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Angkor What? More like Angkor Whoa (Part 2)

>> Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Read Part 1 of our Cambodia trip here.

"I stepped foot in Angkor Wat before McDonalds did."
-A button pin

Tour Guide: $45 for three people
Tuktuk: $15 for three people
Day pass: $20 per person

*Alarm rings at 3:30 AM*

Cerz: (groans) Guys, gising na [wake up].
Edlyn: (complains) Is it really worth it?

Even if we slept early to prepare for the early call time to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, waking up at 3AM was a huge chore for the three of us. We unwillingly dragged ourselves out of bed and into our clothes, pondering whether or not the trip to the temple at an ungodly hour was worth it.

The front desk was ready for our groggy selves as they prepared a carbo-loaded breakfast for us to bring to our temple tour. Pastries, white bread, croissants, jam, and half of a banana. Yep, we'll definitely need the carbs, sugar, and potassium to fuel us with the crazy walking tour of the temples of Siem Reap.

We lined up to get day passes, which we had to present to officials for every temple we visited. It was the most precious thing because if we lose our passes, we'll have to pay the fee again, no questions asked.

We walked our way to the outer enclosure (or gate) of Angkor Wat, as the sky started to paint itself a tinge of orange and yellow. Oh boy, the 4AM call time was starting to feel like it was worth it.

We had Mr. Chai as our tour guide for the temple tour. While this is optional, it is an advantage to have someone with you who knows the history of the temples because you'll have someone talk about the carvings o the wall or the meaning of the structures built. You can book your accredited tour guide at the hotel's information desk and choose whatever language you prefer.

At around 6 AM, we were all situated at the open area just after entering the outer enclosure, with the temple and a 'pool' in view. The pool is perfect for those famous reflection shots you see all over the internet. Time to prop your tripod, sit on the grass, and eat your carb breakfast, while waiting for the sun to rise. What a fancy view for breakfast, huh?

A photo posted by Ceres Helga (@cereshelga) on

Angkor Wat is the most famous religious monument in Cambodia and the largest too. It was originally constructed as a Hindu Temple by King Suryavarman II, but because kings changed over time, some of their beliefs changed to Buddhism so did the design of the temple. The temple walls became the eyes to the changing regimes because it holds so much history and information to Cambodia's history and beliefs.

Our very nice guide, Mr. Chai.

The walls in the temple are filled with intricate carvings of mythology and history. Their carvers have so much talent because the detail on every person or god carved is exquisite.

Walls for days (or centuries)

There was one king who combined his Buddhisim and Hinduism beliefs and it shows in this chinese looking Hindu sculpture

Spot the god

Pro tip #1: NEVER touch the carvings to preserve them or prevent them from fading away in the future.

The challenge started when we climbed the tallest portion of Angkor Wat, Bakan Sanctuary. It is at the middle of the temple and is the place of worship of the monks and religious people. And since Bakan is a religious place, you are required to be respectful of the place and observe the proper etiquette.

One part of Bakan

"We will climb that?!"
*Not pictured: the three of us suffering while climbing the stairs

The religious people were fit for sure because climbing those stairs were the most difficult ever. The steps were narrow, steep, and so high. Mr. Chai said that tourists nowadays are lucky because wooden stairs were placed over the original stairs to (1) preserve the original ones and (2) prevent the tourists from slipping. The wooden stairs have larger steps but it was still steep for me. haha I took it one step at a time because it was not the time and place for me to die because of stairs. Please Hindu gods and Buddha, save me.

Posing and smiling but really we were dying inside

Massive structures + wee little me

The climb was worth it though because it was definitely peaceful and serene up there. The wind found its way through the slots of the walls and cooled us down.

A photo posted by yumi pitargue (@bloowind) on

Pro tip #2: While waking around the temple, there are monks who still use Angkor Wat as a place of worship. So be mindful and keep your voice down because it might disrupt their prayers.

What I love about Angkor Wat is that everything is symmetrical. If there is something on the east side of the temple, there will be definitely something on the west side. There is even a marker that indicates the exact center of the temple. The OC in me is very happy.

A photo posted by yumi pitargue (@bloowind) on

Visiting Angkor Wat at 5 in the morning was worth it because of the beautiful view at the crack of dawn, and the cool-ish weather while roaming around in the morning. Visiting the temple when the sun is high and up is going to be torture because the temple has lots of open areas and the sun is going to roast you for sure.

