February 2, 2011

South East Asia on a shoestring 4: AMAZING ANGKOR

6th Day – Hot Siem Reap and AMAZING ANGKOR

 I have always wanted to go to Angkor. So when I got the flight ticket to Ho Chi Minh, the number one destination should be Angkor, built by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD in Cambodia :D. So .. here I am now in Siem Reap, the city where Angkor Temples located. We packed our carrier and then moving to our confirmed guest house by tuktuk. After check in and Grace also Felis having their indomie (they cook indomie in the hostel kitchen :D) we start our journey to Angkor. We book tuk tuk 12 dollars from morning until afternoon. If you wish to see sunrise or sunset you have to pay 18 dollars.

Siem Reap city is really nice not too big but it has complete facilities. Since this city is the major tourism in all over Cambodia so their price is a  little bit higher compare to other cities in Cambodia even with Phnom Penh. The fact that almost all the people in Siem Reap at least in the down town can speak in English even I saw a beggar last night spoke in English very fluent. 

Ten minutes after departing from our guest house we enter the gate and stop to buy the entrance ticket. We buy one day visit cost 20 dollars. We have the ticket with our photos printed on it. It means that the ticket is not transferable. Angkor Complex is really huge stretching over 400 square kilometers. That’s why they also sell ticket for 3 days visit cost 40 dollars and 7 days visit cost 60 dollars. The Angkor Archaeological Park (the official name) was declared as the UNESCO World Heritage in 1992.

Angkor is hot and humid, we are lucky to come on July. According to some readings the best season to visit Angkor is October to December when the temperature is within 30o – 32o Celcius. Angkor is burning on April – May where the temperature can reach 35o – 40o Celcius :D. Just prepare your long sleeves also hat or cap or sunscreen lotion to avoid direct sun shine ;).

After the ticket booth, the driver takes us to the first complex destination, Angkor Wat. I always thought that Angkor Wat is the whole name for this site..  well.. it’s not. Angkor Wat is just one small complex over this huge Angkor Archaeological Park, is one of the main attractions in the complex, built during the early years of the 12th century by Suryavaram II. The process that lasts almost 4 centuries dedicated to Vishnu, this magnificent area has been abandoned and hidden by the forest, re-discovered by a French  150 years ago.

When we enter the Angkor Complex, some guards are checking our ticket and make sure the tickets is valid for today. We spend almost 2 hours in Angkor Wat Complex, admiring the architecture and relief on the walls of the outer galery and it reminds me back that we have the same same but different in Central Java, Indonesia – Borobudur :D. Some part of the Angkor Wat are closed due to restoration. The Angkor Wat is divided into two part the outer and central buildings. We take the chance to climb the  Central Buildings where the temple stands on a terrace raised higher than the city made of three rectangular galleries rising to a central tower, each level higher than the last. Once we reach the higher point we can see the whole view of the Angkor Wat complex. Stunning and amazing. No shorts and tank top outfit allowed to enter the central tower and the guards will make sure that you are already in a proper outfit otherwise they won’t let you in.

Finish with Angkor Wat, we continue with tuktuk to Angkor Thom Complex built in the late 12thcentury where the Bayon Temple located. Bayon temple is located at the central of the Angkor Thom Complex and become one of the major destination of people who is coming to visit the Angkor Archeological Park. The Bayon was built in the late 12th century dedicated to Buddha which most famous feature is the massive stone faces of the Avalokiteshvara. The temple is known also for two impressive sets of reliefs which present the mythological, historical and the everyday life scenes of the people living that era. Though ruins are everywhere but we still can see the temple mountain shape. Now the temple in some parts are being renovated. If Angkor Wat has a grand scale while Bayon is just in a small scale. We spend around 1 hour to see this stunning Bayon temple and then we continue to see more Angkor Complex.

Passing the streets around the Angkor Complex are so relaxing, though the sun shines very bright but the shade trees create a cool surrounding air. We don’t spend to much at the Angkor Thom then we continue to the next temple which is Ta Prohm located around 1 kilometer away from Angkor Thom complex. We enter this site and see two guards are on their post and checking our ticket and they ask where do we come from. When we proudly say we are Indonesian and suddenly this guy mention DJARUM :D. I am not sure what does he mean when we find out later he was talking about cigarettes. They are asking if we have the cigarettes and if we don’t mind they want to have it. Well, what I have is only Sampoerna and then I give two for them. They are really happy and asking a lot about Indonesia. They know that Indonesia has Borobudur temple which was built long before the Angkor. We are happy to find out even these two Cambodian guards know about Indonesia. After several talk, we continue enter the Ta Prohm complex.

