Cambodia

Why I love Angkor Wat

Inside Angkor Wat, photo by EW.
Inside Angkor Wat reflection, photo by EW.

Most folks were surprised to hear that I went to Angkor Wat for 3 days. I suppose people generally visit for one or two days, but not 3. As much as I’d like to confess that I’m a hard-core nerd, I’m just an average Jane who majored in Archaeology and enjoys being in nature. And that’s it, that’s enough for me to sit back in the tuk-tuk and deeply feel the cool wind blowing all around me. That is to say, it doesn’t take much to make this girl happy.

Growing up in Hawaii, I spent a lot of time out-of-doors. When I got older, I heard of the term “tomboy” (which means lesbian in Thailand), but the term didn’t quite fit me because I played with Barbies and Star Wars figures, too. I ran with the boys and had my dolls. I wore a dress, but I didn’t groom myself. I fell out of trees and crossed my legs.

I entered college without a clue as to what I wanted to study, but I had a lot of interests so I chose things that seemed fun like Astronomy and, by the suggestion of my step-father, Anthropology. Astrology involved too many films which led to sitting in a dark classroom which made me sleepy. Anthro, on the other hand, seemed really really exciting with all its morally loose research on other cultures and hair-raising ideas on hierarches and human evolution.

Although, I don’t think my background in archaeology made me appreciate Angkor Park any more than the everyday person. Maybe it did, I don’t know. I know people who insist on reading every plaque at a museum or read the credits at the end of a movie. I must be between those who go because “everyone’s doing it” and those who strip down naked to show how “native” they are. And as much as I wanted to hire a guide, my b/f didn’t, so we wandered the ruins with nothing, but our cameras and our point of view.

Doorway to heaven at Baphuon.
Doorway to heaven at Baphuon.

Often I tried to imagine what a particular temple looked like when it was at the height of its glory. I’d make jokes about how this particular odd-shaped stone was where they sacrificed the babies (because, you know, indigenous cultures are so heathen) and wondered out loud why all the stones had holes in them. Until a guide found me, I thought furiously over my question. Yes, a guide found me (more on that later).

Each day was its own unique adventure. And in the beginning I wasn’t even sure if I’d go for all 3 days of the 3 day pass, but by the second I was eager to return.

Day one involved meeting the tuk-tuk driver at the glorious hour of 5am in a sad effort to photograph the “must see” sunrise over Angkor Wat. I say sad effort because I wasn’t willing to get up any earlier on my day off and because I wasn’t that desperate to be there at the exact moment the sun rose. It’s a good thing, too, because I ended up spotting a former student staffing the ticket lines and chatting it up.

Yes, it was still dark when I saw H. Such a funny way to start the day!
Yes, it was still dark when I saw H. Such a unexpected way to start the day!

There are a couple of ways to see Angkor Archaeological Park, one is the little circuit and the other is the big circuit. We did the little circuit which involved the heavies like Angkor and Bayon. And we pretty much called it a day after lunch. We were exhausted from the heat and exploring, but I was impressed by the size of the ruins, the detail, all the animals we saw like horses, pigs and monkeys – and the nature, so much nature!

Angkor Wat (interior carvings) was constructed by Suryavarman II (Hinduism). [early-mid 12th cent.]
Angkor Wat (interior carvings) was constructed by Suryavarman II (Hinduism). [early-mid 12th cent.] Photo by EW.
Bayon was constructed by Jayavarman VII who constructed the most temples during his rein. (Buddhist)
Bayon was constructed by Jayavarman VII who constructed the most temples during his rein. (Buddhist) [late 12th cent.]
Looking down at Baphuon patroned by Udayaditavarman II (Hinduism) [mid 11th cent.]
Looking down at Baphuon, patroned by Udayaditavarman II (Hinduism) [mid 11th cent.]
Day two was a slow going day. We said good bye to our friend Bob who joined us just for day one and changed tuk-tuk drivers, as well. Our previous one forgot our 6am wakeup call, he might have been hung over, and so we ended up finding someone off the street. Ironically, his name roughly translates to Mr. Fast and I say ironically because his tuk-tuk kept breaking down during the torrential downpours.

Rainy days at Angkor Park
Rainy days at Angkor Park

But the rain kept most of the tourists away so it was a sleepy day of sightseeing Ta Phrom (aka the Tomb Raider temple), Bantay Samre (known for its amazing preservation) and lesser temples. Despite all these so-called problems, it was a great day where I felt like I was getting into the groove of the park. But because Mr. Fast’s tuk-tuk kept breaking down with greater frequency, we decided to end it at another half-day. This wasn’t a bad thing though because many folks complain about temple burn-out trying to see everything in 10-12 hours. I didn’t want this to happen to us so I was happy to keep our visits reasonable and not rushed.

