After my retirement in 2016, I wanted to spend time in travel across the country and abroad which I could not do while I was in service/ job. One place dear to me was one of the wonders of the world Angkorwat temple complex in Cambodia. This UNESCO recognized heritage site is the largest and biggest Hindu Temple complex ( don’t be surprised as an Indian) in the world.
At this age, travelling alone was a challenge for me but an adventure in itself. There is a direct flight to Bangkok from any metropolitan city in India. It is just an hour’s flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia from where Angkorwat is hardly 10 km away. A beautiful place, neat and clean unlike many tourist places in the world. The Siem Reap provincial government is maintaining the heritage complex very well and people are very friendly. You have a number of hotel options both for budget travelers and high-end visitors; one can find out. There are three main attractions in Siem Reap: Angkorwat Temple Complex, Bayon Temple, and Ta Prohm.
Historic Angkorwat Temple
Coming to the Angkorwat temple, history says that complex was built by king Suryavarman II from 1113 to 1137. He built many temples, mainly devoted to Lord Vishnu. One can find Brahma and Maheshwar ( i.e) Shiva temples also. The complex was built in three layers, each one at an elevated position with beautiful galleries depicting the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Over all, three galleries put together will be about two kilometres, making it largest galleries in the world. Even bigger than our Indian galleries like Madhurai, Khajuraho or Somnath etc. One can find Apsaras sculpture on walls. Angkor impresses visitors in both scale and beautifully proportioned layout, as well as the delicate carvings on walls and galleries.
Beautiful Galleries at Angkorwat temple complex
Although, I visited two consecutive days since 4 30 in the morning, I missed sun rise at the complex. It was one of the highlights and tourists were coming in droves to watch the spectacle. You will be lucky to experience the sunrise as Cambodia and Siem Reap in particular generally experience 6 months rain fall.
During 16th and 17th centuries, the Buddhism had taken root and slowly the hindu culture gave way to Buddhist culture. One can find the conflict of interest in Hindu and Buddhist rulers in Bayon Temple , a decorated Khmer temple complex in Angko Thom ( earlier capital city of Khmer Rulers ). It was built in late 12th and early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddist King Jayavarman VII. You can find a shiva linga also in the complex. Massive stone faces carved into each side of its numerous towers. Amazing 216 faces ( 54 towers, each containing 4 faces) at Bayon Complex is one of the best.
Bayon Temple at Angko Thom
The next stop was Ta Prohm temple, one of the most popular attractions of Angkor. It was beautifully sculptured with a tree root looking like elephant leg. Ta Prohm was built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and 13th century. It was originally called Rajvihara. The temple was being restored on Indo Cambodian development project. The place has become famous because the Hollywood flick, Tomb Raider which was shot at the complex.
Ta Prohm at Angko Thom
Phnom Bakheng is a Hindu and Buddhist temple in the form of a temple mountain. Dedicated to lord Shiva, it was built in the end of 9th century, during the reign of King Yashovarman II. Visitors flock to see sunset here. I did not dare to climb so many steps as I am now 60+.
I stayed in Siem Reap for three days going through the temple complexes leisurely because it is very exhausting and tiring. Lot of water is needed. One has to climb many steps in some important temples. After all the effort, I was extremely happy to see Angkorwat in my life time
If you have time and energy, one can visit other beautiful monuments like Banteay Srey, Preah Khan and one of the natural mangroves at Meanchey ( 25 km away from Siem Reap) for hundreds of species of fresh water fishes and birds.
Some suggestions to visitors
- Don’t hurry with your sight seeing. On the day arrival go to Angkor Enterprise Angkor Ticket Center office and get an entry ticket. If you buy for one day tour, the ticket cost is $ 37. If you wish to have 3 day pass it will be $ 62 ( it is needed if you want to see run rise and other monuments). The ticket taken after 5 pm will be valid only for next day.
- Best option is to take a Tuk Tuk ( a three wheeler scooter) which costs $ 7 for a small circuit or about $ 15 for day tour
- Carry lot of water as the weather is generally humid and tiring
- I don’t recommend visit to Angkorwat complex for wheelchair visitors and very senior citizens with walking problem as the tour will be very tiring
- There is Visa on arrival and they charge $ 30
- The local currency is Riel with an exchange rate of One $ dollar= 4000 riel
- Dollars are accepted by everybody. Please remember, rupees are not accepted
- For vegetarians, particularly Indians, it is a problem for food in Siem Reap
——–Photography by S K Rao
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