I'd love to see what Angkor Archaeological Park used to look like once upon a time. Today it is a majestic, magical and enchanting place straight out of a fairy tale but somewhat abandoned. I wonder how busy it used to be.
Let me try to explain why I love this place so much. But first, you should know that it is a *huge* complex. The Angkor Wat pictures we've seen around? That is just one big temple among other smaller but no less significant (and enchanting) temples and sanctuaries (prasat).
Foremost of all, you need to get a pass. I took only the day-pass and it wasn't enough for me. I know that some people commented that eventually all the temples looked the same. But I believe that they felt that way because they tried to see all the temples in one day and got too tired to appreciate the beauty and the unique charm of each prasat and wat.
I didn't get to see le Grand Circuit, the Roluos group and the outlying temples. That's why I plan to return and spend at least 3 days just to see ancient ruins. If you like what you're about to see, consider the 3-day pass so you can explore leisurely and get enough rest in between.
Tips: Buy your pass after 5pm and you'll get to enter on the same day to see sunset and return again the next day. The correct 'next day' pass should have your picture.
It can get very hot so wear something comfortable but not too revealing. I slathered myself with sunblock and yet still managed to come home a shade darker. Bright, sunny days are really your friends as you'll be able to capture gorgeous pictures, so no hatin' aite!
Bring enough water with you. The tuk tuk I hired provided free supply of cold bottled water but it's a good idea to bring a bag so you'll always have some water with you while you visit the temples. Your vehicle of choice will transport you around the complex but you still need to walk, climb and crawl to explore the temples.
So I got to see two sunsets. The first from Angkor Wat and the second on the hilltop from Phnom Bakheng.
The sun sets very quickly here so come early and find your spot. Then, stay put!
Again, come early as there is a limited number of visitors allowed on top. You'll have to climb up a hill before you reach the temple and get to climb it :) Of course, you can pay for the elephant ride but where's the fun in that?
You probably noticed that I didn't really wait for sunset while I was on Phnom Bakheng. As the sun was setting, I was goofing around and missed taking picture of the scenery. Plus, I went back before the sun truly set because I didn't want to risk walking in a dark forest with no torchligh.
Bring along a torchlight if you fancy a walk down the hill through a dark forest :)
|Sunrise at Angkor Wat|
Where's the sun?
Haha I know. It was a cloudy morning. But crowding on the bank of the Reflection Pond at sunrise is THE touristy thing to do here. So I joined the herd, I mean crowd *grin*
Personally, I prefer Angkor Wat at noon.
How about you?
Fret not! There are a couple other places to see sunrise if you're no fan of jostling in a crowd. I'll tell you later.
Anyway, right after I snapped some 'sunrise' pics, I left Angkor Wat without exploring it to tour other temples. Most tourists went in to check the place out so I got the other temples and prasats pretty much all to myself!
The name means Cardamom Sanctuary and from far it didn't look like much. It is a good warm up before you visit the bigger temples. I love the carvings!
Expect to spend about half an hour here.
Srah Srang and Banteay Kdei
Srah Srang is just opposite the east entrance of Banteay Kdei.
Tips: Confirm with your driver where to meet up later. *Usually* it's on the other side of Banteay Kdei (west entrance). Do this everytime you get off your transport. Some temples have more than one entrance and you might get disoriented while exploring.
Start with Srah Srang terrace. Go to the platform and enjoy the lake view. Apparently the sunrise here is spectacular. Let me know if you catch one.
Saw a signboard suggesting a path to walk around the lake but since I'm a lazy bum...
I went straight across the road to Banteay Kdei east entrance instead.
The face-tower and details at the entrance are beautiful! I must have spent at least 10 minutes gawking at the wall.
From the entrance, you'll have to walk about 500 metres to reach the temple.
From Banteay Kdei you can walk to Ta Prohm but my tuk tuk was waiting at the west entrance to whisk me away (and gave me a chance to rest my feet) to the next destination.
