|Marcin, 2005-10-14 11:28:30|
Most of people associate Angkor with Angkor Wat, the most wonderful temple - city. But in fact, the name concerns several dozen of temples scattered within about a 30-kilometre radius. They were built between 8th and 13th century as a place of Hindu worship, and next people worshipped Budda there. The temples are made of bricks (some of them), sandstone and laterit. Quite a lot of them are richly ornamented with low reliefs. The entrances are guarded by the stone statues of lions and the multi-headed snake – a god called Naga.
When we arrived in Siem Reap a tourist we came cross said that he had bought a three-day ticket but it was a waste of money. He managed to see three the most important monuments in one day. The Pascal guidebook suggested to spend a whole week on visiting the place and a one-day trip in Angkor it called a waste of time. As we both like such places and probably we will never come here again we bought two seven-day tickets. What is more, Iwona and Ania, our pals from Wroclaw, should come to Siem Reap in a few day’s time.
We started our sightseeing tour on bikes. First, we saw Angkor Wat. We did not arrive at the very moment when the sun rises and we did not manage to take some pictures inside of the temples (because I had forgotten the stand). We walked around the outside galleries covered with beautiful bas-reliefs. The most important one presents the myth of obtaining the elixir of immortality. It is showing 88 gods and 92 demons that coiled the snake Naga round the mountain Mandara and they turned it 1000 years, that way from the rough sea, which surrounded the universe, they got the miraculous potion.
We were admiring the insides of the temples with different ornaments but our attention focused on the topless dancers, which were quite near the exit, and which had very smooth busts because the visitors touched them. When we got to the centre of the temple it started raining, well – the rainy season. It stopped raining after about an hour so we mounted our bikes and went off. We spent in Angkor Wat 5 hours but we came there three more times. The first stop was Prasat Kravan – the group of 5 temples which at first glance did not look very interesting. They hid splendid low reliefs in their interiors. We arrived in Banteay Kdei in the afternoon and that is why there were not many tourists. The temple was almost totally ruined but had remarkable atmosphere. Our busy day we finished in Pre Rup, watching the sunset. Then we were riding through the bumpy terrain in the darkness but it was worth it.
We bought the guidebook to Angkor - it cost 10 $ instead 28 printed on the cover, and for us it was quite an expense. Fortunately, the previous day I had found a wad of notes (17$) in our hotel. Thanks to that guidebook we could appreciate all the places we had visited.
The book contains lots of wonderful photographs and information about temples, and useful pieces of advice how and when to visit them.
The author of that particular picture was taking photos for ten years in Angkor! I am not surprised the place is a paradise for photographers. The Khmer architects had created here the masterpieces, comparing to the Inca buildings which look primitive (but we liked them very much). We took almost 2000 pictures during six days of our visit – it is 20% of the total number we managed to take in South America five months ago.
If you want to take pictures in Angkor, you have to have a lot of money, time and you have to be as fit as a fiddle. The best photos of the temples can be taken in the morning, in the evening and often in the middle of the day. Some bigger buildings you have to walk around a few times. It can happen that the downpour prevents you from taking pictures. There are about 50 monuments and a week ticket costs 60$! The sun rises shortly after 5am and sets 12 hours later, it is really strong. All that makes taking pictures in Angkor is very tiring. After six days we were exhausted but felt unsatisfied.
We liked the most: Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei, Banteay Kdei, Banteay Samre, Ta Phrom and Bayon. In Banteay Kdei we were almost alone and the temple has not been restored completely yet so its atmosphere is incredible. Banteay Samre is off the beaten track and there are not any tourists there. Apart from that it is tight and in a very small area there are many buildings. In Bayon there are the most impressive huge stone faces, there are probably 172 faces- they observe visitors from all the directions. Banteay Srei is beautifully decorated but watching it we were little disappointed. We met there crowds of Japanese people, during our visit it was cloudy (to get there we spent 15$,so we were not able to go there again), and the worst the main buildings were enclosed and we could not get near to them. Ta Phrom does not differ from the other temples. The visitors are impressed by branches and roots twined around some buildings.
We made friends with Angkor during our six-day stay. We felt at home and we were sad to leave. Unfortunately, Ania and Iwona did not have so much time as we had that is why we set off to Laos.
Marcin, 2005-10-12 12:08:20
We did not have an access to the Internet last two weeks. We travelled through Cambodia and we are in Laos just now. We went by bus from Sajgon to Phnom Pehn. We wanted to receive the Laotian visa (which cost 22$ here, instead 45$ we would possibly spend in Hanoi or Sajgon) and which can be issued the next day but we arrived on Friday, and at the weekend the Embassy is closed. It was also closed on Monday so we got our passports with the visas on Wednesday at 4pm. We were wandering around the streets of the capital of Cambodia almost a whole week. We visited a museum where the collection of art from the Angkor times is gathered – mainly the stone and bronze statues of Budda and Hindu gods. We have seen several Buddhist temples and Gosia was also in the king’s palace and the pagoda where the floor was covered with silver tiles.
We have agreed that we like better Cambodia than Vietman. Talking about prices - it is expensive (food is more expensive, accomodation is cheaper but essentially we spend little more) but people are nicer. They also try to trick us but not as much as in Vietnam. The Khmers smile and they are cheerful – not only when they can make money. The country is much poorer. The roads are worse, quite a lot of people beg. Reading a local newspaper we learnt about the cases of deaths caused by starvation.
The main destination of our stay in Cambodia (for many tourists the only destination) were the Angkor temples. As we wanted to see more the next day after collecting our visas we went to Kompong Thom by minibus. The main attraction in that area are the temples Sambor Prey Kuk. It looked like there was only one tourist with us in that small town. We rented a motorbike with some problems. In Vietnam every 15 metres you could meet a person who was ready to lend you the vehicle. In Phnom Pehn there were less people offering bikes but there was not a problem with it. We made a round in Kompong Thom and nobody accosted us offering a motorbike. Luckily we rented a vehicle and at first riding on the asphalt way and next worse tracks we reached the temples. They were in different condition. They were built of bricks and they did not have many ornaments. Surely they could not compete with those which we were planning see in Angkor. We were amazed by the place – so quiet and peaceful. The ruins were scattered on the area of a few square kilometers among trees and we met there one tourist, our neighbour from the hotel.
On our way we had a chance to see a real Cambodia. We were passing the fields – some with growing vivid green rice, others flooded entirely. We saw houses on stilts, sugar palms and people who were greeting us warmly. From time to time cars, bicycles and the carts with oxen went past.
The next day we got in a pick-up and went to Siem Riep, where it is possibile to visit Angkor. The passengers sat on the sideboards at the back of the vehicle, and its driver probably wanted to break the world record in travelling from Kompong Thom to Siem Reap. When one of the passengers got off I was able to see how fast we were going. I was leaning right and through the drivers window (yes – the steering wheel was on the right) I peeped the speedometer; it showed 80, 90 and 120. That racewas on the road full of bicycle, motorbikes and cows, there were carts with oxen, too. At the beginning of our journey we miraculously avoided a head-on collision with a bus, later it was better. We reached Siem Reap in one piece.
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