8/09/2013

Siam Reap Escape - Day 2

Here's the account of my favorite experience in Siam Reap - Angkor Wat!

Day 2

We left the hotel 5am and the tuk-tuk took us to the ticket office on the main road to Angkor Wat. There was a queue but it moved quickly and we bought a one-day pass ($20). Our photo will be taken and printed on the pass so you can't use it other than the day of purchase. Upon reaching Angkor Wat, we hurried across the bridge built to provide access to the temple over the artificial moat that was built by cutting off the natural river that used to flow there. 
Upon entering, we walked towards the end and waited by the lake where the sunrise is reflected by the water surface. 
Notice the lovely libraries flanking the path:
The naga motif is repeated at many parts of the temple:
Apsara dancers adorn many pillars:

Tip: many tourists will immediately enter the temple after witnessing sunrise; my advice is to avoid this crowd and head on to the other temples which are less crowded, then move back to Angkor Wat after lunch. 

We exited Angkor Wat and our tuk-tuk drivers took us to Angkor Reach restaurant nearby for breakfast. We treated them because they were really helpful and courteous to us :) Here I tasted Angkor coffee for the first time and it was amazing, a separate cup full of condensed milk was also served! We had American breakfast; pancakes is a popular street food and it was very nicely done, very fluffy and piping hot!
Next stop was Angkor Thom: the bridge is flanked by soldiers; good on the left, bad on the right. Good is distinguished from evil by the facial expressions on the statues. Conservation and restoration is carried out on the statues, hence some statue heads look "cleaner" than the others.
We passed the gate with the four-headed statue and hopped on to the tuk-tuk to Angkor Thom.
The Bayon was once the home and fortress to a great Khmer king but due to internal conflict the fortress fell to ruin. It's one of the many temples under the UNESCO heritage site; as such, only licensed guides (trained to re-tell the history and many are multilingual) can accompany you inside. We opted to go on our own so our tuk-tuk driver explained the route to take from this temple to other sites as well as features to look out for. The temple is impressive and the walls have bas-reliefs depicting tales of old. 
After the Bayon we walked to the Terrace of Elephants. We climbed MANY steps to reached the top and the view was stunning. 
Climbing down the many stairs, we headed to the Phimean Akos in the Royal Enclosure. More steps. Penat doh.
We got some coconuts and then the driver took us to Ta Phrom temple, the famous white temple in the jungle where the first Tomb Raider film was shot. Along the path to the temple, there are musical performers and peddlers selling souvenirs and books. The temple is seemingly in sync with nature; there are huge trees with the roots pushing through/hugging the bricks/walls.
There's a famous wall section that was initially in rubble but restored back to its original glory:
Lunch at Khmer Family Restaurant was a simple, quiet affair and the food was so good:
Amok fish curry
Stir-fried local vegetables
Fresh spring rolls
Ginger chicken
After lunch, we returned to Angkor Wat. Luckily it was bright but mostly cloudy so we got enough light to view the beauty of this landmark without suffering from direct heat! 
The courtyard and steps to enter the building
The bas-reliefs are incredibly detailed and describe heaven, earth and hell, historical battles and mythology
The place is huge! So vast and many sculptures to feast your eyes upon!
There was a second tower in the middle of the temple but it was closed for maintenance. Normally only a small number of people are allowed to ascend and view the the chamber above to ensure preservation of the structure. 
Modern stairs built to assist visitors. I can only imagine how the locals managed going up and down the original staircase as the steps are narrow and the incline is steep.
Public bathing pools, I wonder how the water was supplied! 
The temple is still in use, monks silently perform their prayers there. 
Hence ends our visit to the great temples in Siam Reap. The time was 4pm so what do we do? 

What happened to my friend's missing luggage? While we were going about temples, the airport contacted the hotel which in turn called our driver to inform that his luggage never left KL and they've sent it to the hotel. What a relief! So we returned to the hotel, rested and went to Lemongrass Spa for a pampering session. Some went for waxing, some went for massage and one went for a manicure-pedicure session. Service was good and the ambience really helped to sooth our tired bodies and minds. 
Dinner at the Red Piano:

Thus ends our second day in Siem Reap; 3 friends had to leave earlier because they worked at different countries so we slept our final night before the final day of this amazing journey :)

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