|The road to the Angkors in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.|
This was Mr. Kim San's reply after I remarked that all the Cambodians I've met so far were genuinely friendly and seem to be always smiling. It's been more than a year since my friend, Ces, and I went to Siem Reap Province, Cambodia and up to now, I still keep in touch with Kim San, our tour guide.
His father was one of the hundreds of thousands killed during the genocide which spanned from the 1960's to mid-1990's. And at age 12, Kim San was caught in a crossfire.
At one point, I stood silently and wondered how these temple cities, built during the Khmer empire, survived a very dark past. And then as I continued to explore the Angkor region, I understood how one can be drawn to these architectural treasures whose walls echo stories of war, grief, survival, and finally, a people healing itself.
The Angkor Wat
Arguably the most popular among the temples, the Angkor Wat is mesmerizing both in daylight and sunrise.
(See my photos of Angkor Wat during sunrise here.)
"It is the largest religious monument ever built, and it is the showpiece of Cambodia’s Khmer heritage. Rising 65 meters above the earth, Angkor Wat’s presence is majestic and awe-inspiring." (via www.siemreapcambodia.org)
|One of the entrances to the temple.|
|Hello there, my friend.|
Every pillar and every patch of wall inside the Angkor Wat is a work of art.
In the middle of the complex is the main temple. You have to queue before you go in and the lines are usually long.
TIP: VISITORS WEARING ABOVE-THE-KNEE SHORTS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED INSIDE THE MAIN TEMPLE. SO EITHER WEAR LONG SKIRTS AND PANTS OR BRING A COVER-UP FOR YOUR LEGS.
|The steep climb towards the entrance to the main temple.|
|Inside the main temple.|
You'll also come across monks in and around the temple.
The Angkor Thom
"Angkor derives from Sanskrit word: "Nagara" meaning "City or Town or Capital"; "Thom" means "Great" so Angkor Thom means "Great City"." (via www.aangkortourguide.com)
While the ones on the right are the demons.
|Grumpy much? Obviously, the ones frowning are the demons.|
At the center of Angkor Thom is the Bayon, the temple of the smiling gods.
|The smiling bodhisattva.|
"In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is either an enlightened (bodhi) existence (sattva) or an enlightenment-being"
And then there are the elephants.
|Terrace of the elephants.|
Ta Promh Temple
Of course, any trip to Siem Reap won't be complete without a visit to the Ta Promh Temple now also known as THE TOMB RAIDER TEMPLE. This is one of the filming locations for Lara Croft : Tomb Raider.
TRIVIA: THE LOCALS LOVED ANGELINA JOLIE SO MUCH THAT ONE OF THE PUBS, THE RED PIANO, NAMED A DRINK AFTER HER--THE TOMB RAIDER COCKTAIL.
|Giant trees. I love how the gigantic roots have crept over the temples, as though the ancient structures |
emerged from the trees.
|Looks familiar? Yes, this is the entrance Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) stormed through.|
Some areas were under construction during the time we visited. Much of the temple was destroyed after it was attacked by Thai soldiers decades ago.
|The Dancing Room.|
Aside from the filming locations, there are other wonders found inside the Ta Promh temple.
|The sun roof. There used to be diamonds in those little holes you see. So just imagine what it looked |
like when the sun shone through the "sun roof". It must've been magnificent. Too bad the gems were stolen.
|Headless buddhas. The heads, made of gold, were literally chopped off and stolen.|
The Pre Rup Temple
During our trip, I had my own Lara Croft moment. Though Angelina Jolie would've been ashamed if she saw me huffing and puffing on my way up the steep Pre Rup temple. LOL.
"Pre Rup’s ancient name is Rajendrabhadresvara – a paying of homage to its founding king. The name Pre Rup means “turning the body”, referring to Khmer cremation traditions." (via www.siemreapcambodia.org)
|The Pre Rup temple.|
|Huffing and puffing my way up the steep Pre Rup Temple. (Photo taken by Ces Natividad)|
|View from the top. Magnificent view! And for a moment there, I imagined I was queen and was looking down on my subjects and the |
vast land I owned... Hahaha!
|And then that's me fumbling my way down. Don't be fooled by the smile. I was seriously nervous as hell! (Photo taken by Ces Natividad)|
I remember while planning the trip, I was wondering if three days would be enough to explore Siem Reap. It was, actually. Had we stayed longer and visited more temples, we would've experienced temple fatigue. Besides, when you're inside one of the ancient structures, you'd definitely want to take your precious time drinking in all the beauty, history, and culture it resonates.
MR. KIM SAN
Angkor Cycle Tours & Travels