Thursday, May 19, 2016

Trip to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia (April 2016)

Angkor Wat reflected on the water... 
Angkor Wat is one of the items in my bucket list. So the visa run from Thailand to stay longer than 30 days was a golden opportunity to cross out this item. This UN heritage site is a famous place for many people who want to experience old temples for Hinduism as well as Buddhism.

Siem Reap was the center of the Khmer Empire. Also, it has many sand stones in the area. Thus, the Khmer people built many temples in the region.

Among others, we chose to visit three temples: Angkor Wat, Ankor Thom and Ta Prom.

Angkor Wat is the representative of all temples in the region and is a special site. It was a Hindu temple but was later converted to a Buddhist temple. Buddhists are readily accepting Hinduism because Buddhism was originated from Hinduism. There were inscribed pictures of the old legends on the walls of the buildings throughout Angkor Wat.

The Khmer new year follows the Buddhism calendar, starting some time in April. This time of the year is also one of the hottest months of the year. Despite the heat, hovering between 106-108 degree in Fahrenheit (40-41 Celsius), there were a lot of tourists, largely locals still celebrating the Khmer new year.

Ankor Thom was a city occupied by noble people surrounding the King's palace. This palace was built here because Siem Reap was located at the center of the Khmer Empire. Jayavarman was the most famous and respected kings.

At the center of Ankor Thom was the state temple, called Bayon. It used to have 54 towers representing 54 provinces at that time. Now only 39 towers are left. Each tower has four faces of Buddhas overlooking people who worship him. The walls had many common life stories, such as fishing, crocodiles, cock fights, cooking pigs and fish, harvesting crops, wars, human life. Quite interesting... only if we had more time and if the temperature was a little cooler.

Ta Prom was the most interesting of all. It became famous when the movie Tomb Raiders was filmed here. This temple was built by King Jayavarman VII, dedicated to his mother, referred to as the goddess of wisdom. This temple was abandoned for 400 years, excavated in the 19th century. So Spung trees grew over the temple and their roots cover many parts of the temple. Thus, Ta Prom is also called the Jungle Temple. A large part of the temple has collapsed, but still a lot of temple buildings coexist with the tree roots.. Since it is a Hindu temple, the restoration project is sponsored and by the Indian government.

We went to a local restaurant to have dinner and to watch Khmer cultural dancing. But, the cultural dancing was with minimal motions, thus making us bored, although their outfits were quite bright and colorful.

The Khmer version of the Tuk Tuks was a little different from what I knew. Their version represented a combination of motor cycles and passenger carts, connected through a trailer linkage. With the trailer detached, people can ride the motor cycles separately. During the day time, we could find many TukTuk drivers taking a nap in a hammock inside their TukTuks.

We hired a car and we appreciated the air conditioned car so much while we were transferring from temple to temple. Yikes! It was far too hot..

We missed the sunrise and sunset, but the heat preemptively made us decide not to go.

There were two North Korean restaurants. They serve North Korean meals and offer their entertainment performances. It has been reported that diplomatic offices of North Korea had a mandate to earn FX to finance their operating expenses, hence operating these restaurants. We missed the opportunity to experience the North Korean meals and entertainment performances..

The highlight of the tour was obviously Ankor Wat, but the second highlight was staying at a 5 star hotel with excellent food and lodging without the 5-star cost. Their food and service were impressively good.

Overall, the trip to Angkor Wat was short but sweet. - Jeffrey

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