Temple of Glory
Trip Start Aug 03, 2008
40Trip End Aug 18, 2009
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Our driver spent the whole time trying to get us to book him for our tour around Angkor. Bill kept asking him questions trying to get orientated to our new area. As we got out of the car, Bill asked for his card. And the driver replied, "You're not going to call." Bill went to explain that yes he'd check prices to see if he could get something cheaper, but he was a driver that spoke English well and knew the temples, plus, we probably wouldn't go for a long day the first day as I was still sick
Bill let me take a nap, but when he returned with water and other supplies, he was ready to go get our passes for the temples. You can buy a 1, 3, or 5 day pass to the temples, and if you buy you're pass after 5:00 the day before, you get those few hours for free as your pass doesn't start until the next day. Any extra time Bill could have, he wanted to take. So groggy me gets into yet another tuk tuk to head to the ticket office. You also have to have your picture taken for these passes and the lines can be long in the morning so it was good to go get it over with as no one was in line when we got there. So we got our passes and Bill asked our tuk tuk driver, "Where's the best place to see the sunset?"
Before we knew it, he was telling us to go that way pointing to a path on the left side of the street. Okay, I thought, we walk up a little ways to that point and see the sunset. "WRONG!" The path kept going and going and going, I was still trying to wake up from my nap. Though by the time we finally got to the top, I was wide awake so it was a good walk just totatlly unexpected
We decided for our first day to take a tour guide and an ac car instead of a tuk tuk as we knew it was going to be hot. Bill went to numerous agencies to get one that he thought would take us out in the morning and bring us back to the guesthouse for a break in the day when it get murderous hot and then go back out for round two. So he found a place that basically said, "You have a guide and a driver for the day, you can tell them where you want to go." Sounded like it would be good. However, of course it didn't quite work like that...
It started with the guide telling us that the temples we were picking were too far to go, and we should just go with seeing all the main temples today as we had three more days
Bill will describe the temples we saw this day. Though they were pretty amazing, I just couldn't believe how many of them there were. I also had heard of Angkor Wat and saw the picture, but I didn't realize it was just one small temple compared to the entire complex of Angkor. We even saw the temple that was featured in Tomb Raider, Angela Jolie is well liked here as the natives say, putting Cambodia on the map. The impressive part about that temple is how the trees just grow anywhere along it, many of the other temples also had trees growing, but this one had the most trees surrounding it. Here's Bill to give the details...
As Michelle stated, Angkor Wat (the famous temple from this area) is only one very small part of the larger ruins of Angkor. Angkor (Royal City) was the center of the Khemer empire and its capital. It is situated on a huge flat plane full of rice patties and rivers. We started out our tour by visiting Angkor Thom, which is a huge complex where the Royal Palace once was. Their is a moat around the entire structure. The outer walls measure nearly 3 km (1.8 miles) in length. It is absolutely massive, it is said that the walls were thick enough to use as a road for elephants riden by the guards
After spending quite a while exploring the ruins of Bayon, we walked North to a temple that was being rebuilt by the French. Baphoun, was a huge temple built in the shape of a stepped pyramid
Next just outside the wall of Angkor Thom we stoped at the ruins of Banteay Kdei. These were two large temple complexes that have suffered from the the conversion from Budism to Hinduism back to Budism. The outer wall all 4 km of it, were topped were once ringed with images of the Buddha, but had all of these chisled out and never replaced, because Hinduism did not last long enough to remove all the references to Buddha and create new ones. The temple itself was pretty wide open with a number of chambers and spires. It was interesting to walk around these ruins and imagine how amazing this once was.
