Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Charming Cambodia - Part 2: Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat - a place that's been on my travel to-do list for a long, long time. Especially since I grew up in Singapore and given its close proximity to Cambodia (only 2 hours by flight), one would have thought that I'd have visited it way back. But it somehow never happened and luckily this year, we had the chance to visit it.

Angkor Wat takes pride in itself for biggest the world's largest temple structure. As I have travelled to India numerous times and praying in all kinds of Hindu temples has always been a big part of my trips there, I am familiar with different temple architectures and styles. Hindu temples in southern India are tall colorful towers with different statues all over them; In the north, they are not as tall or colorful but have mono or dual tones but the statues of the gods are usually bigger and more expressive - almost doll like. In Bali, which is predominantly Hindu, the culture is very different and the religion is practised in a very unique way. The temples there are very different from those in India, where Hinduism originated, and it was interesting to explore another facet of the religion. 

As Cambodia used to be largely Hindu before embracing Buddhism, it was interesting for me to see how Hinduism was portrayed there. Built by the ruler of the Khmer empire, Suryavarman II, in the 12th century, Angkor Wat is where Lord Vishnu is believed to have been worshipped. While I found the area to be vast, I didn't find the actual temple structure of Angkor Wat to be as huge as I had imagined. As the temples are spread out several kilometers apart, it is important to do some research before going so that you target only the sites that are of most interest to you. 

This was what we had in our itinerary as must-see places:

- Sunrise at Angkor Wat
- Bayon
- Preah Khan 
- Bantay Srei

We stayed at the Ree Hotel in Siem Reap where we had a wonderful spacious room. We engaged a taxi driver for our entire stay in the region and we were lucky that he was a proactive, friendly and trustworthy man. He picked us up very early in the morning (around 5.30am) so that we'd make it on time to see the sunrise. It was very calm and refreshing to be up so early and not to have to worry about traffic. We first had to stop at a counter to purchase tickets which included photos of ourselves before proceeding on to the main entrance. As we were nearing, we found ourselves amongst tourists from all over the world who had flocked to see this beautiful moment in all its glory. We rushed to find the perfect spot to set our camera up and waited patiently for the sun to rise. And there it was! What a breathtaking sight! That too with the reflection of the temple towers!

We even went up in a balloon to catch a bird's eye view of Angkor Wat.

I love the carving of the beautiful apsaras!

Angkor Thom which includes Bayon was my favorite part of discovering the Angkor Archaeological Park. Coming literally face to face with the 216 Buddha heads was simply incredible. If you look at the tower architecture, you will notice Buddha heads on each side!

Whenever I see a statue of Buddha, there is a feeling of peace and calm that takes over me. So seeing so many of them was just so great and made this place feel like heaven!

Look at these magnificent carvings and statues!

When it's more than 40 degrees hot, the best thing to do is to get a chilled natural coconut! Healthy, tasty and filling!

As always, it's time for posing with the statues!

And why not go all out and do what the statues are doing ;)!

Look at the wonderful temple structure of Bayon with all the Budhha heads!

Preah Khan is known for its larger than life tree roots as you can see! It was really nice to walk around these massive structures.
Our taxi driver strongly recommended Bantay Srei for its very intricate carvings and statues and boy are we glad that we went there. It is a little further from the rest of the temple complex but well worth the visit. 

We managed to cover all of these sites within a day, so that's why if you carefully choose the places you want to visit beforehand, it makes it a lot easier to get things covered. Overall, I really enjoyed visiting the Angkor Wat temple complex. It was great to see all of these old monuments and I feel blessed and privileged to have had the opportunity to make own of my dreams come true. The only thing I felt disappointed with is that the whole site gave me the vibe that it was abandoned. It was not active and the place was not alive. Unlike Hindu and Buddhist sites in India and Bali, it seemed as though the whole religious feel of the place had vanished, which I found sad. It would have been great to see the place remain connected to its religions in a stronger way!

Next up, our adventures in the areas near Siem Reap!


Dabud said...

Truly amazing collages and pictures!


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