Friday, January 20, 2012

Angkor Wat : The Star of Angkor

                  Even though I was tired, I did not sleep well. I kept on tossing and turning the whole night, maybe because of too much excitement for the Angkor tour. We got up early the next day and to my surprise the driver who would take us to Angkor was already waiting for us outside. I didn't expect him to show up that early. He approached us the moment we stepped out of our room and asked, " Are you from Philippine?",we nodded and hopped on to his tuktuk.
                  It was hard to ignore the cold early morning breeze as we drived through the tree-lined road to Angkor Archeological Park. Angkor is a region in Cambodia that was part of the Khmer Empire. In its vast plains dozens of ancient Khmer temples were built including the world- famous Angkor Wat. The driver pulled over at a booth where we could purchase our tickets from. For a one-day pass we paid $20 per person. They took our pictures and printed them on the tickets.

                  As the tuktuk continued to traverse the road to Angkor , I saw a body of water and I realized that we were close to the Angkor Wat because it reminded me of the moat that I knew surrounded the temple. Moments later I saw silhouettes of tall structures which at first I had mistakenly identified as trees but it quickly dawned on me that those were actually the towers of Angkor Wat. WOW ! It gave me goose bumps. I just had my first glimpse of one of the wonders of the world.
                We pulled over in front of the Angkor Wat complex. Bana , the driver was still giving instructions when I turned around trying to take another look at the magnificent temple which was already visible even in the dark. Bana sensed that I was so excited so he didn't finish what he was saying. We made our way to the temple through a causeway that crosses the moat. It's hard to put into words what I felt the moment I touched the balustrades of the causeway. Imagine , after almost a thousand years Angkor Wat has withstood the ravages of time and tourists from around the world continue to be in awe of its beauty and grandeur and it was my turn to see it, and experience it.
              We followed a group of tourists that had a guide so that we could listen to some trivia about the temple ( for free). We didn't sign up for a Siem Reap Tour for obvious reasons so we had to be resourceful.We groped our way to the entrance. From the entrance only three of the five lotus-flower-shaped  towers were visible. Two of the towers in front blocked the other two at the back due to their perfect alignment. The fifth tower was at the center. Most photographers and tourists would position themselves on the side when taking pictures so they could capture all the five towers. The exact spot I'm talking about is on the left pond of the temple. We joined a pack of early birds at the pond who were also there for the sunrise. A lot of them had already set up their tripods and cameras. It was quiet , I could only hear whispers every now and then. I felt like the Angkor Wat was a superstar that we were meeting that day and we're just waiting for her to appear under the spotlight which would be the sunlight. The area was teeming with vendors selling coffee that came with monoblock chairs to sit on while waiting for the sunrise. Moments later we could already hear tourists snapping away. Up in the sky we could also see a hot-air balloon hovering above the Archeological Park. A ride on the balloon is one of the attractions in Siem Reap but it's beyond our budget.

                  We were about to enter the temple when a guy came up to us. He was trying to get us to buy a book about Angkor by telling us that he needed  the money to start a business. I didn't buy what he said but I bought the book. From $15 I haggled it down to $8 (later I bumped into some kids selling it for $5 only). Anywhere in Angkor you could get swarmed by touts, kids and adults alike. They'd sell you all kinds of souvenirs and whatknots. It could get annoying sometimes as they'd follow you around. You would always hear " Hey Mister / Lady wanna buy?....only $3 okay?", in a high-pitched tone.
               We finally entered the temple. Every nook and cranny was full of ornate carvings. We'd pause once in a while to take it all in. No wonder it's considered one of the wonders of the world. All those bas reliefs that depict Hindu epics were just awe- inspiring. They're true testaments to the incredible talent of the Khmer people , even way before the advent of modern technology.    

The ornate carvings on the walls
             After being overwhelmed by all the reliefs we proceeded to the inner part of the temple. To my dismay we saw dozens of headless statues lined along the hallways. There had been numerous reported incidents of people stealing artifacts from the temple. There was even a carving of an apsara on the wall that wasn't spared, its face had been scrapped off.
                There were still a lot of things to see and corners to explore, after all the entire Angkor Wat complex covers a vast area. It's more than one square mile. The complex is actually just a tiny portion of the entire Angkor region which stretches as far as the eye can see. It was only 8AM but I was already sweating profusely due to the very high humidity so we took a break to eat breakfast at the guesthouse.

                 After maybe 45 minutes we went back to Angkor Wat. The walk to the temple from the causeway when the sun is up is like Siem Reap's version of the Bataan Death March. It was a long walk under the scorching heat of the sun and it was not even noontime yet. We made a detour and walked through the tree lined path instead on the side of the temple. This time we checked out the center of the temple where the towers stand. There were very steep stairs leading to the towers. I remember watching a travel show that featured the Angkor Wat. The clips showed tourists having a hard time climbing up the towers. I wondered why the builders hadn't figured out a way to make the stairs easy to climb on. Later, I learned that they had done  it on purpose because the steep climb symbolizes humility and sacrifice. Well , enough with humility and sacrifice as  I was dehydrating already.

Stairs leading to one of the Angkor Wat towers

                  There was restoration going on so we're not allowed to go up to the towers . Too bad because the view from the top would have been spectacular. 


  1. Waah! Angkor Wat is like my ultimate temple destination! Ha ha!

  2. Angkor Wat is really beautiful! I admire your resourcefulness hehe!