Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Templed Out Siem Reap – Angkor Group and the Small Tour

Siem Reap Cambodia Temple Tours

French speaking local tourist guide with his flock in tow greeted us as we entered the first temple for the day. And in pure admiration (and astonishment) I told him how great he was. He said that he’s been doing this for so long and that there are many local guides who speak different major languages. Amazing!

We signed up for a three-day Siem Reap temple tours (thank goodness they squeezed in a trip on the Floating Village of Kampong Phluk or we would be templed out just after a day) from the Happy Guesthouse and our tuk tuk driver, Nga, was our chauffeur for the next three days.

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 (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Siem Reap).

After our Floating Village adventures and the first round of Siem Reap temple run, we did the Small Tour around the Angkor and Bayon areas. If you only have limited time in Siem Reap and could only allot just a day for the temple tours then I suggest you avail the Small tour.

Siem Reap Cambodia Temple Tours

Registered in the elite UNESCO World Heritage List, the Angkor Wat and the Bayon Temple (in Angkor Thom) are included in the day’s activities. We were asked if we would want to have a sunrise tour to Angkor Wat and chickened out right away upon knowing the call time (5:00 a.m.). Really slackers eh?

Nga collected us from Angkor Tropical Resort at around 9:00 a.m. Our spirits were high in spite of the scorching heat. We planned to visit the Angkor Wat first but upon seeing the long queue just to get inside made us tweak the plans for the day.

Bantay Kdei

Siem Reap Cambodia Bantay Kdei Temple

We started the tour at Bantay Kdei. Literally means, ‘A Citadel of Chambers’, this Buddhist monastic complex was built during the mid-12th to early 13th century under the reign of King Jayavarman VII.

Siem Reap Cambodia Bantay Kdei Temple

Siem Reap Cambodia Bantay Kdei Temple

There were not much tourists that day (maybe they were all bunched up inside the Angkor Wat) and we’re on a very relaxed pace cruising around the complex. Bas reliefs, carvings, frescoes, huge pillars and roof slabs. This first temple truly amazed me with its architectural ingenuity.

Siem Reap Cambodia Bantay Kdei Temple

Siem Reap Cambodia Bantay Kdei Temple

Siem Reap Cambodia Bantay Kdei Temple

It took us almost 30 minutes to grasp what was happening. We eased up a bit and chilled somewhere and spotted this young artist who was busy painting. We chatted for a while and asked if he could probably do a postcard version of his painting. He declined right away telling us that the smaller it gets, the harder it is for him to finish it on time. We again asked if he could just divide the paper and make two identical paintings for us, he agreed (that’s for $15, support the local artists – my buddy kept on telling me).

Siem Reap Cambodia Bantay Kdei Temple
anyare Kuya?
We left and gave him his ‘me time’ and continued with our exploration inside the temples. We came back after 30 minutes and saw his work starting to come to life. Everything we wanted was incorporated in his work. He even chatted with us while he was painting. We learned that he’ll be using the money earned from his artworks to fund his college education; such a hardworking kid.

Siem Reap Cambodia Bantay Kdei Temple

Siem Reap Cambodia Bantay Kdei Temple
apir!
Ta Prohm

Siem Reap Cambodia Ta Phrom Temple

Next on our tour for the day was the Ta Prohm. It made more popularized by the movie Tomb Raider and people would constantly refer to this as the location of the movie much more than the historical significance of the temple. Built in the late 12th to early 13th century, this was founded by King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university.

Siem Reap Cambodia Ta Phrom Temple

Siem Reap Cambodia Ta Phrom Temple

Siem Reap Cambodia Ta Phrom Temple

Aside from the architectural marvel of this temple, what stood out were the relics of the original one. Huge slabs of stones were perfectly arranged and ready for reconstruction while we were there. Also, the roots of some trees that are still growing on the ruins made it more popular for tourists. A hundred or more photo ops have been taken in those huge trees surrounding the temple.

