Once again, we are up and about in another story which brings us to the cultural temples of Cambodia, particularly the ruins of the Khmer Kingdom. For a start, this giant empire ruled from the 9th to the 13th century and most of its population were loyal followers to Buddha. The kingdom ruled parts of present day Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand. The kingdom fell when a successful Siamese invasion caused the fall of the city of Angkor, the Khmer Kingdom’s capital.
With that, I was awaken by bright light from our room at 4.30am in the early morning of our adventure. I had a quick change into my hiking gear after a hurried wash-up. We went to the lobby where our ‘Tuk Tuk’ which actually means a tricycle, was waiting for our arrival. Once ready, we set off with a light breakfast packed in a plastic bag along with water.
The ride was quiet as I felt like dozing off. Fortunately, the journey to the ticket office was short. So, by 5.15am, we had bought our tickets and where making our way to the biggest temple of the batch, Angkor Wat. The ticket office opens at around 5am and you would have to wait for an estimated 15 to 30 minutes before it’s your turn to proceed in your transaction in buying the tickets. The staff would take a photo of you before processing your ticket and receiving your money.
Known for being an Indianized temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat has a huge reputation and I could see that there were a lot of fellow tourists visiting the extravagant temple. It is also known for being one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is definitely a fine piece of architecture.
We sat down and watched as sunrise began illuminating the surroundings and the revealing the breathtaking façade of the temple to us. After the sunrise, we started having our light breakfast, which were some simple croissants, boiled eggs and bananas. With the monkeys which were commonly found roaming around the temple areas still asleep, we knew that was the best time to have our meal.
With little leftover, we advanced for the gates of the famous landmark through the gates surrounding the main building which was more of rubble and ruins through the years of exposure to the elements and wars. Despite that, the compound is still a present day praying area for Buddhist monks!
Once we were through, we were right in front of an amazing architectural monument which was the holy temple itself. The temple was a tall one and had a strange structure, consisting of a wide bottom and a smaller top. Surprisingly, much of the building seemed to be intact though there were a lot of signs that disintegration was taking place.
The queue to the flight of stairs leading to the top level of the temple was approximately 30 minutes, and observing the temple was the only thing that seemed to be time consuming. However, we eventually got our turn to make our way up the steep steps to the top which…is scary if you turn your back when your done getting yourself up. So, if you have a fear of heights, I suggest you remain calm and careful. The stairs seem to be approximately 60 degrees, which is considerably steep.
Upstairs is a small but seemingly detailed area where you could see extremely accurate carvings on the side walls. Though the carvings might have a complicated meaning, the accuracy made it easy to visualize the events in my mind as we looked through them, one by one. Some might mean war while others could mean something like celebrations. There were also great sights to see from the highest level of the great temple and it was very lush…the blessing that helped me relax after a long way up. There were also Buddha statues which could be seen every now and then. Most of them were made of stone and gold-colored and were really beautiful antiques which were used for prayer.
Once we were done exploring the top levels of the humongous temple, we went down the fearful ‘slide’ back to the ground. So be weary and do not lose your footing!
As we left the temple with an excited feeling, the monkeys commenced an ambush on us as they try to steal the remaining banana’s my mom had. So, she passed the food to my dad whom made a dash from the monkeys. However, the monkeys have a good sense of smell. They were able to use it to follow him all the way to the tricycle. Thankfully, we escaped and headed for the next temple, Bayon Temple. It was like my dad had a real game of Temple Run!
This temple is not tall, but takes up a lot of space. This temple seems to have short posts which have faces pointing out of them at each direction and based on a glance, you could already tell there’s a lot of them. As you go around the temple, you could see tons of rubble of fallen bricks that were once intact as walls, I presume.
This smaller temple has a second level, just like Angkor Wat. However, to get up there, you only need to go through a few steps. So…no worries! Upstairs, you could see more carvings on the walls and see the faces in detail. From my perspective, they look like monks. Before I forget, I have to say that this temple and the 3rd temple I’ll be talking about have areas where you have no access.
Once we were done exploring Bayon, we went back to our tricycle that sent us to the last temple of our journey, Ta Prohm.
The most damaged temple of the three, Ta Prohm has a lot of obvious fixing needed to be done. There is a lot of rubble and debris obstructing the pathways but is still a beautiful temple, just like the others. From where the tricycle will stop you, whether it is at the East Gate or the West Gate, you will have to stroll on a sandy road to the temple itself which will take around 5 minutes. From there, you could take any other path you may choose. But here’s one tip, pass by the temple under the mangrove tree. As it is very iconic for its part in the filming of Tomb Raider.
However, if you are not interested of seeing it, there are still many sights and sounds to see around the temple’s compound. And besides, the trees there are very interesting as they have a strange way of growing for their roots seem to be growing on the temples walls!
Like the other temples, there are also detailed carvings on the walls!
Once our roam around the jungle-like temple was completed, we made it back to the tricycle and decided to go back to the hotel for lunch as our feet were already very sour to do anything else other than have a good lunch and nap at the hotel.
Overall, the experience at the temples was very breathtaking and we were happy to learn more about Cambodia’s culture and Buddhism through the exploration of the Khmer Kingdom. Moreover, all the temples would always have a special trait under their sleeves ready to be revealed so I guarantee you that your visit would be utmost enjoyable!