Monday, July 23, 2012

Cambodia Trip : Day 3 Angkor Wat, Bayon & Ta Prohm

The major highlight of our trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia is definitely to vist the Angkor Archaeological Park. We had chose to purchase only the one day pass to minimize our spending and this proved to be a challenge. We had to cover Angkor Wat, Bayon and also the famous Ta Prohm on the same day, which sounds easy. But the reality was not.

Today, we planned to spend the entire day to explore the Angkor Archaeological Park. We were set to depart from the hotel at 5.00am to catch the sunrise and we had to sacrifice our breakfast at the hotel. My stomach was grumbling in protest.

When we reach Angkor Wat and was surprised to find a huge crowd of visitors waiting for the sunrise. I tried to secure a comfortable spot to catch the best sunrise view. While waiting, many Cambodian children came over and tried to persuade me to either ordered a cup of coffee or purchase some postcards from them.
Crowd during sunrise at Angkor Wat
The sun rises at 6.30am and the view was indeed spectacular. Is much better than our yesterday sunset view at Bakheng Hill. You can skip the sunset, but the sunrise is something you should not be miss.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat
After catching the sunrise, our tuk-tuk driver suggest to have breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Okay, the thing with driver recommendation is always the same - expensive. This is the most expensive meal we had during our entire trip in Cambodia. I suggest to either pack your own breakfast or insist on having at hawker stall and not restaurant. I ordered omelette with bacon and bread and Mr. B ordered fried noodle for USD$3.50 each. We also shared a cup of honey with milk that was too sweet for my own good and cost USD$1.50.
Breakfast at Angkor Reach Restaurant
We didn't bother with the navigation within Angkor and relies solely on our tuk-tuk driver. We only informed him that we wanted to view the three famous temple and some smaller temple in between the route. Right after breakfast, we stopped at the south gate entrance of Angkor Thom.

South gate entrance to Angkor Thom
South gate entrance to Angkor Thom
While I was passing by the gate, there was this tour guide explaining to some tourists on the history of Angkor Thom. He then pointed up the cave above and said that there were bats living above and the drippings on the floor were their urine. What?! Shocked by this revelation, I speed away.

Bayon was situated at the heart of the Angkor Thom. We recognized this temple for its distinctive massive stone faces.
Bayon view from outside
Bayon's massive stone faces
Upon leaving Bayon, we walked north west towards Baphuon temple. The weather during this time was quite windy and we had a nice walk around the park.
Pathway towards Baphuon

The height of Baphuon looked really intimidating and by this time my leg had already gave up on me. Thus, Mr B take up the responsibility to climb up the Baphuon to catch the view from atop.
View from the top of Baphuon
Moving from Baphuon, we walked along the park and came across many huge trees that obviously age a hundred year. We then reached a small temple named Phimeanakas. By this time, we noticed that the original staircase to ascend the temple were mostly steep and narrow. I wonder do the ancient people had smaller foot.
Phimeanakas temple
By this time, we have walked for more than 2 hours and the weather was getting hot. No wonder, most people prefer to buy three day passes. I think is not because they wanted to view all the lesser known temple, but to have more rest time in between.

When we reached the Terrace of Elephants, we finally saw the tuk-tuk and buses parking spot. Hurray! Our visit to Angkor Thom was finally completed. Phew!
Terrace of Elephants
At this exhausted moment, we decided to visit Ta Prohm straight away to end our Angkor Archaeological Park visit. On our way towards Ta Prohm, our driver make a stop at Ta Keo. We reluctantly went down despite the heat and make a quick look through the temple.
Hike to the top of Ta Keo
We noticed that many temple ruins were undergoing restoration work in-collaboration with other countries such a China and India. If you are interested to visit Cambodia, do not wait much longer. Or else you will be looking at temple after restoration instead of the original temple ruins.

Finally, the long anticipated moment was here, the Ta Prohm. Who doesn't recognize this temple from watching the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider? It had been more than 10 years since they filmed it and the temple now definitely looked different. There were so many restoration work taking place at the Ta Prohm entrance and visitor can't enter through the main entrance. What a let down. Nonetheless, we did manage to view the gigantic tree atop the temple. We can see many structure had started to crumble under the weight of the ancient trees.
The gigantic tree atop Ta Prohm

With that we ended our visit at Angkor Archaeological Park. Overall we had a grand time viewing some of the breathtaking structure of the ancient ruin, despite some eyesore reconstruction work at certain location. Remember to arm yourself with sunscreen and a big hat to counter the heat.