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Published: November 13th 2007
We bought a 3 day Angkor Temple pass, and planned to visit most of the main areas. We hired Mr. Bann, a tuk-tuk driver from the hotel to drive us around for the day ($10 USD). He waited for us while we went to each temple. Angkor Wat is about a 15 minute ride from Siem Reap. The temples are actually pretty far apart - not very walkable. Renting bikes would be a good idea, but a bit tiring in the heat/humidity.
Our first stop was Angkor Wat. We got there around 8:30 and the sun was already pretty high. It was difficult to take pictures. However, Angkor Wat is immediately impressive. The size alone is awesome. Angkor Wat is a Hindu temple and was built in the 12th century. It is the world's largest religious monument too. There are nine towers - five in the upper/inner area and four around the walls. There are huge stone wall carvings (bas-reliefs) and each carving tells a story, which we got a clearer explanation about on Day 3's visit to Angkor Wat. We spent over 2 hours walking around - and that was without a tour guide. I'd imagine if someone had
to explain everything and have time to explore, it would take a half day just to visit Angkor Wat. Being efficient little sight-seers, we continued to the next temple, Angkor Thom. Around the entrance of every large temple, there are vendors trying to sell water, drinks, postcards, scarves, books, etc. Every tourist is overwhelmed by teams of young kids selling this stuff. I ended up buying a book from a woman inside the temple, and when I came out, they saw that I already bought the book and they said, "You make me so sad that you don't buy from me and I asked you before you went into the temple." Haha, the guilt trip wasn't enough to make me buy two books, but I was humored by how dramatic the kids are and how aggressive they sell sometimes.
The South Gate of Angkor Thom is guarded by statues of gods and demons carrying a seven-headed snake.
Inside, Angkor Thom, we visited the smaller temples. Bayon was my favorite, which is a temple of towers of carved faces. I love the way the faces smile. There are thought to be over 100 faces - but not sure about
that; I think a lot of them have fallen. The faces have a very serene smile - a bit mysterious, but very calming. I liked that. The face is thought to be a mixture of a Buddhist god and king. Lots of bas relief carvings around Bayon too.
Next we walked by Baphuon, which is a temple that has been taken apart for restoring, but has had years of problems being put back together. One could say it's the world's toughest jigsaw puzzle. Each stone has a number scribbled on it, supposedly indicating where it should be placed. However, the stone plans or something were lost, and now it's impossible to put back together. There are rocks laid out everywhere. A bit funny, but also quite a pity.
Terrace of Elephants, Terrace of Leper King, Royal Palace - we walked through these. Leper King was built twice, an inner wall and an outer wall. It was thought that the king during that time was a leper and if he built the temple, he would be cured.
After lunch we visited Preah Khan. This temple was dedicated to the King's father and was also a Buddhist school at
some point. There are tons of doorways here - they start out large and get incrementally smaller, until you reach the center. There is a tomb in the middle and the walls have lots of holes, which were previously embedded with precious stones and decorations. Preah Khan is very large - it took us an hour just to walk through it.
Our tuk-tuk driver drove us to get ice cream, and then we hiked up Bakeng to see the sunset. It's about a 15 minutes hike up a hill and then a short steep climb up the temple. There's a nice view up there. It was a little overcast and there was a mediocre sunset. We skipped out before 5:00. The sun rises and sets early.
That was a tiring first day!
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