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Visiting The Infamous Siem Reap City

Well, right after we got weather beaten visiting the Temples, we marched right off for lunch in the city. And I was so looking forward to this (partly hungry, partly I wanted to try authentic Khmer food!).

We stopped by a local restaurant where we were ushered by Mony, pass the al-fresco seating area, into the air-con area (the dude read my mind!). We ordered the Fish Amok,a type of thick coconut & sauces dish served in a coconut shell, for myself, and the Chicken Satay (yeah, yeah, we know we can always get it in Malaysia, but hunger knows no boundaries!) for Irene.

I must tell you that I simply LOVE the Amok! And if you visit Cambodia, this must be one of your first and constant companion! The satay was huge, all meat without fat (than what we get in Malaysia!). We were too involved in our gastronomical affair that I forgot to pictures of these sumptuous meals!

And to make our lunch experience all the wholesome, we had the fine hospitality of Oliver (I guess he realized most tourists couldn’t pronounce his Khmer name, so he came up with an English one!).

Me & Oliver, our smiley waiter Me, Oliver and my sweat-drenched tee after my hearty meal..!

After lunch, Mony took us to the Artisans D’Angkor workshop area where they train underprivileged youngsters with artisan skills who would produce art works & souvenirs for sale at their outlets & grow to be professional artisans themselves. We were greeted by a guide who would take us through all the workshop areas for free. We first stopped at the Silkworm gallery where he explained how they harvest silk from silkworms & the many workshops over the district.

Silkworm gallery 

Then we checked out the silk-painting workshop where we saw how silk paintings were done and the works in progress.

Silk paintings in progress

Young Cambodian girl finishing up Silk painting workshop.. notice the large painting!

Next stop was at the wood engraving workshop.  The guide showed us what they used to give the engravings an authentic look.

The wood engraving workshop At the wood engraving workshop

We then went to the bronze moulding and engraving workshops. It’s incredible how they take a piece of bronze mould and shape it into elephants, pumpkins etc and then dipped into silver a few times.

Bronze moulding section

Bronze engraving section The Bronze moulding (above) & engraving workshop

Next, we stopped over at the wood carving section. Here the guide explained the type of woods they used determines the price for the artwork.

The Wood carving workshop At the wood carving workshop

Right after that and another wood carving section (for larger pieces), we were taken to visit the store where they sold their finished work. Artisans D’Angkor also have retail outlets.

Right after getting a small silver-plated oval box for Irene’s niece, we headed to the Old Market, or in Khmer, Phsar Chas. Mony took us to his uncle’s & sister’s shop. I think he might be have been happy for the turnabout events the lead us to the city instead of spending the whole day at the temples! We bought some souvenirs & even checked out the different parts of Phsar Chas, besides the souvenir shops, the wet market and the hawker stalls (tourists, don’t even venture there!).

DSCF0134 Entering one of the many entrances of the large Phsar Chas

DSCF0136 The wet market portion (rather dirty, so be prepared!) at Phsar Chas!

DSCF0137The sounvenir shops at Phsar Chas

Inside, thankfully, it wasn’t too hot, but still somewhat warm. So after checking out the Old Market, we insisted on buying Mony and Sokran, our driver, a drink at a cafe. So Mony took to The Blue Pumpkin Cafe, a rather nice, free wifi cafe.

After a hot day, a nice cool drink! Cooling out at The Blue Pumpkin Cafe

After an exhausting day, we were just too tired to eat out, so we just had to do with hotel food (which was good too)!

Coming up: Our long drive & day at Sisophon. (Trips to Cambodia always seem to be in long days!)



Getting Intimate With The Angkor Temples! Pt. 3

Right after Angkor Wat (and getting somewhat hot, sweaty & increasingly tired), we hopped into our car (after being approached by small girls selling postcards and guides & buying one set of postcards) and were driven to Angkor Thom.

Angkor Thom & Bayon Temple

Angkor Thom is a larger complex with smaller structures like the Bayon Temple, Elephant Terrace, smaller shrines & other ruins. We arrived at the main entrance where we could see statues lining up on either side of a bridge that led up to a Gate (I forgot which Gate this was due to mental fatigue!).

