Cambodia is known for its lost and ancient city – Angkor Wat, I was all in my senses to take the trip after watching a documentary about its construction. I’ve seen two ancient cities in Thailand; Ayutthaya and Sukothai. Although the structures of the Thai temples have similarities with the Cambodian version, the construction of Angkor looks extraordinary in the documentary.
I couldn’t really picture much of what Angkor really is, from the stories of people who have been there, the photos, the articles, and the documentary, unless I get there and explore it myself.
So I gathered my courage to take solo travel and took the bus from my workplace in Thailand. The fare is $27.00 from Bangkok to Siem Reap, which is quite affordable for my salary. I checked in at Angkor Guest House, which costs only $7.00 per night. There I met a fellow solo traveler from Mexico and we shared the fare for the Toktok, a popular motorbike-pulled carriage, for the next three days visiting Cambodia’s amazing temples and tourist sites. Rent for the toktok is $25.00 a day.
In spite of it being portrayed as a lost City around the world, it was never lost to the Cambodians. Angkor Wat has always been and still is a pilgrimage for Buddhist monks.
From the time of its introduction to the western world in 1860 by French Explorer Henri Mohout , these awe-inspiring ruins of a City have fascinated millions. The mystery of its presence and what happened to its people continue to puzzle researchers and scholars.
Angkor Wat means Capital Temple or Temple City and is the largest religious monument in the world. Being the largest and the most popular, Angkor Wat is the most visited tourist destination in Cambodia. Being a place of worship, women are required to wear modest clothing in order to enter the main temple where the highest tower is located. I was thankful to have read the guidelines beforehand, therefore, I was able to visit the tower. Looking down from the highest tower of Angkor Wat, all I can feel was admiration for the ancient builders. The whispers of the wind echo the prayers of thousands of monks who once lived in this city.
The ancientness of this temple is truly grandiose where the past has a powerful presence. But Angkor Wat is not the only temple in the area, there are three others that are as impressive. Each of these temples has a unique trait that is not present in the others. There are similar markings or engravings but their overall appearances are distinctive from each other.
Angkor Wat alone is worth the visit but the other temples are must-sees. What I like the most is Ta Prohm where the redwood trees embraced the facades, their roots slowly taking back part of this man-made temple. These trees are the silent witnesses to the transformation of this ancient civilization: the fate of its ancient people and the return of modern civilization. Ta Prohm is also known as the tomb raider temple, the site of the movie Tombraider by Angelina Jolie.
The other temple is located in the ancient city of Angkor Thom, which literally means “Great City”. Bayon’s unique features are the presence of the face of the ancient ruler King Jayavarman VII, the 12th-century ruler who established the City and this place of worship. Unlike the lotus-like towers in the Angkor Wat, Bayon has the face of Jayavarman on all sides of its towers. There are pockets and prayer rooms in the temple where monks use for meditation.
Another unique temple is Banteay Srei, a beautiful 10th-century Hindu temple complex about 23 miles north of Angkor Wat. It’s the farthest located in the outskirt of Siemreap but it’s definitely worth the visit.
I was thoroughly attracted to the hand works of the ancient Khmer people, shaping heavy stones from the mountains and ferrying them to the site with ancient tools, piling them up to make the walls, facades, stairs, and towers. The craftily engraved soldiers, workmen, gods, and Khmer people’s everyday life during the Angkorian Era decorated these stones.
Photos look awesome but nothing compares to being there. It’s got to be my most uhmazingly-crazy travel of a lifetime. Eishil Albon