CAMBODIA: THE ANGKOR WAT COMPLEX

by - 8:04 PM

Being a history buff, it is no exemption that a part of my bucket list is to visit the Angkor Wat Complex.  And due to such eagerness and enthusiasm, to date, I have visited the said UNESCO World Heritage site twice and on the same route, notwithstanding the curse I made during my first visit (2009).

Who would refuse to visit the largest religious monument in the world with architectural designs dating back as far as the earliest civilization of mankind, housing the various temples and remains tagged as the most beautiful and important historical sites, thus, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

the Angkor Wat at dusk


A land of historical civilization - This is what Siem Reap, Cambodia is all about.  The Angkor Wat Temple has been the national symbol of Cambodia, as embedded in its national flag and definitely the pride of its country, being the prime attraction for tourists and travelers around the globe.

Since my first visit in the year 2009, it has undergone massive construction renovation and restorations works, which to me, although at a point restructuring the ancient civilization is considerate enough of the  plight of the numerous visitors, that is, their safety while wandering on the said sites for fear of falling debris.

Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City
Getting There

On board the Cebu Pacific flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, we arrived at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport at around 1:30AM Vietnam Time after two and a half hours of travel in the air.  (Note:  Vietnam Time is delayed by an hour on Philippine time)


Armed with the plan of traveling directly to Siem Reap, Cambodia via bus, we stayed at the airport until 6AM before heading to District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City where the ticketing office for the bus is located, with the hope that we shall make it on time for the 7AM departure of the first bus to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  Uncomfortable as our accommodations may appear (the terminal), but we have to bear with it for the cause of having to witness the grandeur of the Angkor Archeological sites and temples.  At 6AM we rode the taxi and headed to District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City, however, in a nick of time, we were late for the first trip and so we  wereboarded on the next scheduled trip (9AM) to Siem Reap Cambodia. And  so, the longest travel time by bus commenced.

We arrived at Mocbai, Vietnam by 1130AM and had our passports stamped for departing Vietnam and prepared for our queue on the Cambodia-Vietnam border and arrived at the Immigration Office of Cambodia at Bavet, thirty minutes after.  (Note: for Philippine Passport Holders, there is no VISA fee)

sample Khmer architecture at the Cambodia-Vietnam border
Once our passports were stamped and cleared to enter Cambodia, we were allowed to have our lunch near the Immigration Office.  The Immigration Office and the border itself already showcased the Khmer architecture, serving as a teaser for what to expect in Cambodia. 

And the travel continues.

By 130PM we crossed the Mekong River through a barge and by 4PM, arrived at Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Although we wanted for a  continuous trip to be able to arrive a little earlier at Siem Reap, we have no choice but to follow their bus schedules.  After two hours of staying at the said city of Cambodia, we were then set to depart to Siem Reap, which is the next scheduled trip to the said city.  With nearly everything to discuss while on the bus, chatting, taking snacks from time to time, a nap and more shallow sleeps, we arrived finally at Siem Reap, Cambodia at almost 12midnight.

 
the usual scenery en route the Mekong River
With almost 15 hours of traveling, this is the reason why on my first trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia (2009), I said to myself I shall never travel again to Cambodia on the same route. However, the said predicament of mine has only gone into oblivion.  We then checked in at our hotel and prepared ourselves for the next day to come.




The Angkor Wat Complex

An obligatory wake up call was made at exactly 440AM the following day to view the magnificent sunrise at the Angkor Wat, as highly recommended by our tour guide/tuk tuk driver.  For a not-so morning person like me, waking up at dusk is something unusual, which my body clock should inevitably adjust. We felt the morning mist and the cool breeze of the air, putting our mind at ease, as if we have been awakened  to sooth the sounds of nature, while en route to the Angkor Wat entrance gates to queue for our one-day pass to this UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Angkor Wat:

Alas, when the sun started to rise to greet all the travelers and tourists that day, all the predicaments of long hours traveling by bus immediately faded.  Like a major event or a feast about to took place, hundreds of tourists flock the area, and each photography enthusiasts going restless to look for the best vantage point.   The mood was so festive and it was just to witness the rising of the sun. We witnessed the different hues of the sunrise amidst the silhouettes with the picturesque Angkor Wat as the backdrop.  (Note: no photoshop or any photo enhancements made to reflect the various colors, these are simply raw pictures taken by me)




  After witnessing the grandeur of the most-awaited sunrise of the Angkor Wat, we then proceeded to roam around the temple and appreciated every detail of it with carvings truly representative of the magnificent architectural milestone in the history of mankind.



facade of the Angkor Wat




 The Bayon Temple:

The Bayon's most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and massive stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak. The temple is known also for two impressive sets of bas-reliefs, which present an unusual combination of mythological, historical and mundane scenes. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayon)

True enough, there is the multitude of stone faces on the said temple, which makes the extraordinary ordinary if you get used to it.