At the bridge entrance of Angkor Thom At Angkor Thom’s bridge entrance guarded by statues

We made our way to Bayon Temple, a much, much smaller temple dedicated to the King and Buddhism. Before entering, we needed to show our pass. After a go ahead, we walked along the path on the 1st Level and saw some amazing stone carvings.

Arriving at the Bayon Temple The ruins of the Bayon Temple

Walking along the 1st Level Walking along the ruins on the 1st Level

Stone carvings of battle Stone carvings of daily living Intricate stone carvings of battle with the Champhas (above) & of daily living (below)

We walked up to the 2nd Level and it was a pretty narrow chamber. After resting a while (to hear more stories of Bayon by Mony), we walked up the very steep stone staircase, one which I nearly slipped,  to the 3rd Level area.

Steep staircase to the 3rd LevelPath leading to wooden staircase to the 2nd Level

DSCF0109

On the 3rd Level, Mony’s suggested we climbed up to the 4th Level structure to have our pictures taken at the window and doors. Walking around the 2nd Level, we saw the many faces of the king. Of course, Mony being the expert guide, explained where the best shots were like the faces through the window shot.

At entrance on 4th Level

The 2 faces of the King The two faces of the King – I think there are about 200 faces all around.

After making a round of the 3rd Level area, we climbed into the 4th Level structure. Incredible stone architecture.

4th Level roof The roof of the 4th Level structure

Catching a breather! Getting some rest and our breath!

We then descended down the steep staircase and all the way to the level ground. Exciting, interesting and EXTREMELY hot and tiring. By now, my feet is all but normal and my little pinky toe getting a blister pain.

Leaving Bayon Temple After a tiring time walking up & down, it’s goodbye to Bayon!

With my toe acting up & both of us feeling rather all tired out, we walked (with whatever strength we could muster) towards the Elephants Terrace but not before we made arrangements to spend the other half of the day at the town instead of other temples.

The Elephant Terrace is a place where the King would seat & watch entertainment.

Steps up towards the Elephant Terrace The steps leading up to the Elephant Terrace. You can see the Elephant trunks!

The King's terrace The terrace where the King would sit & watch the entertainment

These small shrines don’t just serve as temples but as part of the tightrope acts. There would strings across these shrines where tightropes would walk across!

Tightrope shrines Shrines and tightropes do go together!

Next up: Visiting the infamous Siem Reap City



Getting Intimate With The Angkor Temples! Pt.2

Angkor Wat (Cont)

The Day Pass

And right before I forget, as you enter the temple area, you would be required to get a Pass into the temple area. There’s a Day Pass, 3 Day Pass and 1 Week Pass. We got the Day Pass which cost us $20 per person.

You would need to keep this pass in good condition or the official may not allow you to enter the temple area. So don’t keep this in your pocket as when it gets hot (and believe me, it does!), you will sweat literally like a pig & soak these paper passes up quick!

So picking up from we left off. On the 2nd Level, just outside the 3rd Level structure, you will find libraries.

Ruins of the Library on 2nd Level The old ruins of the library on the 2nd Level

And this is one of two on the 1st Level. These are places, where back in the day, the public is able to learn the hindu teachings which were written in Sanskrit (and if I remember correctly, were replaced with Buddhist teaching later on).

The library on the 1st Level The library on the 1st Level

The people had learn by the different levels of the library, starting from the ones on the 1st Level (I think they were 2). Only after completing the studies at both libraries, they can proceed to the ones on the 2nd Level. And these teachings are written on palm leaves.

Palm leaves writingsExample of writings on Palm leaves

We saw the 4 element cleansing pool where people will cleanse themselves according to their elements.

One of the 4 elements pool One of the 4 elements cleansing pool

It was really captivating observing the detailed work on the architecture. Everywhere you turn, you see masterpiece art work on stone and if you looked carefully, it was mostly symmetrical! This really is incredible!

Engravings on a pillar Detailed engravings on a pillar!

We made our way out of the complex through the 1st Level entrance to the path where the King enters from.

Taking it all in.. Catching a breather outside the North area of the complex

Right outside the complex, there were pools, that according to Mony, where people used to wash themselves in. But not these days, of course (if you could see the color!). By this time, there were lots of people coming in along these areas (from the North Gate).

