Getawat to Cambodia (15 - 19 June): Part 2 - Siem Reap
Day 3: Mr. Phnom arranged a minivan to send us to catch the bus to Siem Reap at 7am. The bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap takes 6 hours, but it is nothing when you are with another chatty box and you both have a big library of conversation topics! :) Yung and LCC were seriously beh tahan with us as we literally talked for 6 hours straight.
Our Siem Reap tour guide, Ling fetched us from the SR bus station when we reached at 2pm local time. I was hungry to the max! We first went for lunch, then to the following places:
1) Wat Bo
Wat Bo is one of the oldest temples in Siem Reap, but not the largest. The majority parts of the temple look old and under construction, and this temple is built and developed based on solely donation and charity funding. Since the main attraction, the prayer hall, was locked to prevent theft, we stayed there for a short period of time.
2) Les Artisan D' Angkor
The establishment of this handicraft center is a collaboration between Cambodia and France in order to preserve the traditional Khmer arts, such as wood carving, stone carving, cloth making and painting. The center hires mostly the disabled, deaf and mute. They are in-charge of repairing and restoration of Angkor temples.
Ling brought us a girl as our guide. She guided us from room to room, showing and explaining the process of art in each room. There were staffs working, so we get to see the art making process up close and personal.
The end products available in the shopping area are very fascinating, especially the scarfs and dress! Anyway, the USD pricing scared me away.
3) Tonle Sap
Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. The lake houses a floating village which is mainly inhabited by the Vietnamese who come to Cambodia for a living. This activity was on own expense 自费 because it's not inclusive in the travel itinerary. USD15 for the ticket was totally worth it to buy this kind of experience.
We boarded a boat at the jetty to go to the middle of the lake. The unpleasant part was that the boat broke down half way, which was quite a nightmare for me, but fortunately the young boat drivers managed to fix the problem.
Along the way, we passed rows and rows of the floating houses. It's pretty impressive on how they build and expand their floating house to provide a roof above their family. Some has a big houses with specific partition of living area and kitchen, while the rest is a space, possibly where they sleep, eat and play, and a small area at the back as kitchen. The 'boathouse moving' is awesome too, where they drag their boathouse with boat and move to another area.
Most of the families living in the floating village depend on Tonle Sap: it is their bath water; it is their natural toilet; they do their laundry in it; it is their playground; for some very poor families who can't afford to purchase clean water, they drink the filthy water of Tonle Sap. This is where and when I feel very grateful that I live in a good environment comparing to them.
When arriving the middle of the lake, the wave was rough due to the windy weather, so we headed back to a one stop center to visit the crocodile farm. The lake is so vast, the sky line connects the sky and the lake, there's no sign of land within the parameter.
On the way back, all of us sat quietly on the boat, mesmerizing the view of floating village and the inhabitants.
The night ended with a buffet dinner at Amazing Angkor Restaurant with Cambodian Traditional dance show, and a body massage.
#The development in Siem Reap is much better than Phnom Penh. The buildings are more modern and elegant, as compared to primitive PP.
Day 4: Angkor Wat Day!!
The day started with breakfast at the hotel, and we were brought to the first station, ticket purchase. One day pass costs USD20. The architecture of Angkor temples is based mainly on two religion, Buddhist and Hindu mythology, so some figures depicted are Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. That rang a loud bell of the TITAS classes I took years ago.
p/s: Frankly, on that particular night, I forgot nearly half of the explanation from Ling, so the content is gonna be so random and partially inaccurate. Pardon me please...
Places of interest:
1) South Gate of Angkor Tham
Few turns after Angkor Wat, we arrived at the South Gate. Both side of the bridge extending to the gate stood a row of gods and demons, 37 each line (...or 34? o.O), pulling a rope attach to the sky dragon at the most front for 1,000 years to produce one elixir of life.
Most of the stone statues were damaged and destroyed, some heads were gone and the body was broken apart. The stones that look new and clean are the ones recently restored and replaced.
2) Bayon Temple
The construction of Bayon is indeed impressive and magnificent, as towers and towers of stones were stacked up and carved into preference figures. These kind of construction technique indeed amazed us as how the ancient people manage to do this without any help of machinery and tools those days. That also creates a very unique craftsmanship of the carvings. All over the temple, you can see big and small 'Khmer Smile 微笑高棉' over the walls and towers.
Ling is a very experienced tour guide, as she showed us where and how photos should be taken for a good and special effect, such as lip-to-lip post with the face carvings.
