Friday, May 27, 2011

Angkor ruins excursion

These Cambodian boys keep the Bayon temple clean.

"If you only see two temples, Angkor Wat and Bayon should be the ones." That is the advice from this website and my friends and I did just that on the final day of our recent stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia. In addition, we visited the Ta Prohm temple.

Half a day is hardly enough to cover the numerous religious structures in the Angkor Archaeological Park, which is close to Siem Reap city.

Khmer domination over the Angkor Kingdom lasted about 600 years beginning from the 9th Century and during this period several hundred temples were built. Our guide told us that some 300 have been listed and restored.

I enjoyed the visit to the "palaces of gods" so much that I plan to visit Siem Reap again; this time to explore the ruins thoroughly.

Michael Freeman and Claude Jacques (Ancient Angkor, 2003) write: "To gain a proper understanding of what a Khmer temple was, it should first be recalled that it was not a meeting place of the faithful but the palace of a god, who was enshrined there to allow him to bestow his beneficence, in particular on the founder and his familiars.

"There was thus the need to build the finest possible residence for him, to be sure, although as he was there in the form of a statue there was little need for a large space.

"One of the largest is the central shrine of Angkor Wat and its cella has internal dimensions of 4.6 metres by 4.7; the pedestal of the statue being approximately the width of the door, would have been 1.6 metres square. So a great temple would not be a vast palace for a single god but a grouping of multiple shrines with a main divinity at the centre." 

Below are some pictures of my brief tour of the religious monuments at the Angkor Archaeological Park, which is a World Heritage Site.


Love this corridor of one of the structures of Angkor Wat. It was exciting to walk the corridors of this famous symbol of Cambodian nation. Some two million visitors are likely to visit this legendary ruins by the end of this year.




You will encounter bas-reliefs such as the type seen in the second picture on the exterior walls of the lower level of the Bayon while the stone faces -- the third picture serves as an example -- sit on the upper level.



Visitors will appreciate this quaint relic of the past, also found at the Bayon. The two photos below were taken at the Ta Prohm, where "massive fig and silk-cotton trees grow from the towers and corridors".



Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Seen in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Some travellers dismiss Siem Reap, Cambodia as touristy. Others say that temples (think Angkor Wat) are its only attraction. But I recommend Siem Reap as the perfect getaway for those with four or five stays to spare and are looking to see something of Cambodia. You will notice that some parts look like Langkawi in Malaysia.

If you only concentrate on the places designed to attract a lot of tourists you are likely to be disappointed. Siem Reap will forever be in my heart because of its people.

The Muslim F&B manager at Royal Angkor Resort, where I stayed, is very helpful; the young woman who helps out at a scarf stall at the Angkor Night Market is sweet ; and the tuk-tuk drivers are polite and chatty.

I have not been to Phnom Penh so I cannot compare the people there with those in Siem Reap but many in Siem Reap smile easily. What a welcome!

They awaken memories of people in Malaysia some 50 years ago when we too smiled a lot. The photos below remind me why Siem Reap is special.



The preferred mode of transport: tuk-tuk. It is quick and fun!

A friendly tuk-tuk driver. He is very polite.

The famous Pub Street in Siem Reap city.

Pubs and cafes on Pub Street.

This was a first for me and I did not dare try it!

Good bargains at the Angkor Night Market. Be prepared to haggle.

Cambodian dancers entertain guests at a private party. Love their costumes.

Young workers take a break from work at a beauty and massage salon.