Recent Entries


November 01, 2004

Angkor Wat? Angkor Whoa!!

Patience Disclaimer: You might want to settle in for this one.

(And make your screens a little brighter. The pics are somtimes quite dark.)

Travelling in Asia is an interesting balance of avoiding scams and still getting to see what you want. This is, of course, in addition to never really getting completely accurate information about where you can go and how you can or cannot get there. While in Bangkok I heard from a fellow traveller that you can't easily get into Cambodia from Laos using overland travel such as a bus or train. The only feasible way to get there by bus would have required a return trip to Bangkok from Vientiane and then another 15 hour (or more) journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap. From there you can head off to explore Angkor Wat, a true wonder of the ancient world! We decided to skip 20 or 30 hours in a bus and splurge for a cheap flight. Little did we know that our tickets were for standby only at Vientiane airport which services Siem Reap only once per day! That was quite a wake up call at 6 in the morning! Luckily, a few people cancelled at the last minute and we got seats! Alas, that would be the end of our luck for the day.

After an hour flight to Pakse and a quick, hour jump across the border we made it to Cambodia. Siem Reap exists for the sole purpose of feeding and housing tourists visiting Angkor Wat about 10 kms. out of town. We didn't want to waste a day there and took off for the complex. Angkor Wat is actually a collection of over 100 temples that once comprised a huge-- no, no a humongoid metropolis and capital for a people that ruled what is now southern Vietnam to Yunan, China and from Vietnam westward to the Bay of Bengal! No wonder this place is so huge. (For more, brief info click here) Its impossible to see all the temples unless you have a few weeks to kill. Even then its hard to really study them. The Cambodian government certainly realizes this difficulty and charges a whopping $20 for a one day, $40 for a 3 day and $60 for a 7 day pass! (Considering the average Cambodian makes $20 a month few ever get to see a major part of their Khmer heritage.) These passes are of course non refundable, non extendable, and worse, non replaceable. We snagged our 3 day passes and 5 minutes later entered another world! Angkor Wat is one of those places that you have to see before you die. In fact, you have to see it before you get too old. Its not a place for the physically challenged as most steps up the temples are steep and slippery making brittle bones a shoe in for hip replacement. Oh and you can't be too afraid of heights.

Our guides dropped us off at Bayon, the temple that named a style. All those bigs heads are what is lovingly known as Bayon and is seen other places around the complex like Victory Gate. The pictures don't really show the true size of all these temples but just imagine bigger! We hiked around this temple for a good hour and took this PHOTO just before we forgot to pick up Amanda's purse from the ground where it was promptly stolen! We walked around the corner and ran back but it was gone. Uggh. Its hard to be on guard for 24 hours a day. One screw up and that's that. We did find the actual purse on the lower side of the temple but it was empty. It could have been worse. Fortunately Amanda had her passport and all credit cards in her secret money belt! Shhh! We did lose $52 bucks, a new cell phone, our address book and worst of all, our Talkabout Radio! :( Feel free to send lots of these! Only kidding Gramma! :) We spent the rest of the day with the tourist cops filing a report and hoping to catch the guys who did this. The worst part of the whole thing is that the park refused to replace the 3 day pass we lost even though it has Amanda's picture on it and had only been used for an hour! After much pleading they decided to give us a one day pass for the next day but refused to let us finish out the current day! What a rip! Commie bastards! That was irritating. We rode home and hitthe sack, totally drained.

Next day we got up at 4am and made it to the park by 5 for sunrise. We were going to make the most of our pity pass! Our first stop was Angkor Wat temple where the park gets its name. Sunrise here seems to be the big morning draw because the tourists were out in full force. We got there when the moon was still out and it was crawling with tourists. Once the sun peeked over the horizon the crowds thinned up and we could really enjoy the place. This temple is unique to most of the other temples in the park because it is a small city in itself. It is surrounded by a mind bogglingly huge moat that essentially turns it into an island with good deal of land for animals for grazing. I'm not sure but the moat had to have taken thousands of people many years to finish. Like most of the temples it has a library but much bigger than others. And of course, it has 3 huge spires that create a sanctuary-courtyard for religious ceremonies at the highest area of the temple, 3 levels up. It was a great way to start the morning.

From Angkor Wat we headed out to Banteay Srei 35 kms. away in what is now farmed countryside. This orange-red temple is styled after the other temples in Angkor but is a miniature version and extremely well preserved. Imagine all the temples in the complex covered in deep carvings like this as they once were!! It must have been amazing. Most of the temples are Hindu tributes to gods like Shiva or Ganesh and the carvings are normally pictures of stories from the Ramayana or other Hindu texts. When Buddhism came to dominate the region ol' Buddha certainly got his fair share of tribute as well. By now the sun was out in full force and we were trying to take cover wherever possible. This may be the reason why the rest of the day is such a blur.

From here we got back on the bikes and visited about 10 more temples before the sun started heading for the horizon. We hiked around the mammoth Preah Rup among others whose picture I cannot match to the right name. I took about 200 pictures and won't bog you down with all the boring ones (until later). Here are a few from Ta Prohm one of the only temples they have decided to leave untouched. The jungle is taking over and this is how the early explorers might have found it except for a bit of structural supports. Trees grew out of the walls or over them like this tree featured in Tomb Raider (I think). This of course caused severe foundation issues and many collapsed structures were never rebuilt like they were in other temples. Restoration is an ongoing process here as temples are analyzed and preserved according to the best guess of their original design.

By the end of the day I was absolutely exhausted. I was looking forward to sitting for a few minutes with some of the locals and watching the sunset over this magical place. If you ever get a chance to see it in person I suggest you jump on it!! Its worth every penny, even if you lose your purse -- well, maybe.

Posted by Josh on November 1, 2004 12:01 PM
Category: Where are we?

Hi. Great Blog. I love that Picture of Amanda on the steps. I am going to make that my screen saver for a while!

Posted by: Steven on November 5, 2004 07:08 PM

great pics-looks like alot of fun climbing those stairs.NOT! but hey you've got great legs now right?! Sorry to hear about your loss. Imagine getting two years salary in one shot. Lucky theives.

Posted by: paige on November 8, 2004 08:30 PM
Email this page
Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

Designed & Hosted by the BootsnAll Travel Network