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Impressive, but crowded temples

Siem Reap, Angkor Wat

semi-overcast 35 °C
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We had taken our lesson from the first day sightseeing not to start sightseeing too late in an attempt to avoid the midday heat. Consequently, we went for breakfast at 6:30am and headed out with Mr. Tommy already at 7am.
Today we planned to check out the Bayon, one of the most famous temples in the Angkor Wat Archeological Park. In fact, the Bayon is the central temple of the Angkor Thom royal buddhist city which dates back to the 12th century. It is supposed to have been home for 1.000.000 people.
Already the approach to Angkor Thom was very impressive. There was a 100m (!) wide moat, then an 8m high wall (of a total length of 12 km) with an enormous entrance gate. The bridge leading to the entrance gate was lined with Buddha statues on both sides.

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The Bayon temple marks the exact center of Angkor Thom and is famous for its gigantic sculptures. In total there are over 216 huge smiling faces looking down at the visitors of the temple. So no matter where in the temple you are, there is always a ‘big brother’ watching you.

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Well, and in addition we had at least another 250 people watching us – probably a third Chinese, another third Korean and the last third all others. Especially the last and highest level of the temple was more than crowded and we were happy to descend again towards the quieter levels further down.

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In addition to all the tourists, there were lots of monkeys around – probably a result of being fed by eager tour guides who want to enable their guests to get great shots of the monkeys. We rather kept our distance. Since I had a monkey jump on my shoulder in a Balinese temple over 20 years ago, I have become extremely cautious with these animals.

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From the Bayon it was only a short walk to the Baphuon, While the temple is impressively big, being in the shadow of its famous neighbor Bayon makes it look rather pale in comparison. Still, there's one story about it that we could hardly believe: according to archeological best practices at the time, all stones of the temple had been taken apart, cleaned and when needed repaired or replaced in order to assemble the restored temple again. What seems straight forward was only made significantly harder due to the fact that all works halted during the reign of the Red Khmer and by the time works were recommenced, none of the plans on how to reassemble the 300.000 pieces were to be found anymore. That's what I'd call puzzling!

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From there we headed towards the Terrace of the Leper King and the Terrace of Elephants. We explored a bit, but eventually were just too tired and hot to continue much longer.

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When we left the area via the Western gate, we found an area of solitude. No cars were allowed along that dirt road and there were just a few tuk tuks and scooters using it. The wide moat was not tended as well as at the fancy Southern Entrance that is mainly used by tourists and there were even some waterbuffalo around.

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Along the back roads, we got to see once more some interesting vehicles that we’ll never be able to see in Europe. Mr. Tommy took a couple of short cuts and suddenly we found ourselves in front of our hotel.

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We had done enough sightseeing for the day, and used the remainder of the day to relax: we relaxed in the pool, had lunch in town and decided to get a massage. At 4 USD for half an hour massage, it’s a luxury we’re enjoying without having to spend huge amounts of money. And even though the fish massage would have been an even cheaper treat, we preferred to decline – being afraid of the tickling fish.

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Back home, the pool was the destination of choice again and thanks to Max and Aurel entertaining themselves, we had some time to relax ourselves.
We had left the best for last: On our last day of sightseeing, it was time to explore the temple of Angkor Wat which Guinness lists as the world’s largest religious structure. It is made from several million sandstone blocks weighing up to 1.5 tons. In total, there were more stones used in Angkor Wat than in all Egyptian pyramids combined. And all of these stones had to be transported over a distance of over 40km from the quarries. And while this is already an impressive statement, we were even more in awe when we read that the temple was built by 300,000 people with the help of 6,000 working elephants.

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Originally it was built as a Hindu temple, but then gradually converted into a buddhist temple. But this seemed to have gone both ways depending on the respective ruler’s afflictions: at the Bayon temple there had been Buddha carvings that had been converted into Hindu symbols by later kings. Contrary to most other temples in the wider Angkor area, Angkor Wat has been preserved better. It was always more or less actively used and never overgrown by the jungle.
In an attempt to avoid the crowds, we had opted to enter the temple from the Eastern entrance. And indeed, there were hardly any people around and we could enjoy the quiet atmosphere and solitude approaching the temple.

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Admittedly, we did not walk along all of the 800m of bas reliefs depicting various scenes of Khmer history and culture. After a couple of meters, we got the idea and rather headed into the temple than around.

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Getting closer to the inner sanctum, we finally hit the crowds again who had entered the building from the western entrance. There was a 30min queue to climb the ‘Bakan’ - highest part of the temple. We kindly declined and tried to find a quieter corner again.

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Close to where a couple of monks were holding ceremonies for local worshipers, we had a huge area for ourselves. At least for 5 minutes that is which is when a couple of Asian tour groups chose exactly that spot for doing their selfies and fun pictures to prove that they have been there. When some of them tried to sit next to us to have us in their pictures, it was time to flee once more.

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We headed outside, tried to do a couple of classical reflection pictures (which proved to be very hard due to the wind) and headed out. A bit more people watching and we left.

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Once more we rewarded ourselves for a successful day of temple sightseeing with an excellent massage and a relaxed lunch at the Blue Pumpkin before heading back to the pool.
A short rain shower did not stop us from taking a dip in the pool – it was hot and we were anyhow planning to get wet. Soon enough, our friends Thomas, Petra and Aurel arrived. We were treated to a pleasant surprise - a round of cool ‘Angkor’ beer. Sure enough, a second round followed before too long and beer continued to be the beverage of choice over dinner.

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While food was the same as always, we had some unexpected entertainment when suddenly a frog jumped from the roof onto Petra’s head and from there into the grass. We had lots of things to laugh about and it was a fun filled evening. We decided that we had to make sure we met again once more in Bangkok.
We left the next morning in a heavily packed tuk tuk to the airport and soon enough found ourselves in another Air Asia plane. It was time to wave good bye to Cambodia and to prepare ourselves for Thailand.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 23:16 Archived in Cambodia Tagged temple monkey pool crowd tuk_tuk massage

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Hallo Birgit + Sam & Max,

sehr interessant - wieder tolle Bilder

Viel Spaß in Bangkok

Grüße aus Haunetal-Wehrda
sendet
Dorothee

by Dorothee Stuckardt

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