Sunrise at Ankor Wat
Rikh picked me up at 4:30, and apologized for being a bit late. We had to hurry to Angkor
Wat, to witness the sun rise just behind the majestic structure. It was getting crowded already, photographers lined the pond area with their tripods, all ready to capture the first light. As we all watched the sun rise, i felt a sense of amazement as the spires silhouetted through. I have never been fond of the sunrise as i have been with sunsets but this one was truly astounding. As soon as the crowd started to disperse, Rikh and I headed to Bantaey Srei, which was 20km away. We passed through several temples but decided to head straight to the intricately carved temple to avoid the crowd of tourists arriving from 8am onwards.
We arrived just before 7:30, and I was the first one there. As usual shops and mini restos lined outside the temple entrance. Banteay Srei literally means 'The Citadel of Women", it is called such likely because of the intricate carvings found here. Historians believe that the carvings here couldn't have possibly be done by a man but rather by women because of the detail and intricacy. Unlike the major sites of Angkor, Banteay Srei wasnt a royal temple but rather, built by one of the kings counselors. This temple small as it may be, continues to surprise visitors because it clearly showcases the grandeur of Khmer Art. At 8:30, we headed out to Ta Prohm
, and on our way stopped at several temples including Ta Keo, the giant temple mountain built entirely of sandstone.
My best Lara Croft wannabe shot.
We arrived Ta Prohm just before noon and I entered through the east gopura entrance, where i was greeted by a playing band, all land mine victims playing classic Cambodian songs with their native instruments. The temple was discovered by French explorers in the 19th century, and has since then been left in its "natural state" to show the modern world how most of Ankor would've looked on its discovery. Unlike any other temple in the complex, Ta Prohm had a different appeal, more romantic in a way, partly overgrown, at the same time gradually declining in state. Cotton trees have grown intertwined with the ruins, both acting as support for the crumbling ruins and as agents of destruction. Of course I didn't want to miss having my photo taken at the Lara Croft site where everyone seemed to be crowding, taking turns to have their shot with the famous root at Ta Prohm.
The Southern Gate to Ankor Thom
After a quick meal outside the temple walls, we drove to Angkor Thom.
Angkor Thom is one of the largest among the Khmer cities and remained to be the capital until the 17th century. We passed though the North gate, not as spectacular as the South Gate which i realized later on, but it somewhat gave me an idea of what was in store. An avenue of mostly headless statues lined both sides of the street, each row carrying the body of a serpent. It was almost 2pm, and despite being under direct sunlight, i endlessly shot photos of the also intricately carved Lepper and elephant terraces. The long terrace looked out over the Royal square and was the foundation for royal receptions. The Bapuon, was being restored too, so i didn't bother to look inside and went ahead for the Bayon.
The Bayon Facade
Ahhh, the Bayon was truly enigmatic. A total of 37 face towers still stand today, (there's some dispute till now as to how many, although they say there were really 49) mostly carved with 4 faces and some 3 or 2. The towers also differed in height but created the impression that it rose towards the center. The chambers were comparable to that of a maze, and I had gotten confused with taking photos of each of the faces as some were smiling, some were not.
We made our exit through the beautiful South gate, the most extensively restored among the 5 gates of Angkor Thom and headed back to Angkor Wat where I spent the next few hours before heading back to the hostel.
Overall, the experience of having visited Angkor was truly overwhelming. It's something that any visitor will never forget in their lifetime.
Siem Reap Sights & Attractions review
Ta Prohm -- Surviving among the trees
One of the must see temples in the Ankor Complex is Ta Prohm. Most would remember this temple monastery because of its association to the 'Lara Croft … read entire review
Siem Reap Sights & Attractions review
A temple worth visiting
Not more than 20 kilometers north of Ankor, sits Banteay Srei. The name means 'The Citadel of Women" most likely because of the intricate carvings. Hi… read entire review