Friday, December 31, 2010

Angkor Wat

Second day in Siem Reap, we visited two main temples- Angkor Wat and Bayon in Angkor Archaeological Park.

We departed from our hotel at 5:30 am (don't forget that it's 6:30 am in Malaysia) to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We hired a Mandarin speaking tour guide (USD 30 per day) and a minibus (USD 35 per day). We got our 3 days passes (USD 40) on the way to the wat. We thought we were some of the earliest. We were wrong. We were greeted by a large crowd on the first enclosure of Angkor Wat.

The counters open early, prepare for the chasers of sunrise. The photo of the ticket holder is taken and printed on the ticket. So, the switching or borrowing the ticket is not possible. The ticket is checked mostly at the entrance of the temple. However, the wardens of the temples (we named them guardian of Angkor) might check on you anytime, any place in the temple. So, be sure that you keep your ticket safe in your pocket during the tour. 

The entrance to the grand Angkor Wat. Angkor carries the meaning "city". So, Angkor Wat is Temple of the City". Photo taken at around 6 am, from the cruciform terrace connecting the wat.

The sunrise worshipers are crowding the courtyard of the first level of Angkor Wat. The wat has three levels, each level enclosed by a rectangular gallery.

Great scene of Angkor Wat for early birds.

50,000 workers, 30 years of building, surrounded by 6.5 km moat, crowned by 5 huge towers, with 213 feet above the ground (at a height of 21 storeys building), and hold as much stone as great pyramid of Kufu, the great Angkor Wat is really a hallmark of Khmer Empire. It was built by Suryavarman II from 1113 to 1150 A.D., as a dedication to Vishnu.

Angkor Wat faces west in contrast with the ritual precepts of Hindu and Khmer architecture, which is east. The explanation linked to Vishnu, who is connected to the western quarter of the universe in Hinduism. The temple was built with the moat alludes the primeval sea while the towers, Mount Meru in Hinduism cosmology.

The wat is built in a rectangular area of 1.5 km x 1.3 km, and the moat surrounding is 200 m wide. It is believed that more than 20,000 people had once lived within the moat during the era of Khmer Empire. After the Khmer Empire embraced Buddhism, Angkor Wat become a Buddism monastery.

Local workers are cleaning the moat of Angkor Wat. Terrace-steps that descend into the water surrounding the moat. The terrace-steps are there since the era of Khmer Empire.

Guardian lion is situated at the cruciform terrace of the western passageway. The 250 m long passageway offers the access to Angkor Wat without a swim, or any mean by water.

Guardian Naga (cobra with many heads) at the side of the first gallery (left). The serpent with 5 or 7 heads is incorporated the Indian motif with the local ancestral figure of the dragon of the waters. The gopura of the first gallery, bringing the visitors into the first level of Angkor Wat. Gopura is the monumental tower at the entrance of a temple.

We stayed to enjoy the moment of sunrise until 7:30 am, left the wat temporary for breakfast, and then came back for the second visit at 8:30 am. Upon the entrance of the first level, we took another 250 m walk, passed by two libraries and two ponds before reaching the stairs that lead us to the second level of Angkor Wat.

Photo shows the first level of Angkor Wat. Between the gopura and second level of the wat are two libraries and two ponds, each at a side of the walkway. The pond is the place that we can capture nice reflection during sunrise. Far behind the gopura is the passageway and the moat (not shown in this photo).

A few steps up, we reached the second level of Angkor Wat, with a broadway flanked by two libraries on each side. The passage was built in cruciform. After the passage, stairs again. Then the majestic third level of Angkor Wat revealed. We took an extremely steep stairs to the top level of Angkor Wat. The staircase needs real bravery to cope with, and it's 100% not suitable for acrophobians.

Angkor Wat from the left library of the second level of Angkor Wat (left). Enlarged photo of Betty and our family members (from right: Bryant, Yuk Yieng, Livien, and Mee Ping), at the entrance connecting the passage to the library.

Our photo together with our Mandarin speaking tour guide at second level of Angkor Wat. This photo is a little bit under exposure for the cloudy weather.

A near 85 degree staircase represents the hardship of getting into the heaven in the ancient time. But now, it represents the determination of getting nice view on the top of the temple.

The majestic crowns of Angkor Wat.

Nice view over the landscape of Angkor, from the top of the third level of Angkor Wat.

It is hard to imagine such a great structure was hidden from the outside world for hundreds of years. Even harder to imagine how can a strong empire with such monument fall and dissolved.

One thing that you should not miss in your way of touring around the temples in Angkor Archaeology Park- the sculptures and the bas-reliefs. If we look closely on the sculptures on the wall, especially those represent apsara, each of them has different pose or object carried. In another word, every sculpture of apsara is unique. Bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat measured an amazing length of 800 meters, with very detailed sculpture, with eight different stories. Some of the bas-reliefs showing the stories from epic of Ramayana.

The sculptures of apsara, with around 1500 in total. The sculptures were carved after the building was done. From there, we can see how skillful the workers were during the time when the temple was built.

Bas-reliefs are the focus of many tourists. Each part of the bas-reliefs tells different stories. Photos in the middle and the right shows the Battle of Kurukshetra

Bas-relief showing the Judgement of the dead, where the dead are cuffed and guarded by devil to face the judgement.

Angkor Wat is a must see in Siem Reap. It is listed as world heritage site by UNESCO. As the tour around the wat might take two to three hours (for us, two and a half), bringing sufficient water is necessary. Apply mosquito repellent might be a good idea as well. In case you need to take your breakfast before you start your climbing to the higher levels of Angkor Wat, the stalls just opposite the wat are good choices, for the nice food, cheap price, and need not to go far from the site.

By the way, you might need some training on you feet before you are off to Siem Reap. Stamina determines how far we can go after visiting Angkor Wat.

We continue to visit Bayon in Angkor Thom after Angkor Wat.


  1. what an awesome view of aNGKOR wat~

  2. Yeah, it's a place for everyone to visit at least once in a lifetime.