Next we went to Ta Prohm, which is the "Tomb Raider" temple
We ended the day by going to see Angkor Wat, the most famous of them all. This complex, is the largest religous building in the world. And was built as a Hindu monument (probably why they did not have time to replace all the buddhas just deface them) speciffically to Visnhu. The name is Budist, because it was renamed when Budism took over again. Anyways the temple is at the center a huge spire, covered with 7 headed snakes called Naga's. Then there is a wall ringing that with 4 more towers. Outside of that there is another wall with 8 more towers. All getting smaller and lower to provide the dramatic effect that is Angkor Wat. Beyond this wall at the front there are two more galleries of carvings and small pools for holy water. This courtyard was a very nice change from all the other buildings, as it was larger and had a very Romian feel
The after spending a long, hot day with the tour guide the day before, we decided to beat the heat and the crowds (or so we thought) and head out early in the morning to see the sun rise over the main temple in Angkor Wat. Waking up early and riding to the ruins in a tuktuk, it was quickly apparent that we were not going to be alone. When we got to Angkor Wat the place was absolutely crawling with tourists. In fact there may have been more there than the night before. We quickly found a spot and sat down to enjoy the sunrise, something that we do not regularly get a chance to see. While the sunrise was not spectacular it was an impressive sight, as the ruins went from shadows in the dark, to the outline of temples, to full blown sun and the temples in all their glory. In the end it was worth getting up at 4:30 in the morning, I believe even Michelle thought so.
Next we had our Tuk Tuk take us to Preah Khan which was another of the large temple complexes that made up the capital of Angkor. Like all the other temple complexes this one had a large square wall around the complex, and the temple inside was in the shape of a large plus along the points of a compass
After clearing up the fact that we wanted to go to the next temple with our driver, he took us down the road and we stopped at the small shrine of Neak Pean , which was a Chedi that was sunk into the middle of a shallow pit, with stairs around it. Outside this central area of the shrine was four pools to be used by people to get water for their worshiping ritual. However, the four pools were dry, with thick patches of grass growing, and the center area around the Chedi was completely flooded.
The last temple we saw on our brief morning tour was called Ta Som , which was another temple that has had minimal restoration done to it. Essentially all that has been done is vegetation that is not a tree has been removed. Some of the trees in the courtyard are being removed. But overall any tree on the temple has been allowed to stay to show just how the jungle advanced on to the temples. This complex was a cross between Ta Prohm , because of the maze of collapsed section of the temple and Preah Khan because the layout was similar but on a smaller scale. It was amazing to see just how the trees can grow in any small crack between the blocks and then have their roots spider across the building. We spend the rest of the day lounging around in the restaurants on Pub Street. A great name for a street, especially in a country where you can not pronounce most of the names correctly. The idea of the street is also good it is like a large food court and at night the police block the street off to prevent cars and tuk tuks from taking over making it a great place to hang out. The problem is that the food was over priced and not that good. We tried a number of different spots while we were their: Cambodian, Mexican, Irish, Italian, and even a burger joint. But realistically none of the meals were that good especially considering the fact you were paying western prices.
The story from this street would have to be the night that we took our half day Tuk Tuk tour, I pursaded Michelle to get Cambodian Barbecue
Our last day in Siem Reap, we again went to the ruins of Angkor. We wend to see Srah Srang , which sounded interesting and looked big on the map of the ruins, however it turned out to be little more than an elaborate dock in one of the reservoirs throughout the complex. Next we went to Pre Rup , which was a different style of temple complex. Rather than being a large spread out complex like many of the others we visited, this was more of a large pyramid with five large stupas on the wall where you enter
After seeing these ruins and feeling like there was little left we wanted to see in the main sight of Angkor, we headed out to Banteay Srei (Women's Temple) which is a very small but elaborately decorated temple about 30 km away. This temple is better preserved than most of the temples at Angkor, and the carvings on the temple wall are still very easy to make out. It was also a good place to look and see the general layout of how the temples are made as it is all cleared and you can easily look out over the entire complex.
We finished the day off by going out to a floating village. There is a large lake in the center of Cambodia, but as the country is mostly flat there is a huge area on the side of it that is probably better described as a flooded marsh than a lake
The next day we left for Bangkok, but that is a story I will let Michelle tell.
Bill and Michelle