Cambodia Day 1 – Angkor Wat

5 Mar

After a day of travel and a quick layover in South Korea (Pusan airport was the easiest and friendliest transfer I have ever had), we arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia at around 10pm, several days after the official Chinese New Year celebration.  The air was balmy as we waited in the open air customs terminal.  Per our request, the hotel had sent a tuk tuk to pick us up and after identifying our driver we loaded our bags and ourselves into the seat and rumbled to the hotel.

The next day, our first full day, we got started late – a little after 10am and with the help of the hotel, determined that we would try for the major sites on day 1 and would travel by tuk tuk for the day.  Renting a tuk tuk was only about $15 US dollars and seemed like the best option to get our bearings and understand what was going on.  Our driver asked if we already had tickets and when he found out it was our first day, dropped us off at the main ticket office where we had to wait in line to buy our passes (a three day pass) and get our photo taken.  Then, after another 10 minutes or so, we were there – in front of one of the great wonders of the world – Angkor Wat.

Even from a distance, it was enormous.  Because it was approaching lunch time, the tourist crowd wasn’t that thick and so we made our way across the long bridge to the main building, noticing the king cobras carved on the railings and the pitted walkway.  Halfway down the walk guides started approaching us to give us the “inside scoop” and eventually we settled on one to tell us the story and guide us through the building.   Getting the guide was a good move – he kept us moving through the main rooms, showed us the major sites and areas and started to share some of the history and culture of the Khmer Kingdom that created the great marvel.

Our first view - the cobras guarding the gate to Angkor Wat

Our first view – the cobras guarding the gate to Angkor Wat

The view of the front of the Templte - over three football fields long

The view of the front of the Temple – over three football fields long

As we walked through the temple we saw the now empty pools where the king would purify himself and the steep, steep steps that indicated the difficult passage up to heaven.  We saw the intricate carvings of thousands of Ankara dancers and the empty pedestals where hundreds of statues of Buddha would have rested during the time period when the temple was converted from Hinduism to Buddhism.  After pointing out the major sites our guide left us and then we climbed up our first set of steep wooden steps to the tops of the five tours that make the classic postcard of Angkor Wat.

Peering through the columns into one of the pools (now dry)

Peering through the columns into one of the pools (now dry)

Our guide pointing out some specific details

Our guide pointing out some specific details

The steps up "to heaven" - that are now blocked off because they are so dangerous

The steps up “to heaven” – that are now blocked off because they are so dangerous

Li found me through the columns - each corner led to something new

Li found me through the columns – each corner led to something new

View from the very top of Angkor Wat - think 1000 years ago how high this was - even taller than the tallest trees

View from the very top of Angkor Wat – think 1000 years ago how high this was – even taller than the tallest trees

Making my way down from the top.  This ladder was one of many over the 5 days we were there.

Making my way down from the top. This ladder was one of many over the 5 days we were there.

After doing the circuit we rested in the vanishing shade and watched tourists coming by.  To our amusement we even saw a dog ambling down the historic cobblestones and then a holy man making his way to see this wonder of the world.  Our eyes not accustomed to so much sun and dripping with sweat in the early afternoon heat, we made our way slowly out of the temple and over to the lunch stands on the side.  Two bowls of instant noodles with chicken and vegetables later, we headed back to the entrance to meet our driver and continue the afternoon’s adventure at Bayon and Baphuon Temples.

Our very own holy man - or just a tourist?

Our very own holy man – or just a tourist?

Lots more to see!  What's next?

Lots more to see! What’s next?

What else would we see that day?  Would we be able to find and communicate with our driver?  Keep tuned for more of our trip to Cambodia….

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24 Responses to “Cambodia Day 1 – Angkor Wat”

  1. yukiaru March 5, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    “steps up to heaven” sounds like “stairway to heaven”. It’s beautiful (:

    • gkm2011 March 5, 2013 at 8:12 am #

      Yes, it was beautiful and really steep! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • yukiaru March 5, 2013 at 8:15 am #

        no problem at all! (:

  2. Kristin March 5, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    That sounds like a promising first day! Love all the pictures – I cannot imagine how impressive it must be in real. Thanks for sharing!

    • gkm2011 March 5, 2013 at 8:11 am #

      It was, and the trip got better and better. I would highly recommend it! More to come…

      • Kristin March 5, 2013 at 8:12 am #

        Looking forward to it! 🙂

  3. Madhu March 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Lovely account bof your trip. We were blown away by the grandeur of Angkor Wat too! But my favourite temples were some of the smaller ones 🙂

    • gkm2011 March 5, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

      I agree, there is a huge range. When did you go?

      • Madhu March 11, 2013 at 5:40 am #

        We went last October

  4. stupiduglyforeigner March 6, 2013 at 1:48 am #

    Good stuff. You have to be so careful in timing your Angkor Wat exploration, otherwise you get stuck in the regular tourist crush. If you’re just slightly off the peak times where everyone goes to everything (or if you evade the tour buses) the place is comparatively empty!

    • gkm2011 March 6, 2013 at 7:54 am #

      Yes, I agree. We weren’t so lucky when we visited the smaller “ladies temple” and I felt like I was back in China. There were so many Chinese tourists I couldn’t appreciate the details.

      • stupiduglyforeigner March 6, 2013 at 8:05 am #

        Yeah. It can be kind of wonky hating on other tourists for doing tourist things when you’re right there with them, but at the same time, I sure do like when all of them go away and I can wander around by myself. It feels like the universe setting up something just for you.

  5. thirdeyemom March 6, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    I want to see this so bad someday! Lovely photos!

    • gkm2011 March 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

      It has lasted 1000 years already so take your time. It will still be there. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

      • thirdeyemom March 9, 2013 at 4:10 am #

        He He. I only worry about it getting too touristy but maybe it already is! 🙂 I need a year to explore all of Asia….!

  6. sarahinguangzhou March 6, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    it’s an amazing place isn’t it? I just found it (and actually the whole of Cambodia) really hard to take with people harassing you to buy all the time. I’d stop to buy water or cola and they’d be ‘oh get a coke for your driver too and my sister wants a coke and where you from? we really poor’ and it just got exhausting.
    Nice photos though. I think my photos of the place reflect the exhaustion I felt from dealing with everyone there.

    • gkm2011 March 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      It is a poor country and that showed in certain areas for sure (toilets for example). Your mood definitely affects how you view a place though, so hope you’ll have many more positive trips!

  7. Naomi Baltuck March 21, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

    This sounds like a great trip. Great photos, and I love hearing your stories.

    • gkm2011 March 22, 2013 at 7:55 am #

      Thanks! More to come…

  8. Mona March 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Informative and entertaining post … you inspire me.

    • gkm2011 March 22, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

      Thanks! Working on the rest of the trip, hope to keep up to your expectations.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Cambodia Day 1 – Baphuon Temple and our first Amok | 中国 Jumble - March 14, 2013

    […] and wondered at the temple higher than the trees and how it may have been viewed.  Our guide at Angkor Wat had told us that the kings of old all felt they needed to build a bigger temple than their […]

  2. Cambodia Day 2 – Preah Khan | 中国 Jumble - April 2, 2013

    […] Khan was huge – not as big as Angkor Wat, but still a large blob on the map that we were carrying around.  Li had done his research and […]

  3. The seventh quarter review | 中国 Jumble - April 21, 2013

    […] More great shots to come!  The entry that received the most feedback was the one I did on Angkor Wat – the most famous temple in Siem […]

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