|Approach to The Angkor Wat Temple from the Causeway|
|The Entry, Angkor Temple.|
|Gurmeet on the Great Causeway|
|The Approach to Angkor Wat|
|Steep Approach Staircase, Angkor Wat.|
This great temple complex, dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu, was built in the early 12th century by king Suryavarman II. Later some of this complex was converted for worship to the Buddhist faith. It is unusual among Hindu Temples in being oriented towards the West, giving rise to the speculation among scholars, that Suryavarman II intended it to be his funerary temple.
If this was indeed the case, it is by far the biggest labour intensive funerary complex ever built for one person, surpassing any pyramid or tomb built by any Egyptian Pharaoh to mark his ascent into the other world.
In the absence of any records or engravings, this just adds on another facet to the mystery as to why such a large temple complex was built here in the first place.
As it stands, the temple now defines Cambodia and finds a place on its National Flag.
Angkor along with Gurmeet. Its easy to get to Angkor, as its gateway town Siem Reap is an International Airport, well connected to other airports in Southeast Asia. It is the easiest to approach through Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, which
offer regular flights to Siem Reap.
We took the Bangkok route.
|Nice Hotel Deals In Siem Reap.|
There is a wide variety of hotels in Siem Reap, to suit every style and budget. In the off season, high end hotels are great value as the traveler can get excellent discounts. We stayed at Victoria Angkor Resorts and Spa, a nice luxurious hotel, with very friendly staff. Recommended.
As there is an excess of rooms in Siem Reap for most of the year, except for some days between November and February, deals are normally available. Remember to check out various consolidators sites as well as with the hotels themselves to get the best deals.
|The Central Courtyard, Angkor Wat.|
- Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, the grandest temples next to the ancient capital.
- The Little Circuit, major sites to the east of Angkor Thom.
- The Big Circuit, major sites north and further out east
- The Roluos group, about 15 km east from Siem Reap along National Highway 6.
- Outlying temples, located over 20 km from Angkor Wat.
|Pointed Arch Ceiling, Angkor.|
|Another view of the Angkor Complex|
As this is not a ‘guide book’ blog, one will not weary you all with detailed descriptions. Suffice to say that the major temples of Angkor Wat have superb bas reliefs of ‘Apsaras', battles and other depictions from the Ramayana.
|Enigmatic Face, Bayon.|
These temples are one of the most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are being constantly restored with aid from all over the world, especially Japan and India. Specialists from the Archaeological Survey of India have been involved in the restoration for the last many years.
|Subsidiary Temple in Courtyard, Angkor|
Phnom Bakheng, The ‘Temple-Mountain’ of 5 levels, with beautiful carved elephant terraces at Angkor Thom; the Ta Prohm temple, of the film ‘Tomb Raider’ fame, in the ‘Little Circuit’.
|The Temple at Bayon.|
|The Jungle and the Temple, Preah Khan.|
The causeways and bridges, many with sculptures depicting the Hindu mythological tale of the churning of the ocean by the ‘Asuras’ (Demons) and ‘Devtas’ (Gods) with Mount Kailash as the fulcrum and the Giant Cobra ‘Sheshnag’ as the rope are absolutely stunning.
These have withstood the vagaries of time remarkably and are still in use today.
|Phnom Bakheng the ‘temple-mountain’.|
Travelers are well advised to buy 1, 2, 3 or 7 day passes from the Apsara Authority counters, depending on the number of days they intend to visit the temples. Guides are a personal choice, that being said, people with limited time at their disposal may be better of hiring one.
|Preah Khan Temples.|
|Gods & Demons, Ocean Churning, with Sheshnag.|
Many of the temples in Angkor have statues of Buddha, installed comparatively recently, which are used for day to day worship. Tourists are often offered incense to light before the images and then asked for a 5 - 10 US$ contribution for 'Upkeep'.
|Buddha Statue, Angkor.|
|At the Causeway Crossing|
While exploring temples, especially the outlying ones, there may be many monuments or sculptures visible off the track, in the Jungle Vegetation. It is best not to go off the marked and used tracks and explore on your own.
|Ignore at your own peril !.|
|Bakshis on a Boat, Tonle Sap.|
|Tourists at Baphuon.|
The intrepid backpackers who you see wandering around the scrub have high levels of testosterone allied to low levels of grey matter activity. They probably would consider it a social service if they were to step on a mine, as it would make that area safer for others.
