The Magnificent Angkor Wat

From a book, turns into realty.

I bought this book without any plan, when will I visit Cambodia. Yes, I bought this book long time ago (I forgot how many years ago) bcoz I have interest with Angkor Wat, the most famous monument of Cambodia.

Until earlier 2016 when an idea popped up in my mind, accidentally: this year I wanna visit Cambodia for Angkor Wat. It came to my mind -just like that, after I decided to postpone my Europe plan. When I checked my travel database, I found that several years ago I did some research about Cambodia, too. Using those resource as a starting point, I decided to visit only Siem Reap city as I will focus only on TEMPLES for my 1st visit.

Destination, locked. Travel time, chosen. Preps, almost all done about 3 months before departure day. It’s my travelling habit, anyway, to make sure everything’s well (or perfectly) prepared long before the due date. I booked everything online, including the guided tour -but of course, a private tour. Thank God I found a local tour operator, Angkor Guide Sam, which is very good and has affordable price.

After all said and done, the “big” day came. Yup, Angkor Wat definitely become the highlight of our 3 days temple tour. To maximise our “best of the best” moment at Angkor Wat, I added Sunrise package with small additional charge (but it’s really worth the price, trust me!).

Our tour guide, Phal, reminded us the day before to get ready for sunrise at 5 AM. Mom and I shown up precisely at those time, then 15 mins later we arrived at the entrance gate where the car dropped us off, but this it NOT the temple’s gate. Our Temple Pass also checked at this point. Moon still hung up on the sky, but at the same time we saw red-yellowish light arose on the East side. Together with many other tourists, we walked around 100 metres to reach the first entrance of Angkor Wat complex. The entrance road made from pile of big stone blocks, with large moats on the left and right side (also around the whole complex). 

There are 3 gates to enter the temple's complex, left-middle-right. Just a tip from our guide, better to enter from left or right gate so you will see all 5 towers of Angkor Wat -instead of 3, if you come from middle gate. Phal led us to the right gate and I thought it was really good choice.
Photo taken by our tour guide, Phal

Lots of people gathers around the building called as “The Library”, but mostly stand in front of the ponds waiting for sunrise. Yup, there are 2 ponds in front of Angkor Wat that reflect temple’s silhouette into the water, a photographer’s favorite! No wonder if I spotted many people were ready with their gears, and I’m one of them.. hehehe…

Sunrise moment lasts in a few minutes only, and after that the crowd spreads away to do their own activities. Me? I ate my breakfast package first, in the middle of prairie, near The Library building. Did you imagine a picnic? In fact, thousands of flies accompanied us (nayy!), made me struggled so hard to protect the food from them and ate super fast. Blah.

Ok, forget the flies and let’s start the journey to the famous monument!

Angkor Wat literally means the Holy City, founded by King Suryavarman II (1113-1150). 
It is surrounded by 5 enclosures:
  1. Outer Enclosure (1025 x 802 m), pierced by 4 gates on the cardinal points, but only the east and west gate are linked by causeways. West gate is the largest one, and now become the main gate for tourist entrance.
  2. The 4th Enclosure (332 x 258 m), marked by Naga balustrades.
  3. The 3rd Enclosure (258 x 215 m), is the 1st level of the temple.
  4. The 2rd Enclosure (120 x 100 m), is the 2nd level of the temple.
  5. The 1st Enclosure (first standing on the pyramid of 60 m in diameter), is the 3rd level of the temple. 
First level of the temple included 4 galleries on each side. Along each
 gallery we would find reliefs sculpted on its stone, narrated the events from the Hindu Epics, the Puranas, also symbolically embodied the fundamental religious, ethical, philosophical, and political principles of the Khmer during the reign of King Suryavarman II.

To reach 2nd level of the temple, we have to climb quite high, but wait until you see the stairs to level 3! Didn’t need to wait so long bcoz Phal took us directly to the entrance of level 3. He kept level 2 to be explored later, as he said better for us to explore 3rd level while it’s quite early in the morning. You know why? Yeap, to avoid those noisy-annoying big group tourist! Yeayy… love this idea, thanks to our experienced guide!

The stairs to level 2
Two staircases stand still in front of us, one for way up and the other one for going down. Oh damn, they’ll torture my injured right knee so bad, but I won’t stop!

There’s special lane for visitors who wanna climb to the highest part of Angkor Wat, and they’ll need a pass to enter. A plastic card with neck strap named Bakan Pass would be handed by a guard as a sign that you can start climbing. Once the pass is finish, no one may climb to 3rd level until someone is going down. Obviously this pass limits the amount of people upstairs to avoid overload weight that may harm the construction. Phal said, on peak season the queue could be extremely long and tourist should wait like... forever. Lucky, there was no queue at all when my mom and I entered the lane. No need to wait nor climb in rush with others, so we could “enjoy” those steep staircases. 

Just a tip from me, DO NOT look up or down when you climb (especially if you have fear of heights or acrophobia). Only see the staircases in front of you and step up one by one ‘till the top. Well, the stairs have thin iron hand rail on the left and right but we can’t hold them so tight because sun light made them hot. I was there around 8 o’clock in the morning and it’s quite hot. Could you imagine how hot would it be at noon? *smirk*

Finally, the highest level of Angkor Wat! On the top there are five towers arranged in quincunx shape, one in the center and four at each corner. Those 5 towers are linked together by galleries and the center one originally opened to 4 sides, housed the statue of Vishnu. In 16th century when the temple became Buddhist monastery, those doors were closed and Buddhist monks carved Buddha statues on them. 

Being in this place seemed to throw us back into the past, imagine the grandeur of this building in its heyday. I love the ambiance here, it was quiet and calm. Wind blows, birds chirping, blue sky, totally peaceful. No crowd, no tourist guides nor noisy tourists, made everyone enjoy their own time here, exploring every corner, taking pics, even sat and read a book like at their own home.

Mom and I spent not too long over there, just strolled along all the galleries and took pics. Oh, also petted a young ginger cat! 

After some wefie with mom, together we went down those steep stairs. 
Oh, I really need to learn how to use those selfie stick!

Another tips, if lookin' down make you dizzy, turn your body about 30-45 degree then walk down the stairs diagonally, one by one. Just focus on the stairs and your step. Hopefully you'll survive!

Phal met us again and took us to explore the 2nd level. 

In a corner we saw a monk was giving blessed charm bracelet to a western tourist, of course with donations in return. At another part, we met 2 monkeys sat on the ground. They aren't dangerous, but don't try to play -even give them food, or they will chase you everywhere (and may attack you!). 

At the end, our guide led us to went out from this monument through the middle gate.

We left this monument before 9 AM. Was it too short as a 1st visit to my dream place? Well, now when I’m back home I feel a bit regret not to spent a few more hours in Angkor Wat to explore further or just to sit and relax like some tourist did. A reason to come back one day, maybe? 

It's not a goodbye,
it's a see you later!
- Magnificently beautiful!
- Large area, lots of details to see/explore

- You'll need to walk and climb the stairs a lot. Dare to stretch your feet?

- Come early! It'll save you from sunlight also those noisy-annoying tourist groups.
- Be ready with comfortable clothes and shoes/sandals. Sunglasses, hats, and sunblock are essential.
- Bring plenty of water, and some snack to recharge your energy.


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