (the only place with nightlife in Siem Reap).

Since we hired a van all to ourselves, we had the liberty of going on a tour at our own pace. We only allotted  a day and even without the guide telling us, we know we can't finish the huge selection of temples around Angkor Wat. Also, the guide informed us that if we plan to go up the temple in Angkor Wat, we should be wearing proper attire as a sign of respect. Sleeveless tops and short above the knee will not be allowed. Remember that if you plan to visit the temples.

Prior to heading to the city of temples, we went to get our ID tickets that will serve as passes for all the temples that we're going. Before, they allowed tourists to bring with them their own passport sized ID photo but now, they won't accept that as their ticketing system is centralized. The photos need to be taken on the spot in order for them to verify the identity of the tourist and to prevent fraudulent IDs.

Our first stop was Bayon Temple located at the center of Angkot Thom. This temple is known to have stone faces in its towers. What I admired about this place is how intricate the details are when it comes to their walls which actually narrates of how the ancient Khmer people lived during this era.

We proceeded to see Baphuon which was just a few meters walk from Bayon, since we weren't fans of climbing and the sky was really getting dark, we decided to take a photo of the outside facade and headed to the elephant terrace. After the trip, we did some research and found out that Baphuon temple was a must climb temple! Also remember that!

At that moment, rain started pouring from behind as we ran as fast as we could to be able to get shelter. - we were literally doing temple run via Baphuon's temple tracks as we looked for structures with roof for shelter. We waited for the rain to stop (FOR 45 minutes! It was like forever!) before we headed to the elephant's terrace. This was called as such because this platform resembled elephants standing next to each other. This terrace was used by King Jayavarman VII to see his army whenever they return from battle. There are also times when this terrace is used in public ceremonies of the king.

As we made way to our next temple, it began to drizzle again so we decided to eat lunch first before proceeding. We decided to eat at a nearby restaurant that served authentic Khmer food.

After lunch, we now had the energy to visit Ta Prohm. It was not an easy walk to walk all the way down the muddy tracks but the temple was very much worth it. This is one of the famous temples around here as Angelina Jolie filmed the famous Tomb Raider (First one) here. Unlike most temples in Angkor area, this place has been abandoned for centuries and when it was re-discovered, it was maintained in the same condition it was found - the tree roots and jungle surroundings makes this a one-of-a-kind temple in Angkor Area.

Bayon Temple
By the entrance/exit of the temple, there are lots of vendors selling souvenir items and because we love magnets so much, we haggled until we were able to get 3 magnets for 2USD - which was not bad as souvenir shops price it higher.

The sun was beginning to make its way out of the clouds and so we started to unload the unnecessary things in our bags as we headed to the biggest and most famous temple of them all - the Angkor Wat.
Identification needs to be presented before you are allowed to enter the temple premises.

This place is actually the largest temple and religious monument in the world. What I admire about this place is that this huge structure was built within a moat during the 12th century and it took them around 36 years to complete this temple. Imagine the precision, accuracy, architecture needed during the 12th century when there was no technology available. The sandstone blocks that were used in Angkor Wat were taken from the mountains that was around 50kms away. Other than human workers, elephants also played a very important role in the construction of Angkor Wat as they transport heavy construction materials.
I am not really a fan of temples but after seeing these temples made me wonder how they could build such beautiful long-lasting structures that actually withstood extreme weather and the test of time. Words can never really describe the wonderful temples in Siem Reap. 

More photos of Cambodia soon.

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