|Floating Village, Tonle Sap Lake near Siem Reap.|
When you have had an overdose of temples and monuments, there is always the great ‘Tonle Sap’ lake, which is the great water reserve for the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. This great fresh water lake normally about 2700 sq km, swells to 16000 sq km in the rainy season.
|Floating Gas Station.|
|Boat People, Tonle Sap.|
|Slow Boat to Phnom Penh from Siem Reap.|
A boat ride along the lake at sunrise or sunset, is beautiful. You pass scattered islands, floating villages, boat people who live in these self contained floating communities, patches of reeds teeming with bird life and fisher men catching and selling fresh fish. It is a great way to de-stress and a great antidote to an unending diet of temples and monuments. It is possible to take a boat to the capital Phnom Penh from Siem Reap. There are many boats that make the 6-7 hour trip.
|Sunset on Tonle Sap Lake.|
Those wishing to indulge in retail therapy, have ample scope in Siem Reap. The Old Market offers a wide variety of Cambodian textiles, handicrafts and gems. Cambodian silk is excellent and the ‘twill’ weave varieties are justly famous. Stone and wood carvings are of good quality but there may be issues of weight and volume if you intend to carry some in your baggage. The forwarding services are unreliable and not recommended.
|Cambodian Silk Shawls.|
Temple rubbings are available everywhere, these are made by wrapping thick wet paper on carvings and marking the bas-relief by charcoal. These are relatively cheap and some are of good quality. The advantage being that they are light to carry and make nice gifts, being typically Cambodian.
| Cambodian Silk Handloom Weaver, Siem Reap. |
|A display of fans and fabric.|
|Handicrafts Shop, Siem Reap.|
Caution is advised, however, as the gem market operates absolutely on the principle of ‘Emptor Caveat’, let the buyer beware. The amount and quantity of fake gems sold is far higher than the total production of genuine gems. Do not buy unless you know your gems or the jeweler comes highly recommended by reliable residents.
|Cambodian Street Food.|
Cambodian food is excellent and Khymer cuisine is famous for its imaginative use of fresh produce with herbs and spices.
|Traditional Cambodian Dishes.|
|Typical Cambodian Meal.|
Influences from the cuisines of China, India, Vietnam and Thailand allied to native produce and fresh water fish have produced a cuisine which is tasty and distinctive.
|Nom Ban Chok.|
|A sampling of Cambodian Fruit.|
|Attractive vegetarian dishes.|
|Vegetarian Cambodian Noodles.|
|Cambodian Food for Vegans.|
|Exotic Cambodian Food Stall.|
Many friends have asked the author about insects and other exotic foods that are eaten in Cambodia, Southeast Asia and China.
All one can say is that these are available, and, often form an important source of protein in many communities; but the typical traveler is unlikely to come across these during normal meals. Of course one can be adventurous and try exotic things, depending on how strong your stomach is. Fried crickets are quite crunchy and nice, while frog’s legs are a delicacy. One man’s protein is another ones exotic food.
|Pub Street Siem Reap. Reasonable Drinks and Food.|
The Cuisine Wat Damnak is an excellent high end restaurant serving traditional Cambodian dishes.
The Green Star restaurant, which supports the Green Gecko Project, is a good budget choice with tasty food and reasonably priced beer.
The Chamkar is a superb, mid range, vegetarian restaurant.
Street food is invariably good, fresh, tasty and extremely cheap. You are advised to use bottled water, bought from reliable sources. Green coconuts are always available and are a good, safe and healthy thirst quenching alternative.
|Pub Street in the Rain.|
A good evening spot is the aptly named Pub Street, which has bars and restaurants of every description. Local beer is normally 50 cents to a dollar while imported beers and drinks are slightly more expensive. The prices at most places, however, do not break the bank.
|Tourists at Angkor.|
|Fewer crowds in the rainy season.|
The cheapest option is through Air Asia via Kuala Lumpur. You, however, need to book Air Asia tickets in advance to get the best prices; there is also the 15 kg baggage limit.
Bangkok is well connected with India and offers a variety of options which are only slightly more expensive, it may be a better bet.
Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur both have reasonable hotels and food, and, arguably, Kuala Lumpur is still the best value in Southeast Asia for high end hotel accommodation.
|Another view of the Bayon Temple.|
Remember that May to July is the rainy season in Cambodia and it will be hot and humid. It is still possible to visit monuments in the morning as it rains mostly in the afternoon, an added benefit is that it would be much less crowded and hotels cheaper.