Siem Reap, Cambodia: Angkor Temple Tour, Day 1
I went to Cambodia with my girlfriends last May. These are the girls I've been with since I was in college, and we have been to countless of coffee and dinner dates together, but it was our first time travelling together. It was so exciting!
We spent two and a half days in Cambodia, and we did two full-day temple tour via a tuk-tuk, with our driver as our tour guide. It was so exhausting, as the entire tour requires you to walk under the hot sun and to actually climb up steps to reach the top of the temples. But everything was so worth it! The temples are majestic; the carvings are so intricate; you would really question how everything was built!
On our first day, our tour guide recommended us to do the Big Temple Tour. We were able to visit seven temples, which I will go through in this post one by one. :-)
The first temple we visited was Prasat Kravan. This temple is tucked away from the touristy areas, and only a few people visit it. The temple consists of five-towered brick shrines aligned north-south and facing east.
We were actually underwhelmed with the temple as there's nothing much to explore in it. Afterwards, we went to the nearby baray or artificial lake called the Srah Sang.
Pre Rup is probably one of the prettiest temples from the tour. And one of the highest, too! It is a three-tiered temple with five towers. The word, "Pre Rup" means "Turning the Body", which refers to the Khmer cremation traditions -- this suggested that cremations might have taken place in this temple.
We climbed up to the highest point, and boy, going down was so scary. I was honestly scared for my life, and my legs were literally shaking as I climbed down the steps. Haha! The stairs were so steep, and the steps were uneven. I normally don't get scared of heights, but this one is different! Anyway, don't get discouraged with my experience as the view from the top is amazing! Just be very careful!
The East Mebon is very similar to Pre Rup as it also has five towers. These five towers represent the five peaks of Mount Meru, which is a mythical sacred mountain for the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religions. The temple was constructed on a man-made island.
There are two prominent structures that can be found in this temple. The first one is the two lions flanked on the stairways near the entrance.
The other one is the monolithic elephants standing majestically at the east and west sides of the temple.
When I first saw the temple's entrance, the Legends of the Hidden Temple first came to mind! Haha! It's a popular TV game show on Nickelodeon. #90skid lol
Anyway, Ta Som is a small temple located near the temples, Angkor Thom to the east and Neak Pean to the west. Both tower entrances of the temple are topped with Lokeshvara, who is the bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.
Once you enter the temple, on the tower itself is a huge Ficus tree swallowing the structure. It is a popular spot to take pictures.
Neak Pean is one of the most underwhelming temples we have visited along with Prasat Kravan. Unlike other temples, you really cannot explore it because the temple is in the middle of a pond.
Its name means "The entwined serpents" because of the two nagas (mythical snake) coiled together. Although the temple seemed boring, its history and meaning are interesting: the temple is actually a hospital; its water has healing properties, and was believed to cure the disease of the person going in for a bath by balancing his/her elements.
From the main road, you will need to cross this long wooden walkway to get to the temple.
After visiting five temples, I said "wow!" the loudest upon seeing Preah Khan. The entrance is so beautiful! The trees were aligned so perfectly on its background which highlighted the temple's three towering structures. On its side are deities lined up carrying nagas. Just look how the picture below turned out! It's like a painting!
Preah Khan in Khmer means "the sacred sword". It is one of the largest temples in the Angkor area. Unlike other temples which served as places of worship, this temple was a Buddhist university.
Last temple for the day! Phnom Bakheng is a temple mountain. It is a popular spot to watch the sunset. Although, in my opinion, it is not that worth it to go up, as the sunset is nothing really special. But if you have spare time and you are willing to trek a hill (please don't ride the poor elephants ), climb up stairs, and share the platform with other 299 people (they restrict 300 people going up at a time), then absolutely go for it.
Just a short background: Phnom Bakheng is a temple dedicated to Shiva during the reign of King Yasovarman. It was built more than two centuries before Angkor Wat.
We actually didn't wait for the sun to really set as we went down earlier. We thought it would be scary to go down the hill in the dark as there were no lights in the path, and we didn't want to go down the stairs along with the other tourists.
So that's it for day one, not bad for a first day, huh? :-)
Watch out for my next post for the day two of our trip!
Have you been to Siem Reap? What is your favourite temple?
P.S. I'd like to say thanks to Vi Sun for organising everything -- from the itinerary to the flight and accommodation bookings! Thanks, girl! Thanks also to Ayen and Valerie for such wonderful roommates and travel buddies! Can't wait for our next trip! 😘 Lastly, credits to Rily for some of the photos, and thanks for being our photographer during the entire trip! Haha! 😊
All photos were post-processed using Corinth's 27th preset.