The Past Glories of the Khmer Empire

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September 13th 2014
Published: June 11th 2017
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Today was an amazing day! I can't believe how lucky we are to be here and to see these wonderful sights.

We were up early as usual (I have been waking up early and been unable to get back to sleep since our holiday started - I hope one day to get a full night's sleep!). Breakfast is included here and we went up to the 6th floor rooftop restaurant for our breakfast buffet just before 7 am. And it was sunny! We have been unbelievably lucky with the weather, and today was a lovely sunny (of course hot and humid) day. The breakfast was good and the setting was really nice. There is a good view from the rooftop and it was a lovely way to start the day.

We met our group at 8 am and headed out to Angkor Wat, stopping first to get our 3 day Angkor complex passes (complete with photo). The Angkor temple complex was built between the 9th and 13th centuries at the height of the Khmer Empire, when it encompassed much of present day Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. It is hard to reconcile the past glories and power of the Khmer Empire with the Cambodia of today.

We entered Angkor Wat at the east gate, which is much quieter than the more typical west gate, and there weren't many tourists in this area. There were lots of people at Angkor Wat, but not an overwhelming number, which is one benefit of visiting during the rainy (low) season.

We spent a couple of hours touring Angkor Wat, and a highlight was climbing to the second level (up fairly steep stairs - but not as steep as at Wat Arun I don't think). It was a good view from this level. Oh, that reminds me of something Sovann mentioned yesterday. We passed a lot of really nice hotels yesterday and today, but none of them are more than 5 stories or so. That's because no building in Siem Reap can be taller than Angkor Wat.

The moats surrounding Angkor Wat are truly enormous, and are another reason to be awed by the engineering that went into the construction of Angkor Wat, more than 900 years ago. They figured out a way to build the enormous Angkor Wat on sandy soil in a climate that floods every rainy season, and to last all these centuries.

It was hot at Angkor Wat, but no hotter than in Bangkok, and there were lots of tourists, but not too many, and it was a beautiful sunny day! In the middle of the rainy season! We have nothing to complain about, and lots to be grateful for, that's for sure.

We had watched several documentaries on the building of Angkor Wat before we came on the tour, so it was especially meaningful for us to see everything in person, and to know a bit about the history. We have a local guide for our time at the Angkor temple complex, Menea (Sovann comes with us too) and he was very nice and very knowledgeable. He told us the stories (from the Hindu religion - Angkor Wat was built as a Hindu temple but it changed several times over the centuries from Hindu to Buddhist and back again) depicted on some of the bas-reliefs. The bas-reliefs are incredible especially when you consider how old they are. The carvings are quite incredible (but don't compare to Banteay Srei which we saw after lunch). I hope they turn out ok in the photos.

After Angkor Wat we went to the Bayon, another of the main Angkor temples. It is much smaller than Angkor Wat, and is quite lovely as it contains hundreds of carvings of Buddha-looking faces, which I think Menea said were depictions of the Khmer king who had the Bayon built. We climbed to the second level here too, and I took many photos of all the faces! It was a nice temple, with a very peaceful feeling. There were lots of dragonflies around this temple, and Susan said they were like spirits flying around - it was a nice feeling for her.

After the Bayon we went for lunch at the Khmer Angkor kitchen where I had coconut water (literally straight from the coconut). It was very refreshing after a morning touring the temples. After lunch we drove to a small temple called Banteay Srei, also known as the Ladies Temple because it is so beautiful. It is made out of a pinkish stone, and the carvings are extremely intricate and lovely. Unfortunately this was where the stupid camera battery died! And we had already switched to the spare so that was it for taking photos. We should have made sure both batteries were fully charged last night. Ah well, I did get a few photos at Banteay Srei, and Susan had her cell phone with her so I took a bunch more with it.

We got back to the hotel about 4:30ish, and I worked on the blog, then we both had a massage. I had a 60 min foot massage and Susan had a 60 min Khmer massage (similar to a Thai massage). Mine cost $6 and Susan's $8! I hope to fit a Khmer massage in tomorrow.

Then we showered and went to Pub Street for dinner. We went to the Khmer Kitchen (which I had heard about) and had a great dinner. I had Khmer curry with tofu and Susan had Tom Yum soup with tofu. We shared fresh spring rolls, which were the best I have ever had. As a break from beer, we had watermelon juice. Numm! We made a few purchases at the markets, then took a tuk tuk back to the hotel.

In the Pub street area, there is a constant refrain of "Madam, tuk tuk/tuk tuk Madam" There are SO many tuk tuk drivers. They are all very pleasant though. I've noticed how pleasant the Cambodian people generally are. They seem a gentle people. Our guide Sovann is great, extremely knowledgeable and a lot of fun too.

We have an extremely early start tomorrow morning. We meet at 4:30 am to head out to Angkor Wat for the sunrise (as long as it's not raining - I hope so much we are lucky with the weather again). We will then go directly to another of the main Angkor complex temples - Ta Prohm. It is an extremely popular temple so we are going early to avoid the crowds. Then back to the hotel for breakfast, and I believe a few more temples after that. Should be another spectacular day!

Additional photos below
Photos: 48, Displayed: 26


Stairs leading to second levelStairs leading to second level
Stairs leading to second level

We climbed to the second level, but not on these stairs - they are the original stairs and you're not allowed on them.

13th September 2014

Wow! Looks like you are having a blast Susie and Lori! I so appreciate all of the work you are doing Lori to document this trip in so much detail. Real dedication!!
14th September 2014

Just amazing.
15th September 2014

You two look so happy! No wonder, what great sites and great weather. We look forward to your blog!

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