Showing posts with label Cambodia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cambodia. Show all posts

Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Night We Lost In Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Scare and Thrill of DIY Travels

February 04, 2021 0
Hotel Luxury World, Phnom Penh

We all have unique, sometimes strange, travel experiences abroad, some are  funny, others are scary to remember. But this one bizarre travel experience I had during my trip in Cambodia is both scary and interesting. 


A unique learning experience. It tested my courage and resilience how far I could go in adventures. A litmus paper of my survival ability if I would thrive in a foreign city without close contacts. 


It happened one night in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, a not-so crowded Southeast Asian capital. We have spent the night in Hotel Luxury World because we will be visiting Angkor Park the next day. 


Siem Reap is an eight-hour travel from Phnom Penh and we did not take an overnight land trip because we were all girls, too risky, so an overnight stay in the capital was necessary.

Phnom Pehn street in the morning


I was traveling with my two female friends and on the night of our arrival in Phnom Penh we needed to go outside to look for a money changer outlet.


It was already night time. 


Phnom Penh is one place tourists should not supposed to get lost, because of two reasons, locals could hardly understand English, second, pickpocketing seems prevalent. 


But Phnom Penh should not scare tourists too. It has Tuktuk, a form of local transportation like tricycle in the Philippines, which can take travelers anywhere in the city.  It has taxis.  


Tourists will never get lost. It is a capital city with developed infrastructures, and streets are well lighted. But it happened. And on some terrifying circumstances. No local currency in our pocket, and our mobile phones could not access the google map.


No local currency in our pocket


How we ended up getting lost in a foreign city?

The story is as bizarre as the experience itself. That night, we just arrived from Saigon, Vietnam, in a tiring nine-hour land travel, crossing the border, enduring long hours standing in the immigration queue to have our passport stamped for an entry to Cambodia.


We underestimated the circumstances of waiting in the immigration office, and we left Saigon very late, around 9:30 in the morning. 


Our estimate was that we should be at Phnom Penh before 5:00 in the afternoon so that we could still buy Cambodian Riel, the local currency in Cambodia.

It did not happen that way.

We were three brave souls exploring the lesser known side of Asia, no tour guide, no friends in the two countries, nothing to seek help if things will go wrong. But it didn't bother us, we just wanted to go on adventure on our own.

And yes, we left Vietnam without anything in our wallet other than Philippine peso and Vietnamese Dong, currencies that were not acceptable in the country we were entering! Still, we courageously decided to go ahead with our plan!

It was so hard to find Cambodian Riel currency in the first place, we left Manila on the night of January 1, we could not find Cambodian currency in any money changer outlet in Metro Manila, not even in Ninoy Aquino International airport. 

We tried our luck to buy Cambodian Riel in Vietnam but no money changer outlets selling the said currency. Buying US dollar currency didn't enter our mind. And that was a mistake.

Entering Cambodia from Vietnam


So on January 3, we just proceeded to Cambodia as planned without Cambodian Riel in our pocket. We just thought of buying the said currency upon arrival in Phnom Pehn.

When we arrived in the Cambodian border at 12:30 afternoon, that's where the trouble sets in.  The bus made a stop for lunch in a small restaurant. And we could not buy food because we did not have a local currency. 

Despite our grumbling stomach, we endured the circumstances and just consumed biscuits and bread cuts we brought from the Philippines.

Tuktuk ride in Phnom Penh


We met a fellow Filipino in the bus, Reychel Mendoza, she came from Bulacan and worked in Cambodia, she advised us to buy US dollar as most establishments, even transportation in Cambodia accepted dollar currency. She also bought us hard boiled eggs for our lunch haha!

However, we arrived in Phnom Pehn very late! Almost six in the evening and all money changer outlets and banks were already closed. Nevertheless, we did not panic, we just relaxed like real adventurers. Reychel paid half of our Tuktuk fares and instructed the driver to bring us to Hotel Luxury World.


First sign of trouble


We knew then that locals in Cambodia can hardly speak nor understand English, you need to slow down your tone when you speak so that they can process the words and get what you mean. Their local dialect is Khmer, something that was not in our radar to comprehend. 

