Crawling Up and Down the Temples in Siem Reap

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November 18th 2010
Published: November 26th 2010
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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.

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.

Preah Khan

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 PhromAwesome Ta PhromAwesome 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 PoolTranquility In this Man-Made PoolTranquility 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.

Ta Phrom

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!

Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23


Temples and TukTuksTemples and TukTuks
Temples and TukTuks

This is just right across Ssraa Srang, where we took a break to pause and enjoy the tranquility of the man-made pool
View From AboveView From Above
View From Above

Oh, let them crawl up ;-)
The Healing Pool of Neak PeanThe Healing Pool of Neak Pean
The Healing Pool of Neak Pean

This pool claims curative powers. A boardwalk that cuts through a mangrove leads to this water shrine.
Neak Pean's BoardwalkNeak Pean's Boardwalk
Neak Pean's Boardwalk

To reach the water shrine, one walks along this boardwalk which cuts across a mangrove.
Nature Muscles In Through the TemplesNature Muscles In Through the Temples
Nature Muscles In Through the Temples

It is a wrestling match between Ta Phrom Temple and Nature. Imagine this awesome temple hidden for years in this jungle forest!
More Terraces, MoreTemple CarvingsMore Terraces, MoreTemple Carvings
More Terraces, MoreTemple Carvings

I walked along these terraces while others took the more even, flat road. These carvings are my rewards. :)
Angelina, Move OverAngelina, Move Over
Angelina, Move Over

This is the closest we can get to being "Lara Croft-ish".
Wrestling, anyone?Wrestling, anyone?
Wrestling, anyone?

The roots embrace the temple walls. Snaking all around like they own the entire area. Incredible.
Preah Rup from a DistancePreah Rup from a Distance
Preah Rup from a Distance

Isn't it lovely?
Rest Stop?Rest Stop?
Rest Stop?

This was taken in Preah Rup. One has a choice to climb straight like a rod, crawling on fours, or sit it out and watch others climb.
Within Preah KhanWithin Preah Khan
Within Preah Khan

Vaulted corridors structured like a labyrinth. Sprawling. A former Buddhist monastery.
Happy Everybody, Happy Every TimeHappy Everybody, Happy Every Time
Happy Everybody, Happy Every Time

A rare photo op with friends from way back. All colleagues in the same bank where we all worked. Happy!

26th November 2010

we happy to see your photos
26th November 2010

I'm jelaous!
I'll make it to Cambodia someday =D .. I haven't written in months! Great to read a new entry from you =)
26th November 2010

One on my bucket list too Lilliram! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Your pictures are wonderful.
27th November 2010

Another excellent blog!
27th November 2010
Temple Overload in Siem Reap

Such an amazing picture!
28th November 2010

Nice blog. Ooooh - Cambodia. That is definitely in my top 10 countries to visit next (well along with another 20 or so countries! Hehe) Great photos. :D

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