Visiting the Angkor Wat Temple Complex remained just a childhood dream– until I finally woke up one day, physically exploring the ancient 9 million year old temples and I can’t help but attribute it as a milestone that makes me beam with extraordinary happiness. I knew it was real, but for some reason, it made me shiver because it felt so surreal, dream-like, and mystical in so many ways! It was elusive, mysterious and enigmatic that I couldn’t ever aptly describe the exact emotions I was feeling while exploring the different temples. Happy would be an understatement but
awed honored would be more precise.
I just knew that this trip was one of those trips that I will remember for the rest of my existence. Perhaps I just loved every detail of the trip that everything seems to have a positive light on it. For the first day, we explored the temples in the outskirts of Angkor Wat. We felt that Angkor Wat would be more beautiful if we see it during the sunrise, so we felt it better if we see it the next day.
Upon arrival in Siem Reap, we did not waste any time as we immediately set out to explore all the temples that we could in one day, well more likely in half a day. Thanks to our reliable tuktuk driver, Ly Horng, he helped us maximize our temple visit by bringing us to the temples that we could.
But before we could enter the complex, the temple visitor needs to secure a temple pass. There are one day passes, three day passes, and one week passes. A one day pass costs 20 USD, a three-day pass costs 40 USD which will be valid for an entire week, and a one week pass costs 60 USD and is valid for one month. We got the three day pass because we intended to use it up the entire day until sunset in seeing the temples as well as waking up to such a glorious Angkor Wat sunrise the next day.
All the temples we explored highlighted how great Khmer architecture is. The temples are mostly destined to enshrine immortal gods to serve as their palace. The need to build the finest possible residence for the gods necessitated only the best materials like brick, laterite, and sandstone, the very reason why the intricate details of the bas relief art works on temple walls that are well-preserved until present day.
The temples primarily showcase particular devotion to the Indian gods Shiva (the destroyer but not a negative one), Vishnu (the protector), and also to Buddha. Shiva is mostly the dominant figure as he is considered by the Khmer kings as the protector of their empire.Thus, most temples are dedicated to Shiva and in turn, Shiva is entrusted to ensure the prosperity of the kingdom.
Banteay Kdei means “A Citadel of Chambers” which is also known as “Citadel of Monks’. Banteay Kdei was built from middle of the 12th century to early 13th century. This temple conforms to the style of the Ta Prohm and Preah Khan temples but of a smaller size. It was built as a Buddhist monastic complex.
Srah Srang is deemed as “The royal bathing pool” or “pool of ablutions”. It is located towards the east of Banteay Kdei and was built during the reign of Rajendraverman in the 10th century. It was later on enhanced and beautified by Jayavarman VII by laying out steps made of laterite stones with external margin of sandstone, on the banks of the pond facing the sun.
Indeed, Khmer architecture features nature lovingly interacting with it. The complexity of the layout of Ta Prohm is enhanced by its partly collapsed state, with trees interlaced among the ruins. This was the temple chosen to be left in its natural state to show how most of the Angkor temples looked upon its discovery during the 19th century. The tree shall then becomes a support for the temple, but when it dies, or is felled by a storm, the loosened blocks of the temple shall eventually collapse as well.
Ta Keo is deemed as a giant temple mountain based from inscriptions which identified it as “the mountain with golden peaks”. It stands out for being the first of such great undertakings to be completely built with sandstone, hence its orangey color. Its appearance looks massive because it was not finished, and the temple carvings inside had only begun when the work on the temple stopped.
The East Mebon was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and honors the parents of the king. Its highlights orientation over location and cardinal directions.
The Thomannon is a compact temple in the style of Angkor Wat, and is very much well-preserved with a very attractive setting.
Angkor Thom was the last capital built by the Khmer Empire in Siem Reap. Angkor means city,Thom means great, putting it together it simply means “Great City” and indeed it really is. The Khmer culture was based upon Hinduism and deva (angels) and asura (demons) were placed behind the Naga as additional wardens of Angkor Thom. For me, perhaps the most magnificent part of Angkor Thom is the Southern Gate where the towers feature four faces pointing in each of the cardinal directions, being guarded by deva (angel) and asura (demon) who protect the Angkor Thom.
Beautiful Siem Reap
Yes, I fell in love with Siem Reap! I loved the serene provincial atmosphere and how the past lovingly embraces the present. Much as I am an animal lover, I failed to ride an elephant in Siem Reap because I postponed the opportunity and thought that I could ride one in Bangkok. To my dismay, I miscalculated the days in our itinerary and realized that we will miss out on a day in Bangkok — the elephant show day. It was too late when I realized it, and too late to go back to Cambodia to ride the freely roaming elephants. For 20 USD per ride, the elephants can take you on top of a mountain and marvel at the priceless sunset hovering the Angkor. If I were you, ride the elephant right away and savor the moment! But I was still able to interact with the elephants as I was able to feed my coconut to the elephant. They are so big, yet gentle.
In a nutshell, no words can truly express how meaningful and how beautiful the visit to the Temples of Angkor! Angkor Wat was reserved for Day 2, and it was more than majestic to see the beautiful sunrise!