Thursday, 25 July 2013

Day Fifteen - Angkor Wat - Cambodia

We woke up early, like usual, to avoid the crowds making their way to the nearby ancient city of Angkor. We arranged for our Tuk Tuk driver who picked us up from the Port in Siem Reap the day before to take us around the old cities. We begun by making our way north out of town stopping first at Angkor Wat before carrying onto, Ankor Thom and the temple Bayon and ending at Ta Prohm.

Our Tuk Tuk arrived on the road to the east of Angkor Wat. The first thing we were staggered by was the huge moat that surrounds the temple and old city. At this point you couldn't actually see the buildings inside the island through the trees but the moat alone is amazing. Spanning nearly 200 meters in width and enclosing an area measuring 1.5 by 1.3 kilometres. It's truly inspiring and unimaginable to think this was all dug by hand back in 1125 when building commenced on the city. Even the banks of the moat are lined with huge stone blocks helping to preserve it after all these years. We turned around to the front side of the temple and the giant stone bridge that leads you into Angkor Wat city came into view.

Our Tuk Tunk driver dropped us off and pointed to where he would wait for us until we finished exploring. We had arrived early but there was already a decent gathering of other tourists here too. We made our way over the giant bridge which is paved in massive stones with beautifully caved stone statues sitting on either side lining the way to the grand entrance. Some of these statues are in better shape than others but there are enough surviving to give you the feel of the magnificence of this place and the huge intricate detail that has gone into sculpting each individual stone laid.

We arrived at the grand front entrance and made our way inside. Once you get into the entrance hall, long corridors go off to the left and right and lead you to either end of the front facade. Small shrines with fragrant incense sticks burn along the corridors and monks line the way in prayer. Stepping out the other side you enter onto the grass island of Angkor Wat with another giant paved path leading you to the front of the main temple. You can hardly see the end of the path that leads to the main temple as it's so long and the main temple is but a silhouettes in the distance.

As you walk along the raised pathway to the temple you pass other small buildings along the way that if they stood anywhere else in the world would have a huge impact yet here they are dwarfed by the unbelievable size and grandure of the main temple here. The sound of xylophones and chanting of the monks that still reside here filled the heavy air as we walked in anticipation towards the main building.

We climbed up the steps into the main entrance that again has corridors off each side that surround the main temple in a square shape forming a courtyard around it. We looked back along the path we had just crossed to the dot in the distance that is the front entrance. We carried on inside to the main temple and looked up at the huge towers that form the main temple. Unlike the other temples on this area, Angkor Wat remains in good condition as it is still in use by over eighty monks that still live here. It's amazing when you look at all the giant stones, each with individual engraving, and imagine how they got here and were places so high. The original stones were quarried over fifty kilometres away and floated down the river on rafts to the site of the temple.

We carried on thought the temple and out the other side of the corridor lined courtyards to the other side of the moated island. At the far side where we met the moat again another entrance lies which we looked around before walking the whole way back though the temple and its paths back to out Tuk Tuk driver.

We drove north to Angkor Thom which is home to the Bayon temple. This temple is slightly less in tact than Angkor Wat but the main building is still accessible. There are just a few stones and statues in more of a state of decay than Angkor Wat. We wandered around navigating through the tourists that had started to pile in for the day before moving further north to other smaller ruins in the ground and finally passing over the terrace of elephants before meeting our Tuk Tuk again.

We then drove to our final temple of the day Ta Prohm which is a lot more neglected than the other two and is famous for the trees that's roots hug it's walls. There is a lot of work being done on this temple at the moment by an Indian company that are restoring a lot of it that can still be saved. As you walked through you could here these workers vigorously chipping away at stone creating an image of what it must have been like here hundreds of years ago. We wandered around before getting our Tuk Tuk back to our hotel to escape the heat and humidity of midday.

You could explore the huge amounts of temples in this area for weeks as they cover such a huge amount of area and there are so many separate ones. This place definitely holds the most amazing pieces of ancient architectures I have ever seen.

We returned to our hotel and relaxed by the pool and enjoyed dinner out before our flight to Bangkok the following day.

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