Historical Cambodia

After our sojourn at Vietnam we departed early morning at 7 am by a luxury bus Mekong Express from Ho Chi Minh for Cambodia. We reached the Immigration Office of Vietnam by 9.30 am where the Departure Immigration formalities were completed at the Bus station and by 10.30 am we were in Cambodia. Our destination was Siem Reap where the Historical Angkor Wat is situated.

We had to pass Phnom Penh the capital of Cambodia 230 kms from Ho Chi Minh which we reached at 3.30 pm . The journey time from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap as per Google maps is 9 hrs 30 mins but with immigration formalities , a sumptuous lunch of Khmer Chicken Curry & Rice and tea breaks we reached Siem Reap by 8.30 pm . The journey was quite comfortable and watching the countryside with paddyfields, villages made it all the more pleasant .

Cambodia is also a South East Asian country sharing borders with Laos,Vietnam & Thailand . The name Cambodia invokes memories of the infamous Khmer Rouge regime under the dictator Pol Pot and the atrocities committed on the citizens . It is basically a agricultural country and also thrives on tourism mainly because of the the UNESCO world heritage site Angkor Wat.

Food Travails : Cambodia is not so famous for its cuisine as its neighboring countries like Vietnam & Thailand but has delicious Khmer food. Kuy teav made from pork/beef ( similar to Pho of Vietnam),the delicious Fish Amok (Cambodia’s signature dish fillets of freshwater fish cooked in coconut milk) , eggs, fish sauce and palm sugar steamed in banana leaves are some of the famous dishes.

Like Vietnam , vegetarian dishes and restaurants are difficult to find in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh so unless you have time to scout for a vegetarian hotel , it is advisable for vegetarians to carry along some non perishable food stuff or else subsist on fresh fruit available in the local markets.

Currency in Cambodia is the Cambodian Riel . One Cambodian Riel = 0.018 INR However since we had planned only two days in Cambodia we did not convert our currency and used USD for shopping. Shopping is cheap and bargaining works.

After checking into Hotel Park Lane ,we proceeded for dinner at the market place in Siem Reap. The nightlife in Siem Reap is bustling . The souvenir shops / restaurants / hotels in the market place are open late into the night till 1 am and the streets are crowded with locals and tourists even late at night. After a typical Khmer dinner comprising of fried rice with chicken, Khmer Roast Duck, Amok we decided to shop at the souvenir shops and walk around the lanes in the market area.

Next morning we left for Angkor Wat which is 5.5 kms from Siem Reap.
Angkor Wat , ‘ the city ( which became a ) pagoda ‘ is a temple complex in Cambodia and one of the largest religious monuments in the world. Wat is the name for a Buddhist Temple. Originally constructed by King Suryavarman II in the first half of the 12th Century both as a Capital and as a State Temple temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century . The outer limits of Angkor Wat entire temple is set by a broad moat ,faced in laterite and sandstone. It is an architectural wonder and a treat to the eyes

The area surrounding the Angkor Wat

The temple stands on a terrace raised higher than the city. It is made of three rectangular galleries rising to a central tower, each level higher than the last shaped like a pyramid

The inner square in the AngkorWat Temple and the interlinked galleries

Offerings being made to a Vishnu Statue

The central temple complex consists of three storeys, each made of laterite, which enclose a square surrounded by intricately interlinked galleries.
The corners of the second and third storeys are marked by towers, each topped with symbolic lotus-bud towers

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There are various carvings in the galleries dedicated to the stories of Rama & Krishna ( believed to be avatars of Vishnu). A special mention must be given to the intricate carvings depicting the Battle of Kurukshetra which is in the West side Gallery,South section.

In the middle is the central tower, which gives the whole grand ensemble its sublime unity . The stairs to the upper level are immensely steep and open to a limited number per day with a queuing system.Unfortunately the day we visited , it was closed .

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The Central Tower

The approx sightseeing time for Angkor Wat takes about 3 hours though there are tourists who stay for a week to sightsee the temple and its surrounding areas in detail.

After that we moved to Angkor Thom ( Great City) which are basically ruins of one of the largest Khmer cities and about 20 mins away from Angkor Wat. It was founded by Jayavarman II and his successors and was the capital city for atleast a few centuries . The entrance from the South side has sculptures of Asuras and the Devas depicting the Sagar Manthan .

Depicting the Sagar Manthan

The other side of the Entrance

The Bayon is a richly decorated Khmer temple which stands at the centre of Angkor Thom.  It is a mass of face towers to create a mountain of ascending peaks .It has vast displays depicting the various gods, goddesses, and other-worldly beings from the mythological stories and epic poems of ancient Hinduism . Mingled with these images are actual known animals, like elephants, snakes, fish, and monkeys

Face Towers of the Bayon Temple

A Part of the Bayon temple

Face Towers of the Bayon Temple

From there we proceeded to the The Ta Prohm ( Tree Temple ) which was a temple monastery with temples and other additional enclosures. The main attraction are the gigantic trees . Fig, banyan and kapok trees spread their gigantic roots over stones, probing walls and terraces apart, as their branches and leaves intertwine to form a roof over the structures. Trunks of trees twist amongst stone pillars .The entire viewing takes about 2 hours.

Ta Prohm
The trunk of the gigantic trees in Ta Prohm

The monuments,Face Towers,Island Temples in the entire Angkor area are very wide spread. Ideally you should have atleast 3 days or a week if possible . Absorbing the atmosphere , examining the details and exploring the Galleries and the sections , temples in detail cannot be completed in a day.

However , if you are short of days and wish to complete atleast the major sites then you can cover the main Angkor Wat temple,South Gate of Angkor Thom-Bayon-Terrace of Leper King-Elephant Terrace-Ta Prohm in a day or two. If you plan to stay for more than 2 days then Phimeanakas & The Royal Enclosure,Prasat Kravan -Pre Rup-East Mebon-Ta Som can be included to the previous itinerary.

Else even a day is sufficient to tour Angkor Wat and the surrounding structures like Angkor Thom,Bayon,Elephant Terrace & Ta Prohm unless you need to go deep into history The only place to stay when visiting Angkor is Siem Reap . So if you plan to visit only Angkor Wat then 2-3 days is ideally sufficient for your stay at Cambodia unless you plan to visit other places like Phnom Penh .

After a fulfilling trip in Cambodia we were ready to fly at night to Bangkok for four days of the beaches and shopping

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