Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cambodia: Angkor in the Early Period

Going into this whole Indochina experience, I knew Vietnam was just a pit stop. Saigon was rewarding in itself, but traveling to Indochina would not be complete without beholding the great temples of Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Prasat Kravan

We arrived in Siem Reap one rather gloomy afternoon. Upon leaving the beautiful Siem Reap International Airport, I found myself having to adjust, to change my pace. Coming from all the chaos that Saigon slammed at my face, it was the complete opposite what welcomed me in this little city at the heart of Cambodia.

Prasat Kravan

We would be touring Siem Reap for three days. On our first day, we had to buy three-day passes, which cost each of us 40 US dollars. They take your picture and print your passes, which sort of becomes your ID during your entire stay in Siem Reap. Temple guards and caretakers would ask you to show them this ID from time to time. So take good care of it.

Prasat Kravan

On our first day, we started off with the little temples, the early temples of Angkor. The first was Prasat Kravan, the Cardamom Sanctuary, built sometime in the 10th century. From what I read, Prasat Kravan is very much characteristic of the temples built during its time. The temple is longitudinal, with the five prasats, the towers, lining up side by side. What's astonishing about it are the carvings inside each prasat. This was the first temple we visited and we were already impressed with the architecture, the design and the workmanship.

Pre Rup

The next temple we visited was Pre Rup, "Turning the Corpse," so named after the discovery in the site of a sarcophagus, believed to be connected to a burial ritual involving cremation.

Pre Rup

Pre Rup

For this temple, there was some climbing involved. Some of the steps are quite narrow. So you would really have to sort of crawl your way up. One should take much caution, though. Much of the temple is already in ruins. You will see wooden planks and supports holding the structure together. Nevertheless, the view atop the temple, as with all the temples, we discovered, was amazing.

Pre Rup

East Mebon

The next temple we visited was East Mebon. Yes, there is a West Mebon, but that was much farther. We were unable to spend much time here. We just came from climbing Pre Rup and was a little exhausted from the extreme heat of the Cambodian climate.

East Mebon

Standing outside of the temple, I generally thought that it looked like the Pre Rup. I discovered later on that both were built by the same Khmer king. And in fact, East Mebon was indeed built in the general style of Pre Rup. It does not in any way, though, diminish in grandeur.

East Mebon

Baksei Chamkrong

The next temple we climbed the next day was I think the hardest one. Baksei Chamkrong, "Bird with Sheltering Wings," had its staircase very steep and its steps very narrow.

Baksei Cham Krong

It was quite high, too. Of course, when I got on the top, I saw how rewarding it was. The view of the temple from up there is quite something. I took it in first before I started clicking on my camera.

Baksei Cham Krong

Phnom Bakheng

Yet the highest temple we were to climb during the whole trip was to come on our second day. Before you even get to the temple, you had to hike up this hill. The path has been laid out by the park authorities, though, so it was easier.

Phnom Bakheng

Due to its height, it was sort of the perfect spot to view the Cambodian sun setting. Apparently, everybody was in on this little fact. There was a bit of a crowd on the temple. So we were not able to do much. Besides, it was a bit cloudy that day. So there was not much sun to see set that evening.

Phnom Bakheng

At that point, it did not really matter. We have seen quite a lot of Siem Reap at that time and we have learned quite a lot already. There was still much to see, course. But if I was to leave that day, I would have done so quite satisfied.

Phnom Bakheng


* More photos from Cambodia: Siem Reap, the Early Period set available in my Flickr account: click here.


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