It has been a year since I visited Cambodia during my 2017 round the world trip, and although I aimed to write and I travel alongside, I got caught up with so many adventures that could not cope with the pace, so I write now as I can, as time allows me.
I was very excited about visiting Cambodia since I had daydreamt visiting Angkor Wat for many years! I remember asking on my Facebook page for recommendations, as many of my friends had already visited. At the beginning I could walk from site to site within the archaeological sites, but as I came to realise thanks to my many FB travel gurus, that that was not the best of the ideas! So, the most common recommendation was to hire a tuk-tuk to take me around cheaply and easily.
The first day at Siem Reap, I decided to relax and get to know my surroundings, the town, the bars and find out accurately my options to visit the site. As expected, everything was very straightforward.
My hostel was very close to the “Pub Street” where all the hectic bars, restaurants and tourist clubs of Siem Reap are located. In order of priorities, the first thing I did was to have a “deluxe” massage-pedicure at a cost of USD7, (GBP5.5, $20.000 COP), to prepare me for the next few days walks. I finished the day with some souvenir shopping, SIM Card purchase and a nice meal at a local restaurant, I felt happy and ready for the adventure.
Getting back to my hostel, at its travel desk, I found a good deal for my adventure. The cost of hiring a 3 full day tuk-tuk + driver was USD65, which included waiting time at each site and transport to the next, pick up and return to my hostel. I found this a pretty good deal, so I went for it.
DAY ONE AT THE ANGKOR COMPLEX:
Since all foreign visitors are required to buy an entrance ticket to visit the Angkor Archaeological Park, then the first thing we did (driver and ) was to go to the visitor centre, located on our way to Angkor Wat temple, to buy my ticket. There are three options available, and they all pretty much depend on how much time one has available to spend visiting the sites.
The first option allows a visit for a full day, the cost USD37. The second option enables travellers a three-day visit, and it is valid for ten days, the cost USD62. And the third option allows travellers a seven-day visit, and it is valid for one month, the cost USD72. I went for the second option. A digital photograph is then taken individually and included in your ticket, which non-transferable, non-refundable, and they must be carried at all times or entry to temples can be denied.
Since a lot of the temples are still places of worship, It is mandatory to wear appropriate clothing covering that covers shoulders, long trousers or dress below the knees.
Here my itinerary:
Angkor Wat Complex translates as the city of temples, it was an ancient city once the centre of the Khmer empire, which reigned most of South East Asia. Even though it is now extinct civilization, its stunning temples and constructions can still be treasured by many, despite many of them being entombed by hundreds of years of wilderness. I was mesmerized by the breath-taking nature and fascinating history.
Firstly, some interesting facts about Angkor Wat:
Angkor Wat is the key reason why more than 1 million tourists visit Cambodia each year.
Angkor ruins cover over 248 square miles (400 square km).!Angkor Wat is oddly oriented to the west, a direction characteristically associated with death in Hindu culture.
Carving reliefs at Angkor Wat follow a counter-clockwise path, which indicated that the temple is related with funeral ceremonies Angkor Wat was dedicated to Vishnu, a Hindu divinity, rather than their king at the time.
Khmer bricks were glued together virtually unnoticeably by using a vegetal compound rather than mortar.
Angkor Wat is well-thought-out to be the largest religious monument in the world. Unfortunately, the site suffered from decades of unregulated tourism and burgling; many ancient figures were decapitated and sold to private collectors.
Angkor Wat was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.
I visited Angkor Wat temple first, and I was advised to return on the second day to witness also its stunning sunrise. So, that was my plan. Being around this temple one of my most dreamed destinations and I was very excited about the day ahead.
Angkor Wat is a massive temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, is one of the largest within the whole complex. As I walked towards the entrance, one of the first great things I noted, were the colours of the sky reflection, which I think will remain in my mind for years to come. It was incredibly beautiful.
This temple was built in the 12th century by Suryavarman, and it over 200 feet – 60 mts high. It is the best-preserved temple; therefore, it has become the symbol of Cambodia.
As I walked along the passways, I discovered the 790 metres of beautiful carvings, which many portrayed numerous gods.
The architecture of the temple was intended to symbolise Mount Meru, from the Hindu mythology.
The relief sculpted on the eastern section of this southern gallery, shown in my picture below, signifying 37 heavens and 32 hells consequential from the Indian tradition: The Hells, on the lower registers, are pictured in greater detail than the heavens above. Each hell, in fact, is identified by an accompanying description: “Avici”, “Raurava” and others which are still know and feared today in Cambodia.
The temple combines two sections; the temple mountain and three rectangular galleries.
The thousands of decorations include also female spirits and gods of the Hindu and Buddhist cultures.
(Just a bracket from day one) I visited Angkor Wat temple again the next morning since I read that the sunrise is breathtaking. I got up at 4am and headed towards the temple, as advised to get the sunrise view. Unfortunately, it was not my lucky day for this view, since the sun never actually rose, it was a pretty cloudy morning…, so the only view I managed to get was one of the cloudy blue skies.
Still pretty amazing, and although full of people (yes at 5am in the morning was cold, rainy and full!), I did still enjoy the majestic view of this temple. I could simply imagine what it would have been to live there in the 12th century…daydreaming and thankful with life for allowing me to witness this.
I found the whole site stunning, I worth-while visit and another dream coming through for me, although get ready for some serious heat and humidity. The history behind all was fascinating to learn and unique wonder of the world.
I recommend anyone to still do the early sunrise visit and then follow by visiting the site, you can even bring your own breakfast. Also, there are plenty of guides available on the spot (I did not hire anyone, but I sort of wish I had done it now) for hire if you wish to learn more in-depth about this magnificent building. The cost is approximately USD15.
Then get prepared for some serious souvenirs vendors “attack” upon exiting the site.
2. Angkor Thom
From Angkor Wat we continued to Bayon, entering via the South Gate into the complex of Angkor Thom.
If you wonder what is the difference between Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, as I did, then here it is. Essentially Angkor Wat is a temple city, the most well-known in the entire complex, it dates from the 12tht century, whereas and Angkor Thom was built later in the late 12th & part of the 13th century, also a city, which contains various temples, being the most popular, the Bayon. The south gate of Angkor Thom is just 1.7 km north of the entry to Angkor Wat. Since I was travelling comfortably in my Tuk-tuk and certainly enjoyed the rides between temples as the wind refreshed my path.
Bayon temple was special to me, I liked because it is decorated all over the place with numerous smiling stone faces, which seem to be all in an endless meditation state. This impressive Khmer temple contains carvings illustrating mythical, historic, and ordinary scenes.
The Terrace of the Leper King
The Terrace of the Leper King is located in the Royal Square inside of Angkor Thom. It’s only around 600m from Bayon temple.
Walking along this terrace was a great experience. I felt stepping back in time, literally!. The site seemed to have been built as part of a more massive Royal Terraces complex. The funny thing is that its name comes from a statue of the “Leper King” which was formerly mounted at the centre. The statue was in such a bad condition that locals associated it with leprosy.
A unique aspect of this terrace is that it is built as double sandstone walls, with a narrow passageway between them, the one I am walking through on this clip. The walls were constructed and arranged horizontally into seven levels of figures. I noticed that the best-preserved being the ones from the bottom to the middle.
I visited two more places that day, including the Ta Phrohm and last one in Banheng Hill, but my iPhone was out of battery so I don’t have more photos of the day.
Thanks again for reading 🙂
“To travel is to take a journey into yourself” Danny Kaye