Also, you are given a week to use your 3 day pass, we decided to take the following day off and then return to Angkor for our final day. This gave us a chance to recuperate and research some of the temples that are not on the common circuits.

Ta Prohm was built by Jayavarman VII and was just as magical as billed. (Buddhist) [mid 12th, early 13th cent.]
Ta Prohm was built by Jayavarman VII and was just as magical as billed. (Buddhist) [mid 12th, early 13th cent.]
Ta Prohm was dedicated to Jayavarman's mother. Fig and silk-cotton trees have overtaken the temple.
Ta Prohm was dedicated to Jayavarman’s mother. Fig and silk-cotton trees have overtaken the temple complex. Magic.
A sample of the well-preserved carvings at Banteay Srey built by Rajendravarman. (Hindu-Shiva) [late 10th cent]
A sample of the well-preserved carvings at Banteay Srey built by Rajendravarman. (Hindu-Shiva) [late 10th cent]
Incidently, Banteay Srey is where I took a lot of those pictures of people taking selfies.
Incidently, Banteay Srey is one of those places where I took a lot of those pictures of people taking selfies.

Day three involved Banteay Kdei, Bantay Samre, Phnom Bok, Neak Pean and Prah Khan and it was another rainy day. Exploring ruins on a rainy day made us feel like nobody visits Angkor Park. It was really nice to wander around in cooler weather and soak up the sights and appreciate the details. Mr. Fast got his bike fixed which was important because we wanted to do go further and the hike up to Phnom Bok.

I loved watching this cat follow the temple employee at Banteay Kdei patroned by Jayavarman VII (Buddhist) [late 12th - early 13th cent.]
I loved watching this cat follow the temple employee at Banteay Samre through the rain. Built by King Suryavarman II (Hindu-Vishnu) [mid 12th cent.]
Somebody counted the stairs - 635 - up to Phnom Bok.
Somebody counted the stairs – 635 – up to Phnom Bok. What a workout.

Built by Yasovarman I, Phnom Bok was part of the trilogies of mountain top temples. (Hindu-Trimurti) [9th - 10th cent.]
Built by Yasovarman I, Phnom Bok was part of the trilogies of mountain top temples. (Hindu-Trimurti) [9th – 10th cent.]
Preah Khan was a great way to end our 3-day tour, Huge + full of carvings - by Jayavarman VII (Buddhist) [late 12th cent.]
Preah Khan was a great way to end our 3-day tour, Huge + full of carvings + surprises. Built by Jayavarman VII (Buddhist) [late 12th cent.]
At Preah Khan, I was approached by a guide. He was escorting an Italian couple and when they were off taking photos of each other, he asked me if I had done some YouTube videos on learning Thai. I was taken back, as you might imagine, but he had been teaching himself Thai and remembered me! We talked a bit and now I have his number for future reference. And I got to ask my burning question, why do all the stones have holes in them? He explained, the holes in the rocks were the way they transported them using oxen or elephants from 70 km away.

I'm famous! [To see the video go here: https://youtu.be/y5raFoBxgwU]
I’m famous! Nim and I. [If you haven’t seen the video, go here: https://youtu.be/y5raFoBxgwU]
What a way to end my tour of Angkor! Thank you, Cambodia. I have an even deeper appreciation for your history. Looking forward to getting to know you better. xxoo

Advertisements

25 thoughts on “Why I love Angkor Wat

  1. Such an amazing place …. Banteay Srey and Phnom Bok are so beautiful… Dreamy locations, indeed…Thanks so much for sharing… Best wishes Aquileana ★⭐★

    Liked by 2 people

  2. you were recognized? wow! that’s awesome. but even more awesome he answered your burning question. i always wondered how on earth did they build that back in the day without any modern technology. elephant pulley system… now it all makes sense. i had seen paintings with the use of elephants but wasn’t sure if it was someone’s hypothesis or reality. love reading about your visit to angkor! on my first visit i spent 3 days there too but i wish it were longer so that i could really soak up and digest all the history. so much to learn!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’m looking forward to returning and seeing what I missed and gaining a different perspective that usually comes with repeated visits.

      I’ve been reading about the history, too, and it sure seems like the Angkor empire would make a great Hollywood film. So fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Most tourist places I’ve visited are either indoors (like museums and churches) or part of the great out-of-doors (like national parks and hikes in the woods). It’s unusual to have so much nature amidst the temples and carvings. I think I’d love that combination. I didn’t realize how huge Angkor Wat was. You were smart to see it in half-days and to take one day off for research.

