Still nursing our hangover from
Pub Street the temple tours the day before, me and my
buddy started the day early by buying some French bread and Iced coffee from the nearby market - our breakfast for that day.
We availed of a three-day temple tours (with a side trip to Kampong Phluk’s Floating Village) from the Happy Guesthouse. And our super nice tuk tuk driver, Nga, was still prompt in picking us up in Angkor Tropical Resort. We purposely started out early on this one for the Grand tour will cover more temples on distant areas.
With our fervent desire to complete the whole circuit, we hopped on inside our tuk tuk with all our gear in tow (drinking water, sunnies, cameras, the works) and let our chauffeur navigate the roads.
Our Temple Pass ($40 for a 3-day pass) was our ticket for the day’s temple tours. We availed it on our very first day in Siem Reap (your tuk tuk driver will assist you on this one).
First stop was the Pre Rup Temple. Built in 961, this temple mountain was the state temple of Khmer King Rajendravarman.
This temple is truly great in terms of height. Me and my buddy had a hard time climbing its peak, good thing we wandered around the premises first before the ascent. We reached the top and held on to the balusters to catch our breath. The beer from last night didn’t help for we’re so dehydrated by the time we got there. We lazed around for a bit and checked out the great view from our spot.
There’s this feeling of great power from that standpoint. I now understood why the Khmer rulers wanted to have huge towers overlooking their empire, there’s really a big difference when you’re on top.
Climbing back down posed another problem. The huge stone steps didn’t seem to anthropometrically suit us. Taking one stone step at a time helped us reach the base without rolling over the steps.
A friendly temple guard approached us on our way out of the temple. He asked our country of origin and upon knowing it he instantly mentioned Pacquiao and Marimar (they’re really famous in Cambodia). I asked him if I could take some photos with him (I dunno what came into me) and he obliged.
|They all know Pacquiao and Marimar!|
Our next destination is 37 kilometers away from downtown Siem Reap. I love the countryside scene on the way to the temple, it’s relaxing. I snoozed a few times and every time I went back to the same countryside view.
Built during the 10th century, Banteay Srei is a temple dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva. The only major temple that wasn’t built under the monarchs, the temple was built under Yajnavaraha, a counsellor to King Rajendravarman II. The temple is made up of hard red sandstone that can be carved like wood.
Banteay Srei is well-organized in terms of admission. Washrooms are strategically located on the entrance hall. A gallery of photos and some important facts about the complex is exhibited on one area. Souvenir shops and food stalls are also located on a separate area near the exit, very organized.
It helped a lot that the huge complex has many signposts and markers indicating where you are and where you can go next. The whole complex comprises of different shrines and each one is distinct from the others.
After exploring all of the temples, we followed a trail going to a dock where you can go out for a little boating trip. The trail reminded me so much of the MacRitchie Reservoir Park in Singapore. We didn’t manage to do a boating trip for we are so much pressed with time. A few meters or so and we found ourselves taking a break on a nearby platform overlooking a paddy field.
While we were having our chill time, a bunch of young local kids showed us some postcards for sale. They were selling it for $1 per pack (10 pcs). We chatted with them for a while and after buying one set from a little girl, everyone flocked to us and asked us for some spare money, a booby trap for some but this allowed us to spend more time with them as they followed us on our way out of the complex.
|$1 per pack of 10 pcs.|
We each gave them 1-peso coins and as they were checking it out, they asked about the person engraved on the coin and after realizing that they cannot use it to buy anything they asked us again for some dollars. We talked our way out of this situation and made them understand that selling some postcards is ok but not the begging part. I hope they realized that thing.
We then moved on to the next temple. After nearly an hour, we reached our next destination. At this point, me and my buddy both felt that we’re too templed out that day that we just wanna laze around somewhere. But then, our super nice tuk tuk driver, Nga, happily ushered us to the next temple that day. We couldn’t refuse this man’s kindness on bringing us to his hometown’s jewels.
Built during the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII, Ta Som is a small temple consists of a single shrine. The temple has been left unrestored and roots from the trees can be seen growing from the structures. Ta Som is a small temple with a nice character to it.
Next was the temple in the middle of a pond. Built during King Jayavarman VII’s reign, Neak Pean is a Buddhist temple built on an artificial circular island.
Neak Pean is truly unique from all the other ones. We walked on this boardwalk of wooden planks to get to the temple and the view was relaxing. Upon reaching the central pond, where the temple is situated, we felt the stillness of the place; the water element brought a different feel to it. It felt organic against the stiffness of the temple.
We dragged ourselves to the last temple of the day (and for the trip), we purposely wanna spend more time inside this temple. And as if on cue, a cow suddenly showed up from we dunno where and went along with us on the huge gates. This certain temple seemed to be too quiet. There are few people loitering around and because the place is so huge, it still felt empty.
Built during the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII, Preah Khan consists of rectangular galleries around a Buddhist sanctuary. It is still left unrestored and just like the other temples in the area, roots from the trees are also growing from the ruins.
We intended to remain inside the premises until the closing hours. We wandered around and got lost into a forest with some ruins of a structure. We’ve talked about our Siem Reap trip and how great the temples are. We also realized how rich their culture is and seeing it first-hand really amazes me. The privilege of having the time and resources to be there is also overwhelming. I’ll be going back to my classes in the next few days and will definitely be sharing these experiences to my students. We’re still having our reflection time when suddenly a siren echoed around the whole place. The signal that tells us that This is the end.
We went on and left the temple, together with the vendors and caretakers, and went back to our tuk tuk.
As we were passing through the Angkor Thom gates, I suddenly saw how the sky was turning into radiant orange and realized that we needed to stop somewhere to check out the sunset. Nga obliged and we spent a few minutes to suck it all in. All the greatness that’s happening around us was too much to handle and a great sunset was the perfect way to end this whole trip.
|just the perfect way to end our trip|
I don’t regret doing a 3-day temple tours around Siem Reap. And yes, I got templed out, but having a great company (my buddy and Nga) proved to be the saving grace for me. If I have more time though, I will rent a bike and just wander around the city with no particular plan. Just cruise around this historic city. No temple pass and no temple run. Just me and my bike and the Pub Street.