Published: November 26th 2010November 18th 2010
Tiny, nearly-eroded steps. No railings. But the temples of Preah Rup beckon. It cut an impressive image, especially after meandering around Sraa Srang and Prasat Kravan
a few meters away. Now I know the Sraa Srang pool was meant to calm our senses and prepare us for the crawl up and down the temples of monumental Preah Rup.
The temple mountain is 3 levels high, and the top level has a central temple and 4 more around it at each corner. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. With "divine inspiration", I set out to climb the steps. Some in our group opted to sit it out. Climbing up, I had a sense the worse part would be going down. Without railings, it would seem like a piece of cake climbing up. Never mind that some of us had to literally crawl up. But going down reminds one of the height as one is forced to look down and work against the laws of gravity. The narrow steps absolutely don't help.
Frankly, I thought the people then had small feet. Or maybe, they are accustomed to climbing up sideways. Sounds silly, I know. Our
very competent English-speaking Tour Guide Vanaak (pronounced WA NAK) promptly explained that the tiny steps were meant to make people to crawl up .... on fours, yes. And to go down in the same way, that is, without letting their asses face the temples. Yes, Virginia. The Temple Gods do not appreciate your butts. Never ever turn your back on them. And "climb down" the same way you climbed up is the rule. On fours. Otherwise, the temple gods will haunt you ;-)
That was exactly what we did. Without looking from side to side, I hurried myself climbing up lest I change my mind. The view from the top was awesome. At this point, I can hardly wait to go to Angkor Thom to check out Bayon and the terraces, Angkor Wat and Ta Phrom which we have scheduled for tomorrow. This is a good rehearsal, I thought. But it would be wrong to think that these less famous temples are lesser in grandeur and significance.
Another temple we visited -Preah Khan
- is a sprawling former Buddhist monastery with many vaulted corridors. It is huge, offering many photo opportunities. Hard to
tell coming in through one gate and out the other, as both entrance and exit almost look alike . Same bridge over the same moat, same rows of gods and demons lining the bridge holding the same stone multi-headed serpents called naga
. Who could tell? I swear the lotus lilies (or were they water hyacinths?) are arranged in the pools nearly the same way!
It is easy to experience temple overload in Siem Reap. I have no regrets we decided to spend 6 days and 5 nights here , and to concentrate on just a few temples. It would have been nearly sinful to rush through all the temples. In between these temples, the man-made pools offered good breaks. We found it so refreshing to enjoy these pauses to restore energy, as well as bask in the tranquility and serenity offered by the water shrines.
Neak Pean Neak Pean
is one of those water shrines. The pools of water claim to have curative powers. To reach it, one has to walk along a boardwalk cutting across a mangrove. It was nearly noon when we got here. Earlier, we opted out of one of
Awesome Ta Phrom
It's like one should expect Indiana Jones or Angelina Jolie springing out from somewhere around here. One of a kind, indeed. Never seen anything like it.
the temples edged in by rice paddies as we were still recovering from our climb up Preah Rup. We were sufficiently refreshed by the time we found a place to sit our butts in Neak Pean. Vanaak
explained that this place is the equivalent of an ancient hospital where the sick and ailing were brought to get healed. I don't know about the water's curative powers, but the entire place would have been perfect for a late afternoon visit when it is cooler and breezy. One can only imagine the breeze wafting through the swaying trees which offer adequate shade for travelers with screaming leg muscles like ours!
Angkor Thom, Bayon, Terrace of the Leper King , Terrace of the Elephants
The next day, we visited Angkor Thom/Bayon, Ta Phrom and Angkor Wat. I will dedicate a separate blog on Angkor Wat as I have a strange story to tell ;-) (Check out When Temple Gods Haunt You in Angkor Wat
) Most tourists would likely line up Bayon, Ta Phrom and Angkor Wat
as the highlights of their trip to Siem Reap. Rightly so. But I would caution not to miss the smaller temples and shrines which may not be just
Tranquility In this Man-Made Pool
Pausing in Sraa Srang offers a good break in between temples. Restore your energies here. Refresh. Shop for a hat and some souvenirs.
as famous. Bayon
is one famous site for its stone face temples. You will find one staring at you wherever you go. Eerie in a sense. My friend who had her photos taken around the place with sweat marks on her armpits say the Bayon god in the background had a smirk . Our Rexona girl must be right. The photo does not lie.
Hollywood immortalized Ta Phrom
as everyone felt like either Indiana Jones or Lara Croft while going through the labyrinth of jungle trees here. Somehow, you get a sense that there is an ongoing wrestling match here between the temples and Nature. Those huge trunks and roots almost embracing the temple walls and towers are simply incredible. I was so awed by these roots snaking, forcing their way through the walls that I didn't realize ants crawling up my legs. Almost dropped my camera as I sensed those tiny bites one after the other
Because these century-old trees shade nearly the entire complex, it was relatively cooler here compared to Preah Rup and Preah Khan. We were so at peace with Nature strolling around the complex UNTIL..............many buses unloaded
more tourists ready with their cams strung around their necks. It was almost impossible to take shots without a horde of tourists in the background. More so if one would like to have a photo taken of themselves with this awesome background. In one of the enclosures, our guide instructed us to stand in the middle and strike our chest 3 or 5 or 7 times. Any number of times so long as it is an odd number. (I teased our guide and said I'd strike my chest 99x-- you should see his face) The echo reverberates around the walls. Amazing
As we moved out of this jungle forest, we met more tourists eager to abuse their cameras. Snap snap snap. We were so glad to have visited these sites. As our tour guide Vanaak would say ..... Happy everybody. Happy everytime!
There are more photos below