    Excellent photos. I loved the reflection and the view of Baphuon from above and the beautiful tree roots.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point. I didn’t consider that. According to the wiki, the park is over 400 sq km and is considered the largest pre-industrial city in the world. I think that is another reason why I enjoyed it – so much to explore!

      Thanks 🙂

      Like

  4. Beautiful photos You made me appreciate Angkor Wat again. I got so burned out try to walk around all the tourists taking pictures and it was ofter hard to see things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand. I think if folks go during the high season the experience is a negative + frustrating one. They should limit how many they let into the park to help with the preservation and crowds. I’m grateful that I was able to go during the off-season.

      Like

    1. Hahahaha. Thanks. I liked Preah Khan and could possibly write a whole post on it. That’s a good idea, Autumn. But I wasn’t planning on it. Maybe in the future after another visit or with a guide. I’m glad you are interested 🙂

      Like

  5. I really like the first photo. EW did a great job with that. Well spotted. Love the rest of the photos too. There really is a lot of architecture to take in Angkor Wat. Sometimes the more time you spend in a place, the more you see. And you can do at your own leisure.

    It’s interesting to hear you say you enjoy the rain during your trip here, and I’m guessing it was tropical raining and not just a slight drizzle…but that it stopped long enough for you to get around. Either that you don’t mind getting drenched seeing the sights 😀

    Wow, Lani. You are famous! What an amazing story at the end and you and your fan look so happy in the last photo. Maybe consider doing more Youtube videos if you can…I would love to watch the video but I have limited Internet at home, so I will do so later this week at work 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. EW has the artistic eye. I just pretend to have one. 😀

      The rain drizzled, but downpoured too. By the end of the 2nd day my shoes were soaked and my skirt was wet, as well. We carried umbrellas and took shelter as much as we could.

      Yeah, I know I could do YouTube, but honestly it’s not my thing. Vids are a lot of work. I’d rather write. Regardless, thanks for watching 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful photos Lani! We also did the 3 day pass for Angkor Wat, and I think it was the perfect choice. We did that because we didn’t want to have to wake up early (no way were we gonna wake up at 6 am!!) or be rushed. We had a couple of the main temples we wanted to see, and the rest of the time, we just let our tuk-tuk driver drive around and stopped at whatever temples that looked cool along the way. He also made recommendations for us. It was such a good experience!

    That’s kinda cool that it was raining when you guys visited Ta Phrom! I remember that was one of the most crowded temples, and we had to wait in line to get a shot of the famous spot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s nice to see that you are back into the swing of things 🙂

      Yeah, I’m not sure why more Americans don’t visit Angkor. After all, Cambodia uses USD!

      The rain definitely kept the crowds away – often we had temples by ourselves or they were so few we could manuver around without any problems. Cheers!

      Like

  7. gorgeous shots! I had meant to tell you, but my husband was actually just in Cambodia for a service trip. they did get to visit Angkor Wat but spent of the time working with NGOs. it was pouring rain the day they went and they cut their time short… he didn’t really get to take pictures so I’m glad to see yours 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, that’s cool he was here. That must have been rewarding to work with the NGOs, too. I’m fairly certain Cambo has the most NGOs of any country.

      Yes, we’ve been getting tons of rain. I don’t know if this is normal yet since this is my first time here.

      I’m sure your husband though is happy to be back in civilized Taiwan 😛 Did he like it here?

      Like

  8. Lani, Those videos you did with Kruu Mia were an important influence on getting me to study Thai. I’ve been taking lessens via Skype with my teacher for a little over a year now (kruuweeteachthai.com) and have gotten a lot out of it. It has led to me making a number of Thai friends here in the US, and in getting jobs for both my kids at Thai restaurants! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. Thanks Stu. I’ve seen Kru Wee’s videos. She’s funny. The other day we stumbled into a massage place that was ran and owned by Thais. Got to speak a little pasa – it’s been awhlie!

      Like

      1. Orrawee Naksuwan (Kruu Wee) and I have become good friends this past year. She is patient and gracious, yet firm, and always eager to talk about her culture as well as language. I’m a visual learner, and though I’m a lazy student (about one lesson each three weeks), she’s got me reading a lot of Thai. How is your Khmer coming along? I’ve been sponsoring a young girl in Mongkol Borei through World Vision. The letters I get from her in Khmer look a lot like Thai, but I can’t really make heads or tails from them. They are translated into English by the staff in Cambodia.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nice. I had a great rapport with my former Thai teacher, too. Good guy. Hope he’s doing well (not one for keeping in touch though :P).

        I haven’t been studying Khmer since I arrived! I did more studying when I was in Thailand! Working too much + the b/f is way better and I rely on him, I have to admit. Khmer is great though – no tones!

        Like

Comments create conversations. Let's talk.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s