Cambodia 2014: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Phrohm


We woke up at 4.30am to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat one morning. Groggy and slightly disoriented, we were introduced to the minivan driver and Mr. Meng, our tour guide, who good-naturedly attempted to engage us on the site’s historical significance in a thick accent, which considering the time of the day, rendered as a whole different language altogether. Pity.
After a stop at the ticketing booth to get our photos taken for our entry pass, we proceeded to join the trickle of lights emanating from torchlights and phones, as like-minded tourists trekked towards the lotus pond, the spot from where we would experience the iconic moment at Angkor Wat. Unfortunately, that day was not the day. I did however manage to plant my tripod at the edge of the pond (after a couple in front of me vacated; lucky!), and spent the next hour or so steadfastly making long exposure shots of the beautiful Angkor Wat silhouette in twilight. 6.30am eventually came and went, leaving behind disappointed tourists and still no sign of a fiery red ball of gas. I actually wanted to wait another hour more, hoping to sight the sun at a higher angle when it’d get less cloudy, but the rest of the group was ready to move on.
Lotus flower floating on the 190 meter wide moat that surrounds Angkor Wat.
A child cycling up the path towards the west gate.
The morning sun shines on a damaged bas-relief of an Apsara.
Bas-relief of Apsaras on the interior walls.
Statues in the hallway.
Security guard eating fruits.
Scott entering one of the smaller structures lining the main compound.
Me in my temple outfit, sitting in the window of the interior building. It is a sign of respect to cover your shoulders and knees when visiting the temples. Photo by: Scott.
Group photo! From left to right: Mr. Meng on his erhu, Ross, Chris, Dar, Ant, Scott, and me.
Angkor Thom was the next destination after our visit to Angkor Wat, lying just north of it. Angkor Thom is what I feel to be the next most famous site in the Angkor Region, consisting of quite a few temples within its moat. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t quite remember every temple that we visited, but here are Bayon and Baphuon, which were the most interesting to me. Here’s my three-day Angkor Pass against the entrance of Bayon.
Bayon, with its propensity towards the weird and mysterious, was easily my favourite when I studied Asian Art History. Granted, I didn’t actually care about the subject (evident by my inability to deviate from the Bs that plagued my essays), but Bayon still managed to stick in my mind after so many years. It was so satisfying to finally stand among these larger-than-life stone faces, gazing upon their benign smiles at every corner.
Mr. Meng told me to stand there and took a photo of me being nose-to-nose with one of the faces, the late King Jayavarman VII
One of the few expressively happy faces.
Frankly I had no idea what to expect at Baphuon, having had no recollection of studying it in Asian Art History. However, the structure was impressive in its own right, and a pretty exciting hike up and down the temple-mountain. Viewing the lush green surroundings among ruins after climbing the steep incline was pretty rewarding.
Someone had written ‘mind your head’ in Mandarin above the low doorway to the open-air walkway on the second tier of the temple. Unfortunately, Scott knew not a lick of Mandarin and suffered a bruising after he very loudly and painfully did not mind his head. It was very funny and I am not a good girlfriend.
A reclining Buddha makes up the west side of the temple! So impressive- none of us even knew what to look for until Mr. Meng pointed us to the shape. It was apparently added in the 16th century to the 11th century temple.
My favourite photo of the day: Two monks walking along Baphuon.
Ta Prohm was something that stood out when I flipped through my free copy of Siem Reap Angkor Visitor’s Guide from the airport; we had planned to spend the whole day at Angkor, and I was a little uneasy at having only two sites that I wanted to go to. Ta Prohm, a temple overrun by enormous trees, was the very portrayal of the transience of power, and immediately became third on my list of must-see during our trip. (First was the Angkor Wat & Bayon, duh!) The degradation of these structures under the toil of time and unbending nature of well, Nature, is astounding.
Beautiful apsaras.
Mr. Meng playing his erhu. We sometimes lost sight of him while exploring the ruins and all we had to do was to follow the music.
An ongoing restoration project to stabilise part of the structure.
Woman selling woven bangles.
A bored child tending to a souvenir stall among the ruins.
Photo by: Scott.