It’s another beautiful morning in Siem Reap, and a brand new day in my backpacking Cambodia trip.
I begin my day with the amazing breakfast, with one of the best-est fresh Pineapples I have ever had in million years. The buffet spread is pure joy and I can spend the whole day just eating, but I have to go. A breakfast of juicy tropical fruits – One of the definite pros of traveling in South East Asia.
Out on the road, I negotiate with a tuk-tuk driver, and quite expertly so. I fix him for less than half the price I paid the day before! I am getting better at this stuff very quickly. Part of the reason I could fix it at a measly price ($8 U.S.) was that the temples I plan to go are located very near to each other, as I covered the far flung ones the day before. Remember my strategy? (Also read: Siem Reap – The Smiling God)
For today, the top on my list is, drum rolls please… Angkor Wat. (FYI: I had three days in Siem Rea but it is quite possible to pack Angkor Wat in a day, in case you are on a very short visit.)
Surrounded by moat from all sides the huge temple makes for a perfect backdrop to witness a perfect Sunrise and Sunset. Fifty shades of purple splattered across the deep blue canvas.
It is a long walk in the hot sun, try to wear light, loose cotton clothes and pair it with shades and with footwear that are easy on your feet.
With cool coconut in my one hand and my mobile camera in the other, I walk in the temple grounds. A man chases me down in the hall, trying to sell me something. Oh, it’s the popular book on Ancient Angkor by Claude Jacques, gotta buy it! It baffles me how the locals are able to sell such perfectly minted new copy of the book at fraction of the price.
I feel as if I am home when I see the exquisite bas reliefs depicting the scenes from Mahabharata. Bhishma lying on the bed of arrows is still as vivid as the scene from the 90s TV show. Even the Gods have to walk on slippery slope to uphold the righteousness. Or maybe it was Bhishma who was the righteous one who dropped his weapon for Shikhandi?
‘Truth is neither black and white, nor it is gray. Truth doesn’t come in colors.’ Said the wise man… No, I just made it up… right here.
Walk further and you will reach the central courtyard, where you can climb up and visit the main area where the religious rituals used to take place. Here the dress code is enforced rather too strict which means you need to cover your legs (women?) and your arms, it is so for obvious religious reasons.
Though Ta Prohm is much smaller in size in comparison but not so much when it comes to intrigue. Ta Prohm is every photographer’s wet dream and you’d see dozens of photographer swarming everywhere with their bundle of professional equipment. The temple is in ruins having been completely consumed by the strangler fig trees, a case of nature running wild.
I make a quick visit to one more temple before I call it a day, I guess I am too saturated with too much of temple darshan in two days. My mom on the other hand would be very happy with my new found religious bend… 🙂
I seriously need to realign myself, and what better thing to do than to explore the night scene of Siem Reap. The Siem Reap Nightlife can’t exactly be described as, wait for it … legen…dary but it isn’t lame either. For me it means, I go and grab a Mexican pizza (really, is there such a thing? Yup only in Siem Reap!) with a cold one. And let me tell you it is one of the damn fine pizza I have had in my life. I really mean when I say it, and that includes having the pizza right where it originated (Italy, and not States, if you are still wondering).
I see children dancing on the street surrounded by a bunch of passers-by; I do not know under what is going on. Any idea anyone? It was a very disturbing sight, indeed.
The night market gets another +1 from me, the crowd is surprisingly thin but the shops are in full glory. I buy couple of tee shirts (including the cheesy, ‘my country my beer‘) at a really good bargain… or at-least that’s what I think so. I grab a orange juice despite my bad throat. The juicy is so tangy and with zero additives (not even water), something you can rarely get back here in India.
I could hear the chant and the bells ring as I turn from side to side on my bed. Angkor, Angkor, the ancient city is alive again. The tourists are the bees which will take seeds of the civilization to far corners, recreating the great civilization which once Angkor was…
Lovely write up. The temple run in Siem Reap is a feast for the senses, every photographer’s treasure house and a stress to the legs! Plus seeing the legends of Mahabharata makes us Indians feel even more connected.
So true! Have to return soon to explore further this magnificent place…
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Very nicely written post.. Loved reading it..
Thanks for the word, have you visited the place yet ?
I love Angkor Wat! No matter how touristy it is, it’s still a place that’s fascinating.
Do you too have a post on this ? I’d love to read it!
Brilliant pictures…so well written too…Hope to visit Cambodia someday 🙂
Thanks Joses you loved my adventure… I too intend to go back soon … Who knows I will see you there!
Great post. The temple is on my bucket list and I am going to visit soon 🙂 Thanks for sharing
Yeah Manu, I’d be glad to help if you need any tip for your maiden tour. 🙂
What an incredible day! I can feel your joy and your thrill at the experience and beauty of Angkor Wat. I love that some of the reliefs have the Indian connection, or at least, they have something in common with some of the carvings to be found in India. Wonderful photos too.
Thanks for your insight Kavita, Every Indian should visit Cambodia once to see our own culture as a foreigner.
What a fabulous adventure, and to somewhere which I’ve read lots about and so want to visit one day. Cambodia is on my bucket list. Brilliant photos too.
Yeah Jo, It’s a wonderful country to visit and Angkor Wat is just fraction of what it has to offer. There are still lot of ruins for which you have to go deep in Cambodia.
I love strangler figs, but I haven’t seen them growing on or around buildings before – amazing how destructive they can be AND how large they grow. Although it does seem to tie in quite well with the slow process of decay of this amazing historic site!
Yes, it’s an incredible feeling to be there, and if you are really lucky to have no one around …. well..
Reading this, I am transported back to my days , no months in Siem Reap… This is a place I would not mind going again.
I remember also that we were comparing with our version when he was explaining Mahabharata and Ramayana bas relief 🙂 But of course his version was handed down to him for ages and he believes in them.
Great write-up! Angkor Wat looks incredible, and your photos really make me want to head there now! Thank you for sharing 🙂
Thanks Meagan, great that I could get you inspired. Temples of Angkor Wat are really a fun place to explore.
Hey Vidyut! So excited you got to explore Siem Reap. I loved my temple exploration time here. I found the temples really far out were my favourite though! Nonetheless, Angkor Wat has to be seen and Ta Prohm is totally awesome 🙂 Great photos. Glad you had a lovely experience.
So true Alice, Once you get past through the main temples there are so many far-off, hidden temples to explore in Siem Reap.
This is actually the first post on Angkor Wat I have read, which mentions bas reliefs depicting scenes from Mahabharata. Though I have always been fascinated by this destination , my curiosity is piqued even more now.
Yeah, Punita. I too was completed surprised to see those bas reliefs and to hear guides in Japanese tell their group the stories from our great Epic.
This brought back many memories of my time in Angkor Wat in 2009, and I see my favorite temple (the one with the tree in it) is still looking great! It was interesting to read this from your perspective, as a traveler from India, especially the line, “I feel as if I am home when I see the exquisite bas reliefs depicting the scenes from Mahabharata.” Each person brings their own connections to the places they visit!
Lillie, Mahabharata is the biggest Hindu Epic, so it feels natural to be overwhelmed to see it referenced in such a place. Hope you’d visit again soon, there are so many more temples to explore once you get the main temples out of your list…