Saturday, April 21, 2012

Siem Reap: Temple Run...Game on!

With a puzzled look my friend asked "What are you going to do and see in Siem Reap?" minutes after I booked my flight. And with a cheeky grin, I replied "Angkor Wat"
I never had a firm grasp on what to expect in Siem Reap, all I know when I hit the Purchase button on the screen is that I wanted to see Angkor Wat.
Visiting Siem Reap is a literal Temple Run which is a far cry from the famous iPhone game. Days will be spent exploring the Angkor complex which houses numerous temples constructed during the Khmer empire and Angkor Wat is just one of the many temples. From start until the end of the tour, it will be all about the temples

First stop for our temple run is Angkor Thom, we started in one of the gates which is crowned with 4 faces. The carving of the faces are very intricate and defined, it looks quite life like as if they are stone guards that will wake up and crush you into bits when you dare to enter the gates. Moving inside the temple, there are numerous wall carvings of women in traditional garb and with fingers curled back with the fingertips almost touching the back of the palms. These women dancers were actually called Apsara which are supernatural females skilled in the art of dancing. Even if it has been subjected to the elements, the craftmanship that went into the wall carvings is still evident

Right after lunch, we headed into (yes, you guessed that right) another temple made popular by the Hollywood film - Tomb Raider. Walking amongst the ruin gives vision of a young Angelina Jolie in black tank top and shorts, running,jumping and somersaulting amidst huge stones and gigantic trees. This temple is actually called Ta Prohm, the uniqueness of this temple are the huge or (for lack of a better word to describe it) humongous trees that shot right through the stone foundation of the temple causing great damage. There are tree branches that are as huge as python snakes curled around the stone walls as if in an eternal embrace. Most of the temples here are left to ruins already which is actually it's uniqueness from the rest of the temples in the complex. The area is quite huge and you would spend some time exploring the whole place plus the fact that you have to stop every now and then for photo-op sessions.

When the late afternoon came and with two huge temples explored, tiredness is slowly creeping in from all the walking, climbing, grappling on stones coupled with the intense heat of the sun. It was very anti-climactic when we reached Angkor Wat, we just wanted to sit down, drink water and rest for a while. But our guide is persistent, he lead us through the bridge called Rainbow bridge that spans the moat that circles Angkor Wat. We continued to walk and take pictures even if our legs are already screaming from a whole afternoon of walking and standing. We might have looked beat and weary because our guide lead us to a small ruin which is actually the old temple library of Angkor Wat to rest for a while. With the shade and cooling air, we rested before continuing into Angkor Wat. It is advised to visit Angkor Wat,in the late afternoon where there is no backlight that obscures the view. With the afternoon sun's less harsh light, you will be able appreciate more the beauty of its shape, size and architecture. The best spot to photograph it is in front of the small pond, that will reflect the outline of the temple.Inside the temple are another numerous relief carvings that actually tells a story.There are also several pools inside the temple but today there is no water inside it anymore to avoid dengue

Our second day of Temple Run started at the break of dawn as we made our way to catch the sunrise in Srah Srang which is the less crowded option to wait for the sunrise compared to Angkor Wat. It was drizzling that morning but we still continue on to do the sunrise watching thinking that the morning mist will add to the beauty of it. But with an overcast sky, project: oplan Angkor Sunrise is sad to say an epic fail.There was only a sliver of orange light as the sun breaks into the horizon. 

Sleep deprived and dissapointed with our sunrise experience, we dozed during the 45 minutes ride to Banteay Srey. This temple looks like it's made of clay and mud because the stone are reddish brown in color mixed with the deep green of the molds that grow in the crevices. One of the most interesting part of this temple are very deep carvings made into the walls and doors. Another example of exquisite details and craftmanship that illustrates the creativity, brilliance and hardwork in creating these bas reliefs. 

Our last stop before heading to lunch and afternoon siesta, is the East Mebon temple with its high staircase and five towers. There is nothing really different and unique about this temple but with the blue sky and beautiful ruins, one cannot help but take pictures. There is also a quick stop into one of the temples that was used as a funeral place together with a cremation room. We were informed that up until now some of the ashes of the departed are actually mixed with coconut juice and drank by the departed's family to serve as a remembrance of the person who has gone ahead. 

We headed out again at 3:30 pm to catch the sunset in our last temple - Phnom Bakheng.Phnom Bakheng is situated in a hill area, there is a 15 minute easy hike to the entrance of the temple then up a flight of stairs. This temple is quite popular for sunset with it's vantage point of the Angkor complex. You will see here the towers of Angkor Wat surrounded by trees as well as a view of Tonle Sap Lake.This temple closes at 5:30 pm it is suggested to come here a bit early to avoid the line to go up and to be able to find a good spot before the crowds come in. 

After 2 days, 1 new hat, countless bottled water and sun burnt skin - it was Game Over for our Temple Run.


Post a Comment