Siem Reap Cambodia Ta Phrom Temple

Siem Reap Cambodia Ta Phrom Temple

Baphuon

Siem Reap Cambodia Baphuon Temple

Located in Angkor Thom, this huge structure was built in mid-11th century and was the state temple of King Udayadityavarman II dedicated to Hindu god, Shiva. The huge site is now turned into a jungle forest of ruins and stone slabs surrounding the area.

Siem Reap Cambodia Baphuon Temple

Siem Reap Cambodia Baphuon Temple
so ano'ng pwede?
Siem Reap Cambodia Baphuon Temple

I could just imagine how much effort has been put into restoring the whole area. Given more time, I could probably appreciate it more if I could roam around the area for half a day. I just couldn’t compare the greatness of the whole complex to anything else I’ve seen. The intricate carvings, Bas reliefs, perfectly arranged stone slabs, huge windows and pillars are truly a great masterpiece from nameless workers at that time; truly breath-taking.

Siem Reap Cambodia Baphuon Temple

Siem Reap Cambodia Baphuon Temple

Bayon

Siem Reap Cambodia Bayon Temple

This one is my favorite temple in Siem Reap. Built in the late 12th to early 13th century, the Bayon Temple is in the center of Angkor Thom, (‘The Great City’, established as the capital of the city) and the official state temple of King Jayavarman VII.

Siem Reap Cambodia Bayon Temple

It may look like just an ordinary temple (ordinary in Khmer standards, I should say) from the outside but once you climbed out from the upper terrace and reached the central peak, you’d be in temple euphoria. The huge stone faces on the towers were really great. It was a love at first sight. Truly, there’s more to Siem Reap than Angkor Wat.

Siem Reap Cambodia Bayon Temple

Siem Reap Cambodia Bayon Temple

Angkor Wat

Siem Reap Cambodia Angkor Wat

The famous Angkor Wat was our last stop for the day. The long queue of tourists earlier that day was reduced to almost a third and we were running late for the last few minutes of the temple hours.

Siem Reap Cambodia Angkor Wat

Literally means ‘City of Temples, the most famous Khmer icon drives tourists from different parts of the world into this great marvel. Built in the 12th century under Khmer King Suryavarman, this Buddhist (Hindu before) temple complex in Siem Reap was the capital of the Khmer Empire and dedicated to the Hindu deity, Vishnu. It is the most preserved temple on the area and has also become a symbol for Cambodia having it on the nation’s flag.

Siem Reap Cambodia Angkor Wat

Siem Reap Cambodia Angkor Wat

Without taking too much time to check out the great fa├žade (we’re really pressed on time), we headed directly to the galleries surrounding the central tower which is a marvel in itself. The great history of Khmer people was inscribed through Bas-reliefs. The craftsmanship itself is really outstanding. Perfectly carved objects on stones left me stumped for a few minutes. Given more time, I’d probably draft my own version of their history by passing through all of the galleries around the area (well, we didn’t really researched or bought a book which made us completely clueless about it – not very advisable).

Siem Reap Cambodia Angkor Wat

Siem Reap Cambodia Angkor Wat

We then headed straight to the central tower and checked out the greatness we’ve been hearing for a long time. Upon getting there, we were speechless, not in a this-is-awesome way but in a this-is-just-ok way. It was great, yes, but the galleries surrounding the peak were much more interesting than the cordoned central tower.

We hurriedly went back to one of the galleries and followed where the sun sets and noticed that the place looks emptier now. We looked for a perfect spot, a huge window, and just sat there. A few more minutes and the sky turned into its radiant orange state. It was quiet, calm and serene. And as the sun started to call it a day, we were speechless (in a this-is-awesome-and-peaceful way). It was such an incredible experience; sunset on one of the most renowned Heritage Site in the world, really awesome.

Siem Reap Cambodia Angkor Wat Sunset
great sunset in Angkor Wat yo!
Siem Reap Cambodia Temple Tours

And it didn’t end there. We went down to one of the steps and chilled for another few minutes, just to get back to earth I guess. The day turned out well and we needed some time to regain our consciousness. Light bulbs, Pub Street!







2 comments:

  1. Hello there,
    I am curious about how much did you spend for hiring a tuktuk + its driver in a day?
    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello there Damian. It is around $15-$20 per day depending on the places you wanna visit :)

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