Thursday, April 17, 2014

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the most popular tourist destination in Cambodia - it is the largest religious complex in the world! Almost all tourists who go to Siem Reap go there because of Angkor. It's beautiful at sunrise and at sunset, and we decided to get up very early one morning to experience the sunrise - along with a few hundred other tourists!

The drive from the town took about fifteen minutes by tuk tuk. Our tuk tuk driver agreed to take us around the whole day and give us a tour for a total of $15 USD, which is the standard rate, and quite worth it! The entire area, called the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park, is actually enormous, and there are several different temples which are not walking distance from each other. It probably would take a few days to explore the all the sites, but since we were short on time we opted for a one-day pass for $20 USD.

We arrived around 5AM, just as the sky was lightening up, and walked down a large promenade across a moat toward the main temple. 

People spread out onto the lawn and the ruins out by the front to settle down and watch the sun slowing rising. On either side of the main promenade were gorgeous temples, treasures in their own right!

There was a horse on the grounds, just calmly tearing up some grass from the lawn to eat.

Unfortunately the day was pretty cloudy, which meant that we did not get to see a spectacular sunrise. On the plus side, it meant that the weather was breezy and cool, which made for a much more pleasurable experience while exploring the temples! I was initially worried about the heat, because it is necessary to wear long sleeves and pants or a skirt while visiting the temple, but the temperature was absolutely perfect.

There are many amazing and intricate carvings around every corner of the structure. I was surprised to see how lax the security was around the temple. Even though there are rules about where visitors can't enter or climb, I saw some tourists blatantly breaking the regulations, climbing up blocked off and steep stairwells. Sometimes there would be signs stating "Do Not Enter" even though the pathway was an obvious entrance. It was quite strange!

I'm sure one could spend hours upon hours wandering around the massive structure and all its hallways, looking at the different statues and carvings. Everything told a story or was a symbol and had some religious or cultural importance. However, we only had one day to see everything, and there were several more temples to see. Therefore, overall we did a rather cursory walk through of Angkor Wat.

Can you imagine how many hours it took to carve these depictions of mythical and religious scenes? Some parts are shinier than others; this effect is due to visitors touching or rubbing certain parts for luck. 

At around 9AM we departed from Angkor Wat Temple to move on to other interesting sites in the archaeological park. It had already been such a long morning, almost 4 hours since we arrived, yet it was still so early in the day! We had some strong coffee to replenish our energy in a little row of restaurants beside the temple, before finding our tuk tuk driver and moving on. 

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