The journey to the temple was a much more pleasant one than the last, in that we were never attacked by flying insects along the way and neither of us got any fresh mosquito bites. A crowd was already gathering outside and from our previous visits we knew the north pond was the best to witness a sunrise. All 5 towers were visible from this point and the scattering of lotus flowers on the water made for a breathtaking sight. Just be prepared for the constant harassment from the locals, touting breakfast and coffee.
Having secured our spot early we stood in awe and watched the spectacle unfold. You definitely don't want to be late turning up, as a large crowd soon gathered and like a group of fidgeting children, constantly jostled for position. Having taken lots of photos, it was time to walk along the giant causeway, crossing the moat to the entrance.
The structure of Angkor Wat is very deliberate and visualizes the main elements of the Hindu faith. The moat represents the mythical oceans surrounding the earth, and is popular in many bas reliefs in Angkor temples. The churning of the ocean milk depicts how the earth was created and is linked to the god Vishnu. A really nice take on creationism in our eyes. Another Hindu symbol was Mount Meru, the home of the gods. All three tiers of the temple plus the five towers represent the ascent and peaks of climbing a real mountain, such an amazing architectural feat; phenomenal!
At the entrance to the first tier, we were graced with a wonderful sight. A monk was entering to pray. His bright saffron coloured robes against the black sandstone of the temple was such a contrast of colour that I just had to get a photo. As we entered we soon discovered Buddhist relics scattered throughout the first tier. It seems Buddhism was introduced to Angkor Wat in the recent centuries (14th – 15th).
The early morning light didn't quite hit the first tier as we wandered around, leaving the sandstone quite black and gloomy in appearance. You could argue that it added to its character but to witness the hundreds of pillars bathed in light would have been a sight to behold. Carved into these pillars were the most detailed apsaras we have seen so far in Angkor. Dominating the skyline was the five towers. Hiding from them seemed impossible inside in the complex, such an imposing icon. Anyway, it was time to move to the next level.
A grassy courtyard surrounded four entrances to the main event. A few libraries could be found here, but the draw to the last tier was so much we just had to continue up the next flight of steps. Emerging from the darkness we finally go to see them. The towers were much taller in the flesh and really difficult to capture in a single photo. A little bit of disappointment was that the summit was closed off for renovation. Although we did eavesdrop on some tourists who mentioned that it was open to the public yesterday but at a cost of $15, which seems a little extortionate. It did dampen our spirit a little.
The last part of our exploration would take us around the perimeter of the temple. 600 metres of bas reliefs could be found carved on the walls depicting important acts in the Hindu faith and the Khmer history. Although the two most important ones were the Churning of the Ocean Milk and the depiction of heaven and hell in the Khmer faith, both we partly closed for renovation work. Starting at the South West corner the reliefs are in order and are best viewed in this way. I won't go into any detail on each of them and will leave that for you to experience yourselves.
That was all we would visit today, as most other temples would have a difficult time following this one. For the rest of the day we would cycle into town and have Indian for lunch at Kamasutra again. I ordered a very spicy curry by mistake and had the most red lips afterwards. It took quite a lot of liquid to cool them down. We spent the evening resting our weary legs and crossing our fingers that the sky would be clear in the morning and a spectacular sunrise would grace Angkor Thom. A giant complex housing the majority of big hitters in Angkor. Well you will just have to read our next blog to find out what happened.
The day had finally come to explore the wonder of the world, Angkor Wat. Probably the most important Khmer symbol of their Hindu faith. We were going to wake up at 4am and cycle to the magnificent 84 hectare complex and witness our 3rd sunrise, hopefully this one will be the best so far. As they say, three times a charm!