The temples of Siem Reap

The road to the Angkors in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.
"We've been in war for years.  We're tired of hatred.  We just want to be happy."

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)


It took us more than 15 minutes to walk from the gates to the temple interiors what with every spot within the compound a photo opportunity.

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.


The dancing Apsaras, ancient Khmer dancing goddesses.  Our other tour guide, Mr. Vanith, was very 
adamant  that we take a closer look at these three images. He said if we noticed, the chest parts are clean 
as compared to the rest of the bodies which were covered by a thick layer of dust.  When we asked 
why, I was expecting some historical reference as an answer.  But apparently, tourists just like touching 
the boobies of these images hence ridding them of dust.  Harharhar.


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)

Upon entering the temple complex, you will notice statues lined up on both sides of the path leading to the entrance.  According to Mr. Vanith, the ones on the left are the "good" ones.



While the ones on the right are the demons.

Grumpy much?  Obviously, the ones frowning are the demons. 
The moat.

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
Mobile: (+855)12448456
E-Mail: sourtkimsan@yahoo.com
http://www.angkor-guides.com
http://www.angkorcycle.com

Comments

  1. Love, love, love your photos. :) -Mike

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  2. Beautiful photos!

    Cambodia is still part of my todo travel list. Hope to visit there soon enough. =)

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    Replies
    1. You should! I'm sure you'll enjoy taking pictures. Every structure in the Angkor region is a wonderful subject :)

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  3. Wonderful blogpost, Koryn! I will definitely bring Heaven there! I want her to marvel at each awesome place you blogged. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Mer! You'll both enjoy it :) Great way to teach heaven about culture and history!

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  4. Wow! Jawdropping photos. Can't stop staring at these photos. Hard to pick my favorites. Masterpiece!!!

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    Replies
    1. Siem Reap's a haven for photographers. You should go there, super worth it! :)

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  5. What an incredible and beautiful place. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Oh wow! This is such a great post and your photos are amazing! :)

    Just followed you on GFC. Hope to get a follow back. :) Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for dropping by! It's impossible to take bad photos in Siem Reap :)

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  7. amazing! it's like you stepped into a work of art! even with the gold and precious stones gone, it's still a beautiful sight.

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    Replies
    1. "it's like you stepped into a work of art!" --> Hi Bon! This is the perfect description of the Angkor Region!

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  8. wowww-what a fabulous tour, thanks so much-I felt like being there myself! Angkor Wat+co is on my list for Asia-travel:-)happy sunday from me...
    ->I have also just answered your question on my blog in details: I do uw-photography with CanonG12 and a flash;

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  9. Dahil dito, mas naengganyo na akong maghanap ng paraan para pumuslit to Cambodia. Haha. Kainis ang travel blogs mo, mare. Tempting the busy mind. :p

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  10. Thanks for sharing these great pictures Koryn,
    you have made a lot of good photo's.
    it's a pleasure to visit your blog.

    Hugs, Joop

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  11. koryn, your such a blessing for ur wonderful insights and relevant info, Ako, hirap to do itineray and usually leave it to my travel companions but tru ur blog, ehem madali na!!!well just follow your travel footsteps...im a fan of your blog already!

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