Temples Hopping: Bayon and Phnom Bakheng

Temples Hopping: Bayon and Phnom Bakheng

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Temples Hopping: Angkor Archaeological Park

Bayon Temple

Tuk-tuk took us to the next destination: Bayon Temple. This amazingly huge temple has 216 massive stone faces of Jayavarman (and/or Budha himself) carved on its 54 stupas (towers). Two hundred and sixteen huge faces of the King. Two hundred and sixteen.. *looping*

Bayon temple entrance. See those faces?
Faces on Bayon Temple

Chichi told me that his face reminded her to the Engineer’s face from the Prometheus movie (which I haven’t watched yet). Writing this article reminds me to find and watch the movie soon.

Bayon was the last temple to be built at Angkor. Its outer walls and outer gallery features series of historical life of Angkorian Khmer. We had not much time left since we wanted to watch the sunset at Phnom Bakheng and its location is quite far from Bayon. So, I didn’t have enough time to explore Bayon Temple that left a question inside whether Angkorian people loved their king so much as they carved his peaceful face in that enormous size.

Phnom Bakheng

We headed to Phnom Bakheng which was promoted by the tuk-tuk driver as the best place to watch sunset in Siem Reap. Well, one thing I learn from traveling to many places is that sunrise or sunset (since it can be found anywhere), looks beautiful depends on your current feeling and also with whom you enjoy it.

The tuk-tuk stopped on a field where  full of people looked like in a hurry going to one direction. There were women and children selling Cambodian souvenirs as well. I spotted some beautiful silk scarfs and History of Angkor Wat book. I wanted to stop and started to bargain but the fact that we’re in a hurry chasing the sunset prevent me to do that. There was a sunset view I had to catch.

Apparently, Phnom Bakheng is located on top of a hill. It took us climbing around 30 minutes to reach the top. I’d suggest you to leave you heels or wedges at hotel if you ever want to climb the hill. Wear casual/sport shoes so you could walk comfortably as it requires you to do some hiking activity. You’ll need a strong determination in order to reach the top since it’s quite *hosh* far and *hosh* steep… Don’t forget to *hosh* bring some mineral water as you won’t find any food stalls up there. You don’t wanna get yourself dehidrated in your adventure finding the most beautiful sunset in SR, do you? 😉

There was a long queue in front of the Phnom Bakheng Temple. Gosh, I finally made it to the top of the hill and I still have to queue just to enter the temple? Oh don’t forget that you’ll have to climb the temple wooden stairs after that. After resting our feet for a few minutes, we joined the long queue. Yeah, there’s no point of climbing the hill if we suddenly gave up to the queue, right? We were so lucky we came earlier as they won’t allow visitors to climb Phnom Bakheng temple after 05.30 PM. I could only assume it has something to do with the ongoing restoration.

Long queue to enter Phnom Bakheng temple

Ancient stones and me

 

Well, there were so many tourist on top of the temple. There was also a bunch of Buddhist monks posed for tourist who wanted to take their pic. I walked around and can’t find any better place to watch the sunrise as the place was full of people. So the funny thing was that I started to taking picture of people trying to take picture of the sunset. If only I were 10 cm taller, I wouldn’t be that cranky, I think. Hahaha!

It was a bit cloudy. I only hoped that our effort to get ourselves there was worth it. I hoped that there wouldn’t rain as none of us (the bloggers group) brought umbrella with us. When the cloud moved slowly, it left us a magnificent view of the sunset right above Siem Reap. I almost forgot on how the climbing thing made my feet pain and how it got me sweaty. The sunset was beautiful.

It was worth it. Totally worth it.

Sunset at Phnom Bakheng

 

Temples Hopping: Angkor Archaeological Park

Temples Hopping: Angkor Archaeological Park

As part of BlogFest Asia 2012 program, we got a chance to visit one of three main tourism destinations in Siem Reap: the Floating Village, Angkor Archaeological Park and Siem Reap town. This optional trip was provided by BlogFest Asia committee for those who wanted to submit entry for blog competition.

It was obvious which option I chose at the first place: Angkor Wat and surrounding areas. Coming to Siem Reap without visiting Angkor Wat is like coming to Mecca without visiting Kaaba. Or coming to NYC without taking picture of yourself with the Statue of Liberty in the background. Doesn’t mean that the other places aren’t interesting for me, but it’s Angkor Wat and all I knew was I have to go there someday. It was on my bucket list for so long.

Beside that, I always adore ancient buildings like temples. The huge size of Angkor Wat makes it even more amazing and adorable. I wonder how did the Khmer people build those magnificent mega-structures without using modern technology like our people use nowadays.

Anyhoo, it was Friday morning after program briefing at the Build Bright University (BBU) when most of us gathered waiting for the trip arrangement. I shared the first tuk-tuk with Chichi and two Burmese bloggers. BlogFest Asia Commitee arranged one-day rent of tuk-tuk for us, its cost was around $15.

In front of Angkor Wat entrance
The Magnificent Angkor Wat Temple

 

Angkor Wat Temple

Our first destination was Angkor Wat, the most famous temple located in Angkor Archaeological Park. There’s a ticket booth where we were required to pay $20/person for One Day Pass. They printed visitors’ face on the ticket,  makes it a non-transferable ticket. Every time a visitor entering different temples, officer at the entrance will asks them to show the ticket. Smart idea.

As you may know, Angkor Wat –previously was a Hindu temple- was built as a representation of Mount Meru, a mythical sacred place for Hindu. Later, Jayavarman VII converted to Mahayana Buddha and then built some other temples (Bayon, Ta Prohm, Preah Khan) in Buddhist structures. Although it was neglected since the 16th century, Angkor Wat was never completely abandoned. Later, Angkor Wat moved to Theravada Buddhist use which continues to present day. We can find some Buddhist monks and visitors praying in various locations inside the temple, put some offerings as well as inviting visitors to pray too sometimes.

Every inches of Angkor Wat amazed me. It was started by looking at size of the baray (water reservoir) that was built around the Angkor Wat which has 8 x 2.3 km in size. Can’t imagine how did ancient Khmer people build such a super huge reservoir like that!

If you ever read or watched Ramayana and Mahabarata epic, you must be amazed by the bas relief carved at the left end of the temple. It’s depicting various scenes from battle of Ramayana war, battle of Mahabarata and some other scenes from Hindu epics.

Battle Scene on the Wall Relief

Chichi on the Central Tower Stairs

We also climbed up its central tower. Even though its height made me nervous at first –it’s a super tall tower-, somehow I made it to the top by stepping slowly on its stairs one by one, without ever removing my hands from the handrails even once. The view from the top was extremely beautiful, yet it was scary considering that you’d have to climb those steep stairs first.

Oh yeah, there’s also Angkor Balloon that serves tourists who want to watch sunrise above the Angkor Wat complex. I should’ve tried it on my last morning in Siem Reap, but I was too tired I couldn’t even wake up.

Ta Phrom Temple

The second temple we visited was Ta Phrom. The temple mostly got famous for its use as the Tomb Raider movie shooting location years ago. Apart from its history, the temple -that is now being restorated- has this exotic view with trees and roots surrounding and growing above the temple. It’s like the tree is eating the temple from outside with its giant roots. Exotic yet stunning combination between nature and human handiwork.

The restoration has been ongoing since 2010. Outside the temple, we can found ruins of its original structures. Wooden walkways has been erected to provide safer and more comfortable paths for visitors.

Root Outside the Ta Phrom (pic: @chicme)

 

Ta Phrom Temple

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Temples Hopping: Bayon and Phnom Bakheng