kingdom of Cambodia
a tast of Angkor wat
last update : December 2017
If you travel to Asia, you must get to Cambodia and see Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor.
During our travel to Cambodia, our plan was to stay in Siam reap for only three days. Turned out we loved it so much we decided to stay 3 more days, and then 3 more days... The temples of Angkor will always be one of the best experiences in my life. The ancient temples ,most of which are covered by the forest, are simply an extraordinary sight.
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THE TEMPLES OF ANGKOR
Angkor is an ancient city of the Khmer people. They built more than 1,000 temples and palaces scattered over 500 square kilometers of forests. Angkor Wat, which most of you probably heard the name before, is the most famous temple and probably the largest one, built by the empire of the Khmer.
Of these 1,000 temples you can actually visit about 40 of them, but with a bit of luck and the correct guidance on the part of one of the more courageous Tuk-Tuk driver, you'll get to see some 'tourist free' temples covered by the forest. If you get to those temples, you will feel how it is to be all alone in the middle of a huge jungly forest in a stone temple who is older than 1,000 years old.
You will find a Tuk-Tuk driver in the town of Siem Reap. You should stay there during your stay, but more about the city later on.We found a Tuk-Tuk driver in the streets one morning, who without our asking, refused to take money in advance and asked us to pay him at the end of each day at the temples. If you wish, you can ask the hotel to arrange a guide that will accompany you and tell you the stories and details about the temples and answer all of your questions (which you'll surly have). Most of them speaks English and will accompany you to any temple you wish. You can certainly take such a guide for one day, I have and was very happy about it.
Our trip to the Angkor temples was planned for 3 days but we just could not get away from those breathtaking temples. At the entrance to the temples forest you'll have to buy an entrance ticket - there are two options : a daily pass or a 3-day pass. As I'm sure you've guessed, I recommend taking the 3 days pass. On the third day you can relax from the planing and just trust your Tuk-Tuk driver to take you to additional temples. He as a local will know best, according to the season and the number of tourists. Of course you can spend the third day visit once more the temples you loved.
In the summer it get so HOT. HOT HOT HOT ! Take a lot of water and short clothes (but with a scarf to cover up to enter the more sacred temples). Keep in mind you'll probably stay at the temples the whole day, especially If you woke up late or if you wish to return before sunset. It can happen that you'll just fall in love with one of the temples and want to spend a lot of time there (a perfectly logical decision). Another option is, of curse, to stay another day and another day and another day ...
Start at Pre rup, then go to Neak pean (walk on a beautiful wooden path upon the water and get to the "four pool" terraces with a statues in the middle). Then Ta som (a graceful temple with a crazy big tree that has taken over the temple). Next continue to Preah khan (one of the largest temple. in one side you'll find a massive bridge with sculptures all along it. After the Khmer converted their religion from Hinduism to Buddhism, these statues were decapitated - read about it more if you are interested or ask your guide). From there the driver will probably be happy to take you to a local restaurant for lunch and then continue to Angkor Wat some time before sunset. You can walk around and at the end of the day see the sunset reflection on the water. The temple is so gigantic, I had to tell a little bit more about it below.
Start with the Banteay srei temple (a temple with marvelous statues that remained almost complete. Filled with so much details and small statues that have been remarkably preserved). From there you can continue to Ta Prohm (the temple will probably be familiar from The Hollywood Movie "Tomb Raider" with Angelina Jolie. The temple is truly amazing and you can get lost in it's magic for a long time. Walk up to the surrounding walls and see the beautiful passages on both sides). Next go to Ta nei (we called it the lost temple because the Tuk-Tuk driver took us there and we were the only two people in the entire temple, in the middle of the forest). Then, Ta Kao (a really high temple, different from the others). The next temple is Bayon, which is wonderful especially at sunset, but if you have time before sunset, you can ask the tuk-tuk driver to get to the temples around Bayon, the ancient city of Angkor tom and see the elephants' terrace.