But Cambodians are nice people, they smile a lot, bow their heads when they greet tourists and try hard to communicate in a broken English. Nonetheless, it was a great learning experience, having been able to learn the local culture of Cambodia, such a fascinating cultural learning discovery.

Hotel Luxury World


Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy but you can hardly feel the royal thing in its capital. In fact, it is a great contradiction to what monarchy looks and feels like. Phnom Penh is a bare city and far from a glamorous capital. 

It was plain, quiet and very ordinary. Not a bustling metropolis, no skyscraping buildings, no rush hour, no busy streets.  The common sight in the street is Tuktuk, a tricycle-like vehicle with extended body and elevated floor, similar, but not quite, to tricycles in the Philippines. 

No jeepney, but there are buses and taxis.

After securing our bags in our hotel room, we went downstairs to the hotel concierge to make an arrangement with the receptionists for our bus ticket for Siem Reap city the following morning. But they can only accept US dollar for the ticket fare. 


We were told to look for a money changer outlet outside to have our money converted to US dollar. At almost 7:00 in the evening we’re off to the street for an adventure to find a money changer outlet. 


Lost in the city


It was not still dark but the environment looked dreary. Lots of whistling and prying eyes from the locals. We just dismissed it and pretended we were one of the locals.

We crossed two main streets and made many turns, but all money changer outlets were already closed. Hungry, wasted, exhausted with numbing feet, we crossed more streets, and corners, without any luck. 

Until we agreed to just return to the hotel, and do the transaction on the following morning and probably just eat biscuits again for dinner and sleep. We're dead tired from the long travel!

We turned back and started following the same path, but after crossing several blocks and corners, and streets, we knew we’re in great trouble. 

We could no longer find the street address of the hotel!

We crossed several dark corners, watched by curious locals who whistled us and tried to approach us. We just ignored them.  But after several attempts of asking bystanders, all hopes went into drain as all of them could not understand English! 

We continued walking, stretching our stares across dark alleys and spaces hoping to find a glimpse of Hotel Luxury World but to no avail. 

We're officially lost!

Helpless, tired, anxious, we could not reach out to anyone in the area. We could not ride a Tuktuk because we've no local currency, we tried approaching the police but they too could not understand English. Nightmare! 

For some reasons, our mobile phones could not access the google maps. Tense!


A courageous adventure


Nonetheless, we did not panic. We even found our situation funny and a bit odd. We joked at each other to flip back our shirt to find our way. You know, some regional superstitious belief in the Philippines that if someone is lost, shirt needs to flip back to find the right direction.

We walked in a street where there was enough light so that no one will grab our sling bags. Because pick pocketing in Phnom Penh is also prevalent. 

We asked some locals again how we could find the Hotel Luxury World, but they just shrugged and asked us to translate the words into Khmer or Chinese! Shocks.

We could not search the hotel in the google map, nor reach out to anyone for help. We did not have anything at that time but courage and faith.


Miracle in Phnom Penh street


Tired analyzing what to do next, we just walked slowly, albeit leisurely, chuckled a bit and trusted God we could find our way back to the hotel before midnight.

After crossing another street, we decided to halt walking, we were already tired and wasted, hungry and thirsty.  In a circumstance that seemed hard to believe, we chose to stand in a corner seemed far away from the world we know.  

Then a miracle happened!

When I turned my head left, my eyes popped in amazement! Just three feet away from where we stood, a signage of a Western Union outlet flicked, half-closed, with a bold streamer that reads "Money Exchange"! 

Closing time: 9:00 in the evening, We checked our watch and it was 8:30 in the evening. God is good!!

We jumped off like lost children finding their way back home. Then rushed to the Western Union, which by that time was preparing to call the night off. We exchanged our money to US Dollar. Then stepped outside, thanking God for His immense goodness and kindness and divine guidance.


A night to remember


We're both laughing after walking back to the street, with US Dollars in our pocket, as if we just found a treasure and ready for our next adventure. Such a night to remember. 

We sauntered back to the street to look for a small eatery where we could take our dinner. We wanted to try some local food, Cambodian style of dining, so we chose a small food stall offering local meals. 

We started asking the name of the food. But the lady just shut us with a blank stare with no sign she understood what we meant. 

But she kept on smiling, signaling us to sit down! One customer, who was in a nearby table, showed us her plate containing the same food that we pointed to the lady.