Ta Prohm means Old Brahma which is now in progress of conservation and restoration after being abandoned and neglected for centuries. Some parts of the temple are closed for renovation and some part of the temple also has different color after being replaced with the new one. But the trees growing out of the ruins are perhaps the most impressive feature of Ta Prohm and makes this temple is becoming most visited and famous temple among all the main attractions at Angkor Archeological Park. Ta Prohm was once used for the site of Tomb Raider film. Following the map we have and use for the Angkor Archeoligical Park visit, Banteay Kdei is our next destination after Ta Prohm.  And then we’re leaving the Angkor Complex around 3 pm.

We feel very tired and exhausted yet excited after visiting the Angkor. One mission has been fulfilled to see the magnificent ancient Khmer glory through their architecture. Time is showing us 3pm in the afternoon and realize that we haven’t got any lunch. We’re heading back to the Siem Reap to have lunch nearby and going back to hostel afterwards for resting.

After resting and showering around 6.30 pm, we go out to have dinner in the middle of Siem Reap’s night life. At night, around the old market, there are hundreds of restaurants and pubs and we will have no trouble finding something which suits our tastes and budget. Lots of people mostly tourists are going out to have dinner or maybe just to hang out at this place. After some thought, we chose a street food in front of the Red Piano restaurant and Bar. We order a Khmer Barbeque Set Dinner served with rice, noodles and veggies.

Finish with dinner, we are going to the Angkor Night Market, which located not very far from the place where we have our dinner. Angkor Night Market sells a wide range of local products, handicrafts, Kramar – Khmer scarf etc with good quality. Bargaining is most welcome specially when you buy a lot of them ;). What is hip is a lot of fish massage stalls around this area. The price is ranging from 5 – 10 dollars per/hour and lots of them having this fish massage. While me?? I’d rather to have a real massage than fish massage hehehehe. We also watch the traditional Khmer dancing at the market.

7th Day – Leaving Siem Reap for Bangkok

Our bus leaves the city at 9 in the morning. We are heading west to Bangkok through the Cambodia west border, Poipet. We bought our 6.5 dollars ticket last night before having dinner, not sure what’s the name of this bus operator. We are on the same bus together with Steffi & Juergen, the CS Germany Couple we met in our Phnom Penh host. The small van stops one time and it’s a real slow. From Siem Reap to Poipet could be reached in just two hours when it becomes 3 hours.

We reach Poipet Immigration around 11.30 and get our own carrier, walk to the locket for passport stamping and then passing the border.  Unlike the border between West Vietnam (Moc Bai) and East Cambodia (Bavet), here is very crowded, dusty and dirty :D though there are lots of hotels and casinos. We pass the friendship bridge between Cambodia and Thailand and we are here at the East Thailand Border, Aranya Prathet. From the seven lockets only three are opened and it makes long queue on the stamp check. After passing the stamp check we and some of our groups are escorted to behind the immigration building and waiting for almost one hour, drive us to where the bus park and another one hour waiting and then we’re leaving the city at 2pm. So, we are waiting more than 2 hours *sigh.  We arrive at 7pm at Khao San Road, Bangkok. It’s raining and traffic jam one hour before the arrival plus our bus got machine problem though the driver can handle it later.  

Changing our money is the first thing we do and then we buy and eat our dinner from the stall in the middle of Khao San Road crowdedness. We are heading the Hua Lamphong Station afterward  to buy train ticket for tomorrow morning Ayutthaya Trip but the ticket can only be bought on the day. So, we are leaving the station and directly going to Sukhumvit area where Nikolay, our host, is waiting.  We take subway from station and stop at the Sukhumvit Soi 23. First we decide to go walk, but later because of raining and we are too tired and exhausted also we have to carry our backpack we decide to take the sky train. And the decision to go using sky train is even better knowing that if we force ourselves to walk we have to pass around three sky train stations @_@. We finally meet Nikolay after knocking on wrong’s door :D and sleeping is all what we need tonight.

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