Angkor Wat, the capital of the Khmer Empire and its main temple, will sadly be full of tourists almost every day and every hour of the year. You will probably see monks in orange robes walking around and Im sure you'll probably be amazed (as I was) at the sight of the temple. I suppose there are countless stories and secrets of Angkor Wat and I am far from knowing even the smallest part of them. I can tell you that an entire part in the inside of the temple is a sculpted mural of around 1,000 years old, some of which is preserved and tells stories of the Kamer's faith and history, reviling that some of it's secrets are stories of love, war and betray). We were told that during the time of the empire the whole wall was covered with gold and you can still see some remains of gold.
Another piece of history is hiding in the temple- If you look carefully you will notice that almost every rock has two large holes in it, almost always. The reason is that they attached wooden poles to the holes so that the elephants and the workers (so called) could lift the big rocks to be put on top of the elephants or on it's sides.
One more detail about this magical temple- The river you'll see around Angkor Wat was built by the people of the Khmer, they dug trenches and re-directed the water flow from rivers far from the area to surround the temple they had built. THEY DID ALL OF THAT ALMOST 1,000 YEARS AGO, this is unbelievable.
Siem Reap is the closest town to the Angkor's temples, and the town is also the best place to go out at night. The main street in the nicer part of the town is called Pub street, due to the many many many bars that fills up the streets at night and of course restaurants of all kinds. You should get there on your first day and take a room at a nice boutique hotel located around the streets surrounding it Pub street. No worries, you will not miss it, the main street has huge neon signs with the name of the street hanging all along it. The whole area of the town is full of tourists, but it's nice to walk around, go eat in nice little restaurants and drink in one of the many many bars.
The music in the street is so lout at night due to the narrow street and the incredible amount of bars in it. During one of our nights there I started dancing in the middle of the street, barefoot, with a little Cambodian girl that was selling bracelets. A few seconds later another girl joined us and very soon almost everyone from both bars near us came outside and joined us dancing to the music in the street. It was so fast and suddenly there are dozens of people forming a dance circle and people from all over the world, speaking so many different languages, showing their moves in the middle.
A nice boutique hotel we stayed in (and even gave us their suite after three days):
A cool hostel if you're younger:
Garden village guesthouse siem reap
A few words to make thing easier:
HELLO - Sous-dey
GOODBYE - Leah sin heuy
THANK YOU - Orkoon
YES - Baat
NO - Dteh
SORRY - Somm toh
DON'T UNDERSTAND - min yuall teh
PLEASE - soum
HOW MUCH - Tlay bonmaan
GOOD MORNING - Arunn sous-dey
GOOD NIGHT - Reatrey sous-dey
A little about history
The Cambodian people originated in Khmer, an ancient empire that believed in the Indian Hinduism. In the sixth century, the Khmer people began to grow stronger and soon became the largest empire in the region. From the 10th century to the 13th century, the empire knew its golden age (at that time, the religion was replaced from Hinduism to Buddhism), but the 13th century also marked the fall of the empire due to various factors, including attacks by Thailand.
In the 14th century the kingdom of Siam conquered Angkor and the Khmer kingdom was forced to leave and flee south towards the Mekong Delta, where they established the capital that functions to this day - Phnom Penh. In the 19th century, Cambodia became a French colony and remained so until after World War II. One of the consequences of the end of the Second World War was the independence of Cambodia and its liberation from French colonialism. However, many influences of France, including the fact that elderly Cambodians speak the French language, are everywhere.
For a number of years independent Cambodia was plagued by internal conflicts and the war in Vietnam exacerbated the situation. The Vitnam army entered the eastern part of the Cambodian state and built bases that were later bombed by the United States. The United States attacked for more than a year during which the Cambodian underground Communists of the Kamar Rouge arose. Later they became the Communist Party of Kampuchea in Cambodia lead by the person who would become Cambodia's madman, Pol Pot. Pol Pot had ruled Cambodia for only two years, killing more than 2 million Cambodians. Paul Pot led a rigid and twisted communist ideology, murdered all his opponents and brought into slavery intellectuals and thinkers.
Subsequently, the Vietnamese conquered Cambodia (following a force operated by the United Nations) and released it after almost 15 years. Since then Cambodia is still trying to recover.