Saturday, 6 April 2013

Angkor Wat at Sunrise and Angkor Thom complex

So up we arose at 4.30am, waited for Ney as he said he’d pick us up at 5am but 5.15am came around and he was still nowhere to be found, so we looked at getting our hotel tuk tuk driver instead, and I contacted Saro to see if he could find out where he was. Sods law just as I got off the phone to him, Ney arrived!

So off we trundled along with the thousands of other tourists, to Cambodia’s star attraction, the temple of Angkor Wat! When we arrived the sunrise had just begun and set off some amazing pinks and blues across the sky and it all reflected in the moat so it was an amazing photo op! I lost Maura the instant we got out of the tuk tuk so proceeded in alone, but it was actually quite nice having some alone time and to see Angkor Wat on my own.

When you enter the gates there is a large area of grass and so instead of plonking myself where all the other tourists were (along the back gate and the main walkway) I decided to venture right, onto the gardens/grass area near one of the ruins halfway towards the temple. There was a nice cluster of rocks/ruins there which offered an amazing view of Angkor Wat and my view wasn't interrupted by the millions of tourists trying to get photos – score! I had taken teddies – as obviously they had to come to the 8th wonder of the world - so took lots of piccies!

Once the sun had risen (around 6.30am) I proceeded into Angkor Wat to take a look around, I met two German girls on the way in who let me invade their group (consisting of them, 2 other german girls and 2 British guys who had come from their night out in Siem Reap and were still drunk/drinking!) So we all made our way around together then split off when they left. The guys, as they were drunk, got up to some mischief such as climbing, jumping in and standing on things they shouldn’t, so that was entertaining!

Then I decided to get a picture of teddies in one of the deep 'pool' areas, which we found hilarious enough. However we soon turned round after a little shuffling was heard behind us and burst into fits of laughter when we saw what had accumulated behind us - a row of about 20 Japanese tourists all laughing, pointing and taking pictures of teddies!! Teddies are famous again! Then they all wanted a picture with teddies! So proceeded to take their photos!

A little information for ya:

Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world. The temple was built by the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yasodharapura, the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum.  The modern name, Angkor Wat, means "Temple City" or "City of Temples" in Khmer. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country's prime attraction for visitors.

So after visiting the main temple, I went out to meet our tuk tuk driver as he’d recommended coming back for 8am. However Maura was nowhere to be found...and she wasn’t for a good hour after that! Ney started getting a little exasperated so I went back in to look for her, and on my way out saw her way up ahead so I went back to the tuk tuk – and she wasn’t there – she’d disappeared! So after another 5mins looking around the nearby area for her, we eventually found her and whooped with joy! We then went onto the next temple which was a load of little temples (or we decided were actually big-ass temples) within the larger complex of Angkor Thom, which back in the day was a city!

Angkor Thom (literally: "Great City"), was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII. It covers an area of 9 km², within which are located several monuments from earlier eras as well as those established by Jayavarman and his successors. One inscription found in the city refers to Jayavarman as the groom and the city as his bride.
Within Angkor Thom we were dropped off outside the main attraction in the middle of the ‘city’ and probably one of my favourite temples, Prasat Bayon.

From here we then walked to all the other temples, the Elephant terrace etc. Prasat Bayon is absolutely stunning, well I think so.  The Bayon was the King's state temple. It rises from the centre of Angkor Thom's compound in a cluster of conical towers. Smiling in every direction are the four divine faces of Avalokiteshvara, carved with a great likeness to King Jayavarman VII in his state of peaceful meditation. There are 54 towers in total with a staggering 216 faces. Complementing the faces are the intricate bas-reliefs depicting daily life in the king's court and the bloody battles against the Chams. We spent a while here, exploring the many entrances, towers, faces, carvings etc. Saw some Monks there, got teddies out which everyone loved, had their photo taken with people dressed up in traditional Khmer outfits.

Then we moved onto the Royal Palace, which was like something you’d see in Mexico, very Aztec looking, I couldn’t be asked to climb to the top, so instead just sat in the ruins and admired the view and peace and quiet! Sometimes, that’s the best way to appreciate these temples! We then moved onto the Elephant Terrace, where royal war elephants march along its 350m length topped with hunters and warriors who are seated high enough to avoid the claws of tigers below. The terrace was originally used as the reception hall for royal parties and guests and as the platform from which processions and performances were viewed.

Then it was onto Ta Keo – which we couldn’t climb as it was closed for conservation and Ta Promm, otherwise known as Tomb Raider Temple – where Angelina Jolie once walked. By this point we were incredibly temple-d out and it was baking hot – the temperatures this week were barely below 40 degrees! But this temple was so awesome, it woke us up a little bit and restored in us a little more interest, as it was another little gem like the Bayon. The site of some of Lara Croft’s cinematic adventures, it is a series of dark galleries and pillars held hostage under the iron clasp of gigantic roots of trees. The walls are decorated with carvings of sensuous celestial nymphs with smaller roots crawling across them like a rash. Built in AD 1186 by King Jayavarman VII, the temple was dedicated to his mother. In its prime it was a holy trunk of great treasures. According to the Sanskrit inscriptions on the walls, the temple held thousands of pearls, precious stones and golden dishes weighting more than 500kg. It’s a natural wonder, as the jungle stakes a claim over the temple and a fantastic photo-op area!

We then moved onto our last temple of the day – thank god – which was a little like Ta Promm but smaller, Banteay Kdei. Banteay Kdei meaning "A Citadel of Chambers", is a Buddhist temple.  Banteay Kdei had been occupied by monks at various intervals over the centuries till 1960s. Like Ta Promm it was immersed in the trees and was actually very pretty even though it was very dilapidated and undergoing construction.

Because of this it wasn’t invaded by tourists like Ta Promm. After this Ney took us back to the guesthouse where we had lunch, I caught up on my blog, had many showers and then got ready for what we had planned would be a big night wasn’t! Lol.

We went for a meal at the Italian place down Pub Street (though I chose a Khmer stew), and met/got chatting to two guys, Jack from Ukraine and Shaheen from Holland, who were both living in Bangkok and had come out to Cambodia for the weekend. So we stayed chatting to them for a bit until they headed off to go get their dared piercings done. Turns out they may be headed to Chiang Mai for Songkran so I exchanged details with them, to maybe meet up sometime.

Then we debated going onto Angkor Wat? Bar but ended up deciding we were way too tired to consume alcohol and party, so went home to bed instead!

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