AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Siem Reap: Day 3

This was to be our best day around the Angkor temples. We had deliberately left Angkor Wat to the final day on the recommendation that if you see the best first everything else would be a bit dull and not as impressive. We had also booked a tour so we had a guide for the day. Even better the tour was limited to no more than 8 people and included lunch. The tour was at the top end of the budget but worth it to be in a small group been taken around the fantastic site of Angkor Wat.

The day started with the tuk-tuk arriving at our hotel at 7:45am. The tour guide was riding with us and we were to meet the rest of the group by the temples (they had been at Angkor Wat for sunrise). Our guide was telling us about the upcoming protests planned in Phnom Penh as workers demand a salary with covers basic living costs. In Cambodia the cost of living is very high compared with the local average salary, it may seem cheap to us but we earn over ten times the average salary of most Cambodians. Update: As I write this a week later the protests have taken place and the military police opened fire with live rounds on the protesters killing a number of them.

Our first destination was Ta Prohm, colloquially known as “Tomb Raider Temple” because this was the location for filming the first tomb raider movie. Our guide described it as the baby of the temples because it is one of the newer temples in Angkor, built around the beginning of the 13th century.

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We then headed towards Angkor Thom, which took us through Victory Gate.

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Angkor Thom was the final and largest city of the Khmer empire. At its centre is the temple of Bayon. Our guide led us around the temple telling us about how, when and why it was built and also giving interesting information on Buddhist and Hindu beliefs and explaining the poses of the statues. He knew the stories behind most of the wall carvings and suddenly what we were looking at made sense and seemed real. We were looking at stories about battles, we could see who won and who lost. We could see which tribes and peoples from across Asia were involved in the battles and we could even see their fashions and weapons. The guide was certainly giving us our money’s worth…

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After Bayon we walked over the road to the temple of Baphuon. We had already been in here on our first day around the temples but the temple is very high and has steep steps up and down, and I can’t resist climbing up things. The tour guide stayed at the bottom and would meet us in the shade whilst we climbed the near vertical steps to the top. The temple is large but apart from the structure itself there is nothing remaining, almost no wall decorations or carvings. But as I said, this temple is for climbing rather than wandering and looking at stuff.

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We then drove off to a secluded site for lunch. The location was little more than a large table with chairs under a wooden roof. Lunch was already cooked and was kept warm in the back of the van. It consisted of three parts, rice and two different curries. They tasted really nice, probably the best tasting food we had in Cambodia.

After lunch it was time to visit Angkor Wat. We had been building to this for three days and we were quite excited as we walked up the path towards the towering temple. It was here where our guide really showed his knowledge. When he was younger he’d been a stone mason, carving sculptures. He was able to look at the stone figures and deduce things about the masons who had worked on the carvings at Angkor Wat. He could tell their age, frame of mind, could see where people had worked in groups and could see where the same mason had worked on different sections. His knowledge and passion really brought these sculptures  to life and we could start to understand the people who built these huge magnificent buildings. We spent a couple of hours wandering around Angkor Wat and the guide talked for almost the whole time. He told us this was unusual and sometimes he hardly says anything depending on the group, but he really liked our group and this made him talkative and willing to explain things in far more detail and also talk about things, such as the carving and religious aspects which he usually skips over. In summary the tour guide was great and it made the day so much better.

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Steep Steps

There are a lot of photos from this day and they can all be seen on Flickr.
Ta Promh here
Victory Gate here
Bayon Temple here
Angkor Wat here

Posted from Siem Reap, Cambodia.

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