>> Wednesday, July 06, 2016
[Part 1 - City Tour] [Part 2 - Angkor Wat]
According to our guide, Mr. Chai, 50% of Cambodia's income relies on tourism. And with all the temples to visit, tourists will sure not run out of places to check out.
The essentials: Day Pass and Map
After our Angkor Wat extravaganza, we headed out to the walled city of Angkor Thom. It was built by King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century and it became the last capital of the Khmer empire. It basically translates to "great city" and the structures within the walled city showed how great it is.
We were greeted by the bridge that goes over a moat at the south gate, with a row of god heads -- 54 demons on the right and 54 gods on the right. The gate itself gives a preview of the city: the four faces of Avalokiteshvara and elephants.
Bayon Temple is a Buddhist Temple right smack in the middle of the walled city. Bayon Temple is famous for the numerous towers with the smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara, which faces in all four directions. It's like saying that no matter what you do, there will be a god watching the north, south, east, and west areas of the land. While it is a Buddhist Temple, there are still Hindu elements to some of the carvings on the wall.
Count the faces
Photo tip: Ask your tour guide for a nose-to-nose photo with one of the sides of Avalokiteshvara.
At this point we were already getting tired from all the walking (and it wasn't even 10 AM!) so there were some temples that we breezed through. In other words, we skipped climbing and entering most of them.
Skipped Temple #1: Baphuon Temple is the state temple of Udayadityavarman II that was dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. According to our guide, the main attraction in the temple is the huge sleeping Buddha. I wanted to go in and check it out but our feet were complaining already, knowing that we were going to climb stairs again like what we did in Angkor Wat. We just walked around it to get to the next temple.
I'm not sure if people can enter Phimeanakas Temple, but we just passed by it. This temple was created by Rajendravarman but completed by Suryavarman I. There's a legend behind it where apparently a nagini (no, no the snake in Harry Potter lol) that the King should wed every night or else misfortune will come his way. Weird, but fascinating.
We emerged at the Terrace of the Elephants, which is a huge stage fronting a massive open area. The King would sit in the middle of the tall podium and hold celebrations there. Entertainers would perform in the open area. It was also where the King would make his announcements. We felt like royals standing on it. I may or may have not waved to the imaginary citizens of my kingdom.
Spot the queen tourists
Just a few meters from the Terrace of the Elephants was the Terrace of Leper King. The detail to the carvings are impressive.
Skipped temple #2
Skipped temple #3
Skipped temple #4
We took a break for lunch before giving it one last push in Ta Prohm.
For the non-Cambodians like us, Ta Prohm is famously known for the location of the movie Tomb Raider. But really, this temple is known for its nature vs. man (or the harmony of nature and man, if you look at it differently) structure.
The trees grow with the temple, which was built by King Jayavarman VII and dedicated to his mother. Roots crawl over every roof and wall, and through openings, as if nature spilled over the temple. Because the trees were flexible in nature, it found its way around every nook and cranny of the temple throughout the centuries. At the end of the day, no matter what structure man builds, mother nature will always win.
Peek-a-boo, says the god.
Trees grow overtime, which means that the temple is in danger of collapsing. Just like other temples, there are measures to preserve what is left of the temple and restore what has been damaged.
Ta Prohm probably is my favorite of all the temples we visited. Even if I was tired already from all the walking, I felt like Ta Prohm spoke to me the most, that we don't have to destroy nature in building structures. The interaction and harmony of nature and man-made buildings produces something beautiful and could be a testament to years and years of stories.
I feel like someone's in the shot
We ended the day at 2 PM, but we felt like the day lasted forever. As soon as we went back to the hotel and had a refreshing shower, we zonked out and slept the rest of the day away. Despite the heat and the tons of sweat we let out, I still enjoyed it with the information overload and breathtaking views.