If you have trouble waking up in the wee hours of the morning, you can opt for the sunset view. But then, the sun won't be setting in that area. You'll just see the sky change colors and still be able to take pretty photos with the temple from a distance. [Read Part 3]


Chomreabsuor Cambodia! (Part 1)

>> Thursday, June 16, 2016

A few posts ago, I mentioned that part of my travel bucketlist is to visit all South East Asia countries. Little did I know I would take the first step in accomplishing that bucketlist a couple of months after that post.

As with all surprise announcement of seat sales, there was no time to think about it when the opportunity to visit Cambodia came. Edlyn and I immediately said yes when Cerz invited us to come with her to Cambodia on her birthday week. We decided on it on the eve of New Year and had the remaining months preparing for the trip that happened last week.

It was a 3-hour plane ride from Manila to Siem Reap and we were excited on what Cambodia had to offer. Before the trip, we researched on the activities we could do during our 4-day stay. I think we pretty much accomplished our planned itinerary except for one.

I'll be posting in 3 parts and will also include the list of expenses. Cambodia is one of the cheapest vacations you can experience and you can splurge all you want without worrying on going broke.

Fee: $15 for three persons

We arrived around midnight of June 5. We basically didn't have any other activity for that day besides lining up at the airport, napping in the plane, and dragging our arse to bed as soon as we arrived. We were fetched by a tuktuk so that was our first Cambodian experience.

We were acquainted with the city of Siem Reap the next day. We took a city tour, with our tuktuk driver taking us to different museums in the city.

Angkor National Museum
Entrance Fee: $12

Located near the Siem Reap river, the Angkor National Museum holds artifacts and information on the culture of the Khmer civilization.

We had an option of renting audio guides that toured us around the museum in a systematic way. There are signs on the walls on which audio track we would play in certain areas of the museum, then it would provide us with information on the artifacts displayed.

It is highly recommended that you visit the museum first before taking the temple tour because it gives a detailed description of the history of the Khmer Civilization and Angkor Wat. Being equipped with Cambodian history before the temple tour will make you appreciate the temples even more.

Wat Thmey
Entrance Fee: None, but donations are appreciated

Cambodia is known to have a gruesome past. In the 1960s to 1970s, they went through a civil war, the reign of the Khmer Rouge, where millions of people were killed in order to "clear" those who were connected to the former government. It was only in the late 1970s that the evil regime was ousted and run by the Vietnamese. In 1993, Cambodia was given back to the people with an elected government.

Even if Cambodia is still in the process of healing, they never forgot their history most commonly known to us as the Killing Fields. The biggest and main monument is at Phnom Penh at the village of Choeung Ek. Siem Reap also has a memorial to the killing fields called Wat Thmey and we visited that place.

There are bulletin boards around the place describing what happened during that time. If you walk around, you'll also see some monuments with the skulls of the victims during the war.

It is also the home of some monks so be very careful in entering buildings. If you do, make sure you remove your footwear!

War Museum
Entrance Fee: $5

The War Museum gives an overview of what happened during their years of war in the past 3 decades. The outdoor museum features actual tanks, weapons, helicopters, planes, and equipment used during the war.

"Exterminate," said the soldiers, probably.

You can opt for a tour guide for free -- who are usually veterans, eye witnesses, or landmine victims. We didn't get a tour guide, but according to some blogs that I've read, walking around the place with a tour guide gives you a heart-wrenching feel of the hardships they endured during the war. Having someone recounting the events and who have experienced it first hand will allow you to imagine and have a emotional connection to it. I think it is also beneficial to the guides because talking about it is a way of therapy and at the same time, they get to educate the visitors.

Cambodian Cultural Village
Entrance Fee: $15

If you have the Angkor National Museum to give a glimpse of Cambodia's past, the Cambodian Cultural Village gives a glimpse into the Cambodian culture. It's pretty much like the Nayong Pilipino here in the Philippines, except that the Cultural Village still exists. harhar

The Cultural Village has different sections which teaches you a lot about Cambodia traditions, ceremonies, and practices.

Miniature buildings!

Probably a replica of the floating village

Walkway guarded by Naga

Avalokitesvara looking at all directions

We didn't stay long though because I think it was better if we went with a large group in order to experience the traditional shows. I don't think they'll do a massive show for three people. Besides we were also rushing because rain clouds were looming and were threatening to pour over our open tuktuk.

We spent the rest of the day back at the hotel and in the pool until the mosquitoes started to devour our legs.

Continue reading on our Cambodia journey --> [Part 2] [Part 3].


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