Waking up a bit early since we were still in KL time (Cambodia is 1 hr behind Malaysia), we got ready by around 7, finished the lovely breakfast at the hotel and started off on our second day in Siam Reap. We learnt from the hotel concierge that we could be part of a guided tour which would cover 3-4 temples in about 10 hours. This cost us USD 13 per person and included an English speaking guide (Mr Minnear) – we were a group of 7 people.
Tour started at 8.45 am after picking up all the participants from their respective hotels. As we rode in the vehicle, all we could see was dusty roads, a few potti kadais here and there.. This country is still coming out of its recent past and war, you can see that evidently. Nevertheless, everyone has a beautiful smile on their faces. Our hotel was about 7 km from Angkor archaeological Park, most hotels are.
The entire Angkor Archaeological Park is still kept within the jungle, no form of “developement” nearby. Upon reaching the gate, you are required to buy entry tickets to the park – You could either choose to buy a one day pass costing USD 20 per person or the 3 day pass which allows you to visit the temples for 3 days over a week and it costs USD 40. We took the 3 day pass because we wanted to enjoy the much hyped sunrise at Angkor Wat. Keep the tickets in a safe place, you will be asked for it anytime. It looks something like this:
And before you start, try to get yourself a copy of the guidebook titled “Ancient Angkor” by Michael Freeman and Claude Jacques, and read a bit before you embark on your expedition. (We ended up buying a supposedly pirated copy for USD 11 from one of the kids selling them) Try doing a bit of research, reading before you start your journey to Cambodia. Having a guide helps a lot especially if you are families and if you are solo travellers, the book will help you quite a bit if you want to explore by yourselves. As youngsters, we would have read a bit about Kampuchea (former name of Cambodia) and the Angkor Wat in our history books. The place caught my imagination when I happened to watch the movie Lara Croft Tomb Raider in 2001 at my uncle’s home. Further, the location of the mystical site after I moved to Malaysia, prodded me and us to visit as many places in South east Asia.
Coming back to the temples, we started the day with the mystical Angkor Wat. This temple was built for Lord Vishnu but over time it became a Buddhist temple with change in reigns – Hinduism is almost non-existent in Cambodia as of now. It was about 930 am when we reached and it was scorching already. S had begun to have a cold and it was difficult to handle her and the sun! But we managed somehow.
So as you enter, you walk across a moat with water on both sides.
Then you reach the gates and when you climb through, you see you have to walk further to reach the actual temple.
So it is quite a long walk and then you start off by walking through the corridors which have carvings from Ramayana and Mahabharata – the war part alone (one on the left corridor and the other on the right). It was getting hotter but when we reached the corridors, cool breeze started blowing so it was quite ok. Be ready to encounter a huge number of tourists from China and Korea, they come in large groups and it can get pretty annoying. (tip: to avoid these tourists, you could start earlier in the day but at some point or other you will meet them!! There are registered tour guides speaking various languages so if you are off on your own, arrange a tuk tuk for the day and the guide, not sure how much it would work out to but our plan was cheaper for the 3 of us)
As you walk further, you get to see the story of the life of King Suryavarman, you will be amazed by the workmanship, a lot of attention to detail. There are depictions of various scenes in various parts of the temple eg, Rama killing Vaali, Kama (god of love) being punished by Lord Shiva for shooting an arrow on him etc
It is a wonder indeed to see that each and every stone in the temple all over Angkor has been carved upon and the intricacy of the carvings is simply awesome.
As you walk further, you will simply be amazed by the carvings everywhere – apsaras especially. And then you are expected to climb a steep staircase and go up.
From there you have to climb up further to reach the towers built similar to the 5 peaks of Mount Meru. I wasnt able to climb up there because kids are not allowed and I had to stay back with S.
A went up alone and came down and no hats allowed! It was about 11 when we finished the entire tour of Angkor Wat.
It will take you ages to explore a temple fully but we had to get over with this one and move on to the next!
(I will cover Angkor Thom and Bayon Temples in the next part)
P.S – you could try this website just for the thrill! (https://www.google.com.my/maps/about/behind-the-scenes/streetview/treks/angkor/)