The photo above is a very famous spot to take pictures of, because it is the best Khmer smile among all the carvings. Here, too, we can see the civilization of people, such as those who do not respect the 'picture taking sequence'. -___-
The three-tiered Baphuon temple was built dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu God.
There is a attire regulations to follow: tops with sleeve and pants/skirts over the knee. They are so strict, you cannot pass through even if you wrap yourselves with scarfs. As Ling didn't follow us into the temple, I explored myself around the temple quietly, and the two boys were busy taking pictures.
The stairs getting up and down the temple are very steep yet safe, so it is advisable for those who have weak knees and acrophobia to be aware of.
It is a very small temple building yet I personally think this place is awesome because of its legend: in the tower on top of the temple lived a nine-headed Naga who would transform into a beautiful woman and demand sex from the king. Besides, the king had to stay all night in the tower with the woman. If the king declined and refused the demands, tragedy would strike the kingdom.
Regardless how true the legend is, it did trigger some creativity in us. Going up and down of the steep and narrow stone stairs would be very tiresome, wonder how the king be able to 'perform' after the climb. Hmmm...
5) Ta Prohm
It is a temple built by the King for his mother. The reason the temple is one of the most famous of all is because of the photogenic combination of trees growing out of the ruins. The photo above reminds me of Davy Jones...
Ling kept saying the place full of wonders 神奇的地方, and it is true. The tree + temple alone is amazed enough for me, but there's more! There is this place in the temple, where patting your chest will produce echo sound around the space, yet clapping your hands or legs or hands or any other part will not. Truly amazing...
It's also where the film 'Lara Croft Tomb Raider' used as location too.
6) Angkor Wat
^Back view of Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is the largest temple complex in the world (smaller than what I have expected though). As the best preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist copied from Wiki. Ling suggested us to hug Vishnu's leg for prosperity and health, and it is most efficacious when you do it in midnight (provided you are able to get into it in the first place).
Angkor Wat, like Baphuon, is a three-tiered temple and I think both of them served the same purpose: the first layer is 'hell', then 'mortals', and the highest is 'heaven'. The 'heaven' level requires tourists to wear 'appropriate' clothing, which is tops with sleeve and pants/skirts over the knee. Too bad that level was closed on that day due to a praying ceremony.
There is three steep stairways leading up to the heaven level that is very dangerous. Once a newly wed couple went there for honeymoon, and the wife fell to her death from the staircase. After the accident the husband added bigger bricks and a handle for better safety features.
This month is not the best time to visit because it's windy, cloudy and rainy. There is no sunrise and sunset to be expected, which we were very disappointed. Anyway, with Ling and 2 huge ass DSLR around, a great photo quality can be expected, with all those complicated HDR and filters and etc etc thingy... Ling showed us all the best angles and directions to take pictures, and the pro DSLRer did the job.
Oh btw, I lost a snoopy handkerchief there -______-
7) Bakheng Hill
^Ignore the 'random' red shirt guy please
Bakheng hill is located opposite Angkor Wat and is famous of the beautiful sunset view over Angkor Wat. Ling was so exhausted to accompany us so four of us walked up slowly.
On the way up, it suddenly rained, and Yung was chasing LCC as he rushed up. When us girls were confused whether to continue the journey or turn back, we bumped into an uncle from Taiwan and he suggested us to walk up. Along the way, he claimed he is from architecture background and kinda defamed Angkor Wat's structure because it is 'simple', as compared to the Great Wall of China. Both Michelle and I were a little offended because we were extremely impressed.
Anyway, we made it to the top and there was a disappointment because the weather was windy and cloudy, the sun was totally covered by the heavy cloud. Mich and I chatted all way long until the gate keepers started to show the visitors to the door - gate closed!
After all day long of walking, we had a nice foot massage and a walk at the night market.
There's all for my Cambodia trip!
I was holding all 4 passports when we got through the security check and approaching security counter, the uncle at the counter waved at us pettishly to ask us to go to the counter. I was a little freaked and clumsy, I handed over Mich's black cover, Yung's old-fashioned red cover, and one of the regular ones to LCC. When I was standing in front of counter waiting after scanned my fingers, I looked over the counter and saw an unfamiliar hand writing on the departure card. NOT MY NAME!! That means it's NOT EVEN MY PASSPORT! I passed security clearance anyway! LOL funniest jokes ever!