Grand Palace, Wat Arun, and other temples: A Photo Diary

We took a whole day to visit some temples in Thailand. Now, there are a lot of temples in Thailand but we managed to pack in only two — The Grand Palace (which has a lot of temples and museums in one complex) and the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun. It was fun taking the ferry to and from the two sides of the river. Thailand is truly a marriage of the old and the new, fusing modernity with tradition and religiosity.

P.S. I have notes here how to get to these temples from Silom/Sukhumvit without taking a cab

Temple-tramping the Angkor, Part 2

And our temple-tramping adventure continues deeper into the heart of Angkor. The Angkor Wat isn’t the only temple in the park. I used to believe that it is the only thing there, and I was overwhelmed by all the temples within Angkor. The Angkor Thom is an older temple complex and home to the most enduring empire in Khmer history. Inside Angkor Thom, we found the Bayon, Baphuon, and Phimeanakas temples. Also included in this is Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, and Banteay Kdei from the temples in towards the East. You may also see some elephant rides for hire starting from here. I think it starts from $20 and up. Wasn’t so sure because we didn’t ride the elephants.

The entrance to Angkor Thom is marked by the Bayon faces

The Bayon temple has the that Khmer architecture with a bajillion faces on ’em. Some say they’re the faces of emperors, some say they’re of the bodhisattvas

The faces are everywhere! They look serene and peaceful and looking at ’em all day just makes me wanna meditate. At this point too, I had the slightest inkling to smoke… it was hard to resist but I waited till lunch because the smoking area is near the makeshift restaurants near Angkor Thom. Climbing also seemed to be a challenge already, because it was nearing lunchtime and the sun was harsh. The steps were really just half steps and one wrong move will have you tumbling down in a very unclassy Jack and Jill manner. You don’t like that. Besides, Ta Keo has a lot of steeper stairs to climb so train while in Bayon!

These temples are actually functional temples, so tramp with care, silence, and respect.

The apsara engravings are still everywhere. These sprites guard the walls with utmost class.

Baphuon temple lies just beside Bayon

Baphuon looks like an Incan ceremonial sacrifice mountain. I get glimpses of the last scenes in Apocalypto where the Incans are sacrificing their POWs to prevent the solar eclipse. But that’s irrelevant, I just wanted you to have an idea how somehow it was creepy… and again steep. I no longer know how much I’ve used the word steep for this series. Haha!

Ta Keo was being renovated when we were there

Now if there was one temple steeper than the others, that would be Ta Keo. At 2pm, the scorching heat on our backs, and more than a dozen half steps and Jack and Jill waiting to happen, this one appeared to be a challenge. But when we got to the top, it all felt so good — having climbed all those steps, having looked all those dizzying heights. We can’t help it but to feel the air and spread our arms.

But the climbing down is much more difficult, actually.

And one the final temple we went to (jeez, by then we were thinking what a day it has been) is filled with Tomb Raider realness. This is where, Lara Croft – in all her pouting and temple tumbling prowess – battled the forces of evil. While it looked like a battle-ridden field, the battle is between man and nature, really. Ta Prohm is one of the heavily ruined (pun intended) temples in the archaeological complex. Trees sprung out from the temples and broke the stone walls. It looks like some kind of medieval war happened here, but with nets instead maybe?

This guy is just too hard to resist not to take a picture of, but I couldn’t muster the courage to do so upfront. So there. 

And another hunk along Banteay Kdei (don’t know how to pronounce)

The Angkor Cafe provides refreshments for those who needs respite… and wifi!

The monks wander freely, and contrary to popular belief, talk to people.

After a whole day of temple tramping, we got a glimpse of the once great Khmer empire and a feel of Cambodia’s most essential religious and political history. I’d like to be back here soon and visit the other temples we missed. And all those cute guys doing a temple run as well! Teehee 😛

This is a series of posts about my trip in Cambodia and Thailand:

Temple-tramping the Angkor, Part 1
Banyan Leaf Hotel in Cambodia
Primer: How to get to REP, Cambodia

Temple-tramping the Angkor, Part 1

So back to reminiscing the Angkor! I swear, this blog sounds like a disoriented, attention-span-deprived crazy person, but I think I have enough sanity, thanks to the cup of coffee besides me *sips coffee*

So Angkor! The historical temple wonderland that is Angkor Wat Archeological Complex (full name yo!) It’s hundreds of acres of land spanning historical political and religious sites in Cambodia, mostly seats of power and civilization in ancient Khmer history. Now, it’s a sacred ground for Buddhist and Hindu monks around Cambodia and the world.

Ideally, you’d go here in the break of dawn to catch the staple sunrise against the Angkor Wat stupas BUT I was massively drunk the night before we went here with a new Moroccan friend in Linga (also, coming from a dragging seven-hour overland trip) so the earliest time we got here was around 7:30am — thanks to our trusty tuktuk driver who we just hailed from outside our hotel. Neat.

White washed walls and steep stupas greeted my drunk sleepy face. I know that some of the temples are steep (Ta Keo, which I will discuss on my next posts) but I didn’t expect that Angkor would require that much climbing. I might not talk a lot about this, but I have an immense fear of heights. I wish I knew this before I went here!

Apsaras were everywhere, guarding the magical walls 

Aside from apsara images from practically every corner, there were a lot of Buddha images as well – some casted in gold, some clothed in full regalia, and some bathing in incense. What I didn’t appreciate though is that some people would offer you incense and would actually teach you how the Buddhists pray… but for a price. It happened once, and I was happy to save my money on the next ones by refusing politely. It got eerie though when some leered at us 🙁

The walls of the Angkor Wat is a big storybook. Aside from being the biggest religious monument in the world — modeled after the five peaks of Mt. Meru where the Hindu gods live, it also tells the story of the Khmers and their ancient empire – from rise to fall.

The high stupas with the sky as a backdrop is just simply beautiful

The real reason why my trip to Cambodia was non-negotiable is that renovation is quickly starting

These aged stupas have some stories to tell

The walk from the moat to the temple itself is short, but there is more to walk around inside. It seemed to me like a maze inside, with steep stairs and… there’s no looking down because jeez those were some high stairs. Also, inside are more Buddha images. They were kind of starting to creep me out, but slowly growing into me.

Monkeys were all over too! The Khmers have kind of learned to coexist with them. These two, however, seemed too comfortable. 

This one seemed very hungry 🙁

Walking around Angkor Wat is just one thing, remember it’s not the only temple in the area – it’s a complex of temples! Also, Angkor Wat is the largest temple in the complex, let alone the world. You can easily use half of your day ’til lunch (especially if you didn’t go before dawn) to roam around. Remember to hydrate yourself ’cause it can be hot as the devil’s asshole in there. Water is available to buy at various points outside the temple.

After this half-day walkathon around Angkor Wat, we went to the neighboring Angkor Thom…

I’d really like to sum up everything in one post, but I think this needs a part 2!

Stay tuned!

This is a series of posts about my trip in Cambodia and Thailand:

Temple-tramping the Angkor, Part 2
Banyan Leaf Hotel in Cambodia
Primer: How to get to REP, Cambodia

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