Before reaching the famous temple from Tomb Raider movie, I found another temple, probably a satellite temple. Cannot remember the name (I Googled Map my position and it told me that I hadn't reach Ta Prohm- scary eh!) and I walked around the beautiful temple looking for the famous doorway before realising that I was at the wrong building.
I spent over an hour in that temple and Ta Prohm. Mainly because I was finding the spots where my girlfriend took her pictures.
We have a game- when one of us is going to visit a place, others who have visited will share their pictures and the one visiting will have to find the spot and take a picture there. I'll show you what it's like later.
École Française d'Extrême-Orient decided that Ta Prohm should be left in its natural state to illustrate how most of Angkor looked like when it was discovered in the 19th century. Thanks to the towering trees and charming ruins, I found the place romantic and magical- straight from a fairytale.
|I wonder who used to bathe here|
|This is why you should visit as soon as possible|
The trees here both support and destruct the buildings. Amazing, isn't it?
|Felt like Alice in the Wonderland|
Tips: Don't climb up the rubbles or piles of blocks
Chao Say Tevoda
A minor temple. Took about half an hour for me to explore before walking across the road to...
Another minor temple just across the road from Chao Say Tevoda.
|Climbed up the steep stairs to find this|
I spent another half an hour here.
Angkor Thom I-have-no-idea-which-gate
Suor Prat Towers and South Kleang
They are right opposite the Elephant Terrace and usually skipped by visitors. From far, the overgrown grass might put off most people but on the way, I saw another ruin nearby and asked my tuk tuk driver about it. He said I can visit it if I want to. So I went to the Suor Prat Towers but I was too lazy to walk any further to check it out. Probably the Royal Square.
|Towers of the Rope Dancers|
|Temples of the Royal Treasure|
Situated at the end of Elephant Terrace near the Bayon Temple, Bapuon requires plenty of walking and climbing. It's tall and I mean real TALL. The only reason I managed to reach the top was because I didn't look down and stayed away from the edges.
I remembered thinking, masjid yang setakat berapa anak tangga tu pun I jarang jejak, kalau curam macam Bapuon ni memang 'jarang-jarang' jadi 'kadang-kadang'.
|The top. Yay!|
|Worth the view|
|West side: Can you spot the reclining Buddha?|
Took my time with this one, lepak up there probably over an hour. After all, with all the climbing... my knees needed time to stop shaking. Coming down the steep pyramid was no better.
Legend has it that the Khmer king lay every night with a woman (incarnation of a 9-headed naga) who had power over the lands of the kingdom inside the sanctuary of Phimeanakas.
|They sure love their ponds back then...|
Some believe that the ponds were royal bath and others said that they were water supply for everyone except the elephants. Wish I can know for sure! For the time being, I'm happy with the idea that maybe they used the ponds to keep their pet dragons (think Loch Ness monster).
Leper King Terrace
It is a compact prasat but don't be surprised if you spend over an hour here.
Reminder: Ask your driver where he'll be waiting at, specifically which entrance. There's a good chance that you'll get lost here.
The details on the reliefs is astonishing. 'Stories' are also abundant here on the walls of Prasat Bayon. See if you can decipher them.
|Poor guy sitting under the sun|
|The other one must be a adopted since he didn't get an umbrella like this lucky fella|
|or perhaps... this naughty one stole the umbrella. He doesn't even need it!|
Remember the Angkor Thom gates? They opened up to bridges crossing the moat and lined up with statues on each sides of the road. The figures, who are gods and asuras (demonds) all carry the body of a seven-headed naga in sort of a tug-of-war.
After lunch (outside of the complex), I went back to Angkor Wat to capture this...
|That's Hajar in bottom pic. I couldn't get the angle right =(|
and explore the temple of course.
Angkor Wat is still in use so don't be surprised to see monks in their saffron robes walking around the temple.
|Angkor Wat from the other side|
Until we meet again.
Oh yes. Remember extra batteries and powerbank for your camera and phone.