Wandering on the said temple entails walking under the scorching heat of the sun on our case.  Thus, it is advisable to bring bottled waters while discovering this site.  After an hour of self-portraits, landscape photography and all sorts, it is but just that we take a rest.  And so we did, as there are eateries aligned outside the temple as well as souvenir shops with wares and handicrafts mostly priced at a dollar.  Thus, if the price is less than a dollar when converted in their local currency and you don't have one on hand, automatically, it shall be priced at one dollar.

 
How I wish I could do what this buddha is doing under the heat of the sun...just chilling out and feeling the beauty of nature.

 a version of Reclining Buddha at the Bayon Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ta Keo Temple:

I definitely abhor trekking and climbing mountains.  But with this hate comes the unavoidable circumstance of still doing it for the cause of exploration.  The Ta Keo Temple is no exemption as there is the option of climbing the steep concrete stairs to explore the said temple.


The said temple is a towering but plainly decorated temple-mountain dedicated to Shiva. Known in its time as ‘the mountain with golden peaks.’ The first to be constructed wholly of sandstone, this temple employing huge sandstone blocks. Constructed under three kings, begun by Jayavarman V as his state-temple and continued under Jayaviravarman and Suryavarman I. When Jayavarman V first constructed Ta Keo, he part ways with previous kings, constructing his state temple outside of his main capital area.  (Source:  http://www.canbypublications.com/siemreap/temples/temp-takeo.htm)









A lot of changes has already been made of the said temple and even as of my time of travel, construction works were still going on.


Angkor Thom

And of course our last visit was the site of the Tomb Raider movie (2000), the Angkor Thom, which is a must-see and inevitable part of every travelers itinerary.

Angkor Thom (Khmer: អង្គរធំ; literally: "Great City"), located in present day Cambodia, was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII. It covers an area of 9 km², within which are located several monuments from earlier eras as well as those established by Jayavarman and his successors. At the centre of the city is Jayavarman's state temple, the Bayon, with the other major sites clustered around the Victory Square immediately to the north. (Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_Thom)









With only a half-day tour, these were the temples that we have covered due to a complaining feet and endless perspiration.  But it was all worth it, we have practically covered in our itinerary all the best and most visited temples of the Angkor Wat Complex.

The Expenses

As of April 2012, a day pass costs 30USD each, approximately 1,230 pesos, which is a 10-dollar increase from my visit to Siem Reap in 2009. The tabulation of expenses below include the trip to Phnom Penh as side trip, to do away with the continuous bus travel.  Meals in Cambodia ranges from 1 to 2 USD and yhe same goes with tuk tuk fares.

Further, we were five (5) in the group so the fares may vary depending on the number who will share on the expenses, nevertheless, you may use this as a guide when planning a trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Transportation costs - mandatory expenses - are as follows:

HCMC, VIETNAM TO PHNOM PENH TO SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
Transportation Cost in Pesos*

(USD)

HCMC-Vietnam to Siem Reap (bus) 20 820
Tuktuk to Hotel from Bus Terminal (Siem Reap, Cambodia) 1 41
Tuktuk rent for Angkor Wat complex day tour 4 164
20USD for 5 pax


Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, Cambodia 10 410
  (bus)


Phnom Penh to HCMC, Vietnam 12 492
  (Mailinh Transit bus)


HCMC Vietnam downtown to airport 1.5 61.5
    for 5 pax- 6 dollars (negotiated)






TOTAL 48.5 1988.5




*41 Pesos exhange rate for a dollar as of 2012


























And that concludes the Angkor Wat adventure with a happy feet sans the pain and dust all over my wandering slippers.  As of this writing, I received an email inviting me for an opportunity to visit Cambodia, from a known law firm, which to my mind, maybe I was really destined to go back, this time around, it's direct to Siem Reap Cambodia and not via Ho Chi Minh City.

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2 comments

  1. It’s a nice blog about the angkor wat complex. I’m an arts student and I love to visit the historical places. The author of this blog has provided enough information about this place and he has chosen best words to elaborate this area and through images this blog looks extra ordinary fantastic. I must visit this Angkor Wat Complex in future but first I have to complete my dream bus tours to niagara from nyc.

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  2. great photos! Over my half-year trip across SE Asia, my 2-day trip through the Angkor area was a highlight.

    I loved your sunrise pic at Angkor Wat. We tried the first day but it was all overcast. On my second trip there, I figured, if you're not going to photograph a brilliant sunrise, you might as well start at one of the other temples, since most people start at Angkor Wat. Bayon was one of my favorites.

    If interested, I just posted about my experiences with a captioned photo driven post of the incredible temples here –
    http://visit50.com/amazing-angkor-wat/

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