Just Marvelous ! This is how I would describe one of my most unforgettable journeys, my adventure to the land of the Khmer in the Kingdom of Cambodia. My original plan was to stay in Siem Reap for only a night, but with a vast complex of ancient temples that can be found here, I had to stay for three days.! Let me tell you why.
The Angkor Wat in Cambodia have been on my bucket list of places to see, though I have been there, I have not erased it from my list just yet as I am scheduled to go back there on October together with 7 of my friends (ever heard about the power of the word of mouth?). I
I really felt that my three days there was incomplete, I was not able to really enjoy it like I wanted to because of the monsoon rains that drenched me. Check me out in the photo below in a camouflage raincoat courtesy of my tuk-tuk driver. This was in the ruins of Baphuon.
Cambodia can be reached by a 12-hour bus ride from Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in Vietnam, a trip that included a ferry-ride crossing the mighty Mekong River or from Bangkok if you are on the opposite route. Very recently, Cebu Pacific Airlines (low-cost airline in the Philippines) now serves the route of Manila to Siem Reap and vice versa three times a week. Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia but Siem Reap is the home of the world-renowned Angkor Wat. Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is a mere six-hour travel.
My love for history and world geography led to my distinct aspiration to see Cambodia no less, particularly the Angkor. Angkor used to be the capital of the Khmer empire and was once considered as the most extensive urban complex in the world. It was funny how one tourist complained that he was tired of seeing ‘stones’ all over. But for me, my experience in this place is priceless, the opportunity to see the ruins of once a mighty civilization is a chance-of-a-lifetime.
The lost city of Angkor is now in ruins and populated mostly by peasant rice farmers.
Tourists flock this world treasure even during the rainy season.
Angkor is the scene of one of the greatest vanishing acts of all time according to the National Geographic. The Khmer Kingdom lasted from the 9th to the 15th centuries, and its height dominated a wide swath of Southeast Asia, from Myanmar (Burma) in the West to Vietnam in the East.
Angkor Wat is considered as the most elaborate of the city’s temples and the world’s largest religious monument. It was once the most resplendent capital of the Khmer Empire.
Many scholars came up with a long list of possible causes of this empire’s death which includes ravenous invaders, a religious change of heart, and a shift to maritime trade that condemned an inland city like the Angkor. There are about 1, 300 inscriptions that survived on temple door jambs and freestanding stelae, but the people of Angkor left not a single word explaining their kingdom’s collapse.
Ancient Angkor’s daily rhythms are depicted in the many sculptures that have survived centuries of decay and war.
Bas-reliefs on temple facades pay homage to the spiritual world inhabited by creatures such as apsaras, they are celestial dancers who served as messengers between humans and the gods.
Religion was central to the daily life of ancient Angkor. Anthropologists call it a regal-ritual city. Its kings claimed to be the world emperors of Hindu lore and erected temples to them selves.
Many successive rulers had a habit of erecting new temple complexes and lets older ones decay.
Angkor became a medieval powerhouse due to a sophisticated system of canals and reservoirs that enabled the city to hoard scarce water in dry months and disperse them during monsoon.
Strangler fig trees and creeping lichens overwhelm ruins at Ta Prohm, once home to hundreds of Monks. To build their magnificent complexes, Angkor’s feudal rulers relied on revenue generated by rice-growing.
The meditating face atop the Victory Angkor Thom likely depicts Javayarman VII, whose rule raised Angkor to a peak of wealth and power.
My Angkor Wat experience, aside from the thrill of traveling alone, was ultimate. The chance to see and be at the place where great history unfolded was poignant and exhilarating.
How to get there:
- International flights arrive at the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap International Airports. There are buses available from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, land travel takes about 6 hours.
- Back packers arrive either from Bangkok in Thailand or from Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam via land travel. BKK to S.R. takes about 6 hours while HCM to S.R. is about 12 hours.
- There are several bus companies that serves this route for a reasonable price. (My HCM to Siem Reap trip was only $24) While my S.R. to Bangkok trip was only $20.
- The buses are clean, air-conditioned and are obviously well-maintained.
Getting around the temples:
- The time-honored way to see the temples is on a tuk-tuk. For around $12 a day, the driver will take you to all the temples. (I paid mine $15 as I requested a tour around Siem Reap as well and we went as far as the Banteay Srei area).
- For groups of 4, this can be a budget way to travel. Sunrise or sunset trips can cost more.
- Motorbikes are another way to see the temples (foreigners are not allowed to rent these, so hiring a motor bike and a driver is your next bet.
- Starting at $1 a day, you may rent a bicycle. This is good if you have a three-day pass ($40) to the Angkor Wats.
- If you are with a group, you may also take an electric car capable of carrying 16 people.
- Rent a car can cost you about $20 a day and can take up to 4 passengers.
- Whatever you choose, make a plan, agree on prices in advance and avoid complications at the end of the day.
- It is a mortal sin not to charge your camera!
- Bring plenty of water especially during summer months. Keep hydrated.
- Try to rest in the middle of the day.
- Don’t exert yourself, the complex is way to big to see in just a day ($20), to enjoy it at a leisurely phase buy a 3-day pass.
- Take an umbrella for rain and sun.
- Dress respectfully especially at temples.
- Be polite to locals.
- Keep your valuables hidden and safe.
- Take a map.
- Don’t forget to have fun!
Watch out for my next blog about SIEM REAP ! I enjoyed this beautiful city as well. Thank you for reading my blog, I hope you enjoyed it.