The reflection of Angkor Wat Capturing the reflection of Angkor Wat at the pool

The North GateUs walking towards the North Gate

The growing crowdThe crowd getting into the temple 

As we walked past the North Gate, Mony pointed out to us the large number of bridal parties who were there to take pictures. Apparently, that week was supposed to be a good week to get married.

Bridal party A bridal party passing by a snake balustrade (you can see part of the head)

.. and another bridal party..

..and another! The different colorful bridal parties at the temple

We walked along the pathway with the snake body balustrade (the same that we saw at the South Entrance) and the moat that goes all around Angkor Wat (where there once crocodiles but not anymore), taking one last good look at this beautiful masterpiece of architecture & making our way to Angkor Thom to visit the Bayon Temple.

The large incredible moat The large moat that goes all around Angkor Wat

View from the front The view of the temple, moat and snake balustrade & farewell to Angkor Wat!

 

Next up - Angkor Thom & The Bayon Temple in Getting Intimate With The Angkor Temples! Pt. 3



Getting Intimate With The Angkor Temples! Pt. 1

We decided that we would visit the temples the following day (the day after we arrived) since we wanted to avoid the hot afternoon (I’ve read & heard that the weather was pretty hot). So that night, we booked the hotel’s tour services (car with driver + English tour guide) for the next day.

if you don’t mind a little inconvenience, you could save money by booking your own car (with driver) & getting a tour guide from the tourism office in town by yourself. This was some cost cutting advice from a driver (when we were having a drink one hot afternoon in Sisophon). The internet is readily available with lots of information on these services.

Angkor Wat

So, on Sunday, we started off at 8am. The driver & tour guide were already waiting for us. The guide, Mony, could speak English well enough. Since we were only planning a 1 day tour, Mony proposed to visit Angkor Wat first (the best well preserved temple of them all), then Angkor Thom and other smaller temples (opposite of the usual tour circuit), which suited us fine.

We were driven to the South Entrance of Angkor Wat where Mony assured us that not many tourist would be at. True enough, there were but only a few people with guides there. It was nice & quiet, without the throng of people about.

South Entrance of Angkor Wat The South Entrance of Angkor Wat from the outside

Angkor Wat is a structure that was initially built in the 12th century as a temple to the Hindu God Vishnu by the King Suryavarman II.  It was later converted as a Buddhist temple by King Srindravarman in the late 13 century.

Walls made of Lava stones Walls along the gate entrances made of Lava stones

Facing South Entrance from inside Me & Irene facing the South Entrance from inside

After walking through the South Entrance, we had to walk on a paved road (only done a few years back) towards the main structure of Angkor Wat.

The long road ahead The road to the main structure of Angkor Wat

The main building of Angkor Wat The splendid architecture of Angkor Wat!

At the end of the road, we saw the awesome main structure of Angkor Wat. Surrounding the main architecture was courtyard wall with a balustrade in the form of snake bodies surrounding the area. The heads were all broken over the years, but you could still see some resemblance.

Entering the 1st Level grounds, we walked past the restoration being done on a section of the 2nd Level by the French team, and walked up to the 2nd level. The natural stone steps were replaced with wooden steps due to degradation.

Going up to the 2nd Level Mony leading us up along the wooden staircase to the 2nd level

From inside the 2nd level chamber Peering through the window of the 2nd Level chamber

The 2nd Level is a chamber surrounding the 3rd Level grounds. Along part of the chamber, we saw some small old Buddha statues, some without hands or heads. One was a complete new statue commissioned by the Government.

Grounds at 3rd Level  Corner pillar & chamber of 2nd Level & grounds surrounding the 3rd Level structure

The third level is the central temple area where the staircases are made steep, suppose to illustrate the difficulty in meeting their gods. However, the staircase for the King is made less steep as he supposed to be a demi-god (or just the fact that he’s king, and that’s that!).

The 3rd Level Main Temple The incredible size of the 3rd Level main temple

 

Coming up next – More of Angkor Wat in Getting Intimate With The Angkor Temples! Pt.2