Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 7 - Touring Angkor

Woke up around 4am to head to Angkor to see the sunrise across the lake at the Angkor Wat entrance. We thought we were going to be the first ones there but a ton of other people decided to come around the same time to catch the first light of the day. The moment was slightly marred due to the overcast weather, but still an incredible moment to see the reflection of the trees and temples on the waters.

Angkor refers to the political and religious center of the Khmer Empire, which ruled from the 9th to 15th century. The region houses many temples that are considered architectural wonders, and are still standing today. Some of these temples were built following Hinduism (where the main entrance to the temple is on the west side), while others were built following Buddhism (where main entrance is approached from the east), depending on when they were built and what the religion was at the time. Many of these temples are currently being restored, so access to some of the areas is restricted. There are many temples to visit, but it would take a while since each site is so grand, and you have a limited amount of time each day, unless you can tolerate walking in the extreme heat around noon. Tickets to all the temples in Angkor cost $20/day, $40 for 3 days in a week, or $60 for 7 days in a month.

Angkor Wat, which was built and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, was smaller than I had imagined. I guess seeing as this was the most popular tourist site, I assumed it would be more grand since it is considered to be the world's largest single religious monument. I was thinking it would be similar to the size of the Forbidden City in Beijing, but it is dwarfed in comparison. Nonetheless, it was incredible to see the architecture of the temple and the surrounding grounds. You could only imagine how life was like when the temple and city was actually inhabited during the Khmer Empire.

We moved on to Angkor Thom after touring Angkor Wat. The type of rock used for this structure was different than Angkor Wat. AngWat was mostly built using sandstone while AngThom was built using laterite. It took quite a while to walk through the entire Angkor Thom "city", which housed many different temples, including the most recognizable, the "Bayon." The entire area was nearly 4 square miles. The towers of the "Bayon" are all decorated with faces, consisting of many large pieces of stones. In fact, the entire structure is made of individual stones piled on top of each other and carved different shapes. Each piece of stone fits like a piece of a puzzle. Pretty incredible to think about how long it took to build such a structure.

The last of the temples we visited on this first day around Angkor was Ta Prohm. This temple was under major construction when we visited. The most memorable attribute of this temple were the trees growing through many parts of the temple walls. Giant trees towered over the temple, its roots taking a hold of the pieces of stones used to build the structire.

It was only around 10am by the time we decided we needed to take a break from touring Angkor since the heat was starting to get to us. We did start at 5am, so we got a good 5 hours in. Tomorrow we will tour 2 or 3 additional temples within the region, hopefully catching the sunset.

We went back to the touristy restaurant area to have lunch, and I decided to try the "fish" massage, which really wasn't a massage, but an exfoliating service where the fish ate the dead skin off your feet. The first 2 minutes were spent squirming and giggling because my feet were ticklish, but after that, I got used to it.

The rain came pouring down at night before we had dinner, but it only lasted for about 30 minutes. I heard from many people that the monsoon season rainfall in S.E. Asia produces a lot of rain, but in short periods. Let's hope it doesn't get too wet wherever I go.

Sunrise across the lake at the western entrance to Angkor Wat

Just outside the entrance to Angkor Wat

Inside Angkor Wat

Carvings of Apsaras (celestial dancing girls) line the walls of Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Just outside the Angkor Wat temple were monkeys playing around. The girl pictured above decided to purchase a loaf of bread to feed to them. She fed the alpha male monkey, who then proceeded to snarl angrily at her and scratch at her. She threw the bread in the air in defeat and he ended up hogging the whole loaf!

Entrance to Angkor Thom

The Bayon

The Bayon, and some of the pieces that still need to be restored
The Bayon - Smiling Faces made up of many pieces of carved stone

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom

A tree growing through Ta Prohm

Restoring Ta Prohm

This little girl was selling bracelets, repeating "3 for one dollar" as we walked towards our taxi. We decided to give here some money for her troubles. It's sad to see so many little kids working like this to help their families. It's ever sadder seeing how many orphans there are.

"Dr. Fish Massage"


  1. Phil, that sunset is beyond beautiful! Made my day :)