The mysterious food 😃


Having a difficult time communicating in English, the customer just pointed her food without saying anything. My two friends and I exchanged anxious glances again, What food is that? We wanted to ask. But held our tongue. They would not understand anyway.

I was looking for rice, but, oh God! They could not understand the word “rice”, they requested us to translate the word to Khmer, we told them that we're tourists from the Philippines and can't speak Khmer! 

Dinner after lost


Anyway to settle matters, we just ordered whatever food we found in the menu. Even if we have no idea what was that. We’re extremely hungry. No energy to argue with the name of the food.

Then I blurted another dangerous question (because we’re certain they would never understand it. How much per order? I stammered. I could not find any simple term how to ask a price. 



The lady behind the food bin just stared at me with a curious glance. Completely unaware what I meant. Uhmm, I kept blurting. I was searching for any price sign in the menu to point to the lady. My two friends were on the brink of laughing with my struggle.

Until the man, perhaps the husband of the lady behind the cooking bin, showed me his calculator and the price of the food. I breathed comfortably and seated.

We're not annoyed, we’re more than amused with this episode rather than scared. It made the adventure of discovering local culture even more exciting and thrilling. Just imagine experiencing this at one of your travels? Very memorable!.


Finding our way back to the hotel


After this amusing experience of dining, we walked back to the street, and to our amusement and relief, we have finally located the street of the hotel! 

I don't know how we have figured out the "lost street". It just happened. Whatever the circumstances of that night's adventure, only God know.

Finding the hotel at last!


When we retired to bed that night, we just could not stop laughing and sharing stories. I messaged Vangie's sister in England, Maria, via Facebook messenger, on what happened, she was in near panic, deeply troubled with our situation in a country not super popular to be explored.


Lesson of adventure


Being lost in Phnom Penh, so far, is my most unforgettable adventure in a foreign land. A little scary but something also that taught me the other side of adventure, exploring the unknown. 

In order to learn, we need to get lost, undergo a certain type of challenges that strengthen our courage and faith. One should never be afraid of discovering things and learning in the process, it's one way to uncover the wonders of the world.

Breakfast at Hotel Luxury World


"Not all those who wander are lost. From the ashes, a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadow shall spring". - J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Ring.

Keep that fire of adventure burning! It will bring you to the farthest corner of the world and discover the wonders of it.


Believe me, we had a great sleep that night, quiet, smooth, undisturbed. woke up at 5:00 in the morning to peep at the window and brought my stare to the farthest corner of Phnom Penh. 

Such a quiet place, no blaring of horns of buses and jeepney or even train. It was a cool early morning with flickering lights below. Beyond the horizon, a misty sky stared at the bareness of the earth, waiting for the morning sun to spread its glow. 

I moved back to my bed. And sighed. Thoughts of our Angkor adventure in Siem Reap took over my mind, completely scraping off the misadventure the other night.

Soon, morning will break off in the horizon and we're off to another adventure. Life is just like that. An exciting adventure! Just dare to go. And share your story to the world.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

DAY 2: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

January 11, 2015 0
Pick up from hotel (this is free): 8:30AM
Time of departure from Saigon: 9:00AM


We crossed Cambodia without any Cambodian currency, we just got in there with nothing but confidence and courage, how we survived? 

Read this full story.

The night before, we made an arrangement with the hotel receptionist at Lan Lan 2 in Saigon, Vietnam to book us a ticket for Phnom Penh city, Cambodia. The ticket price includes a free pick up at the hotel. All buses taking a route from Saigon to Phnom Penh and vice versa are equipped with one comfort room and TV, others have wifi on board. They will also provide one free bottled water for each passenger and a wet tissue. Travel time is 8 hours.

We crossed the border via Cu Chi, Tay Ninh and Moc Bai provinces. Vietnamese immigration is at Moc Bai. Bus conductors will collect the passport of each passenger and they will be the one to process it at the immigration, but passengers will have to proceed to the immigration office for personal appearance or for any questions that might be asked. 

During this trip, we stayed for about two hours due to a huge flow of tourists coming in and out of the border. We saw travelers and backpackers from diverse cultural background while crossing the border. Such an amazing experience to see lots of foreigners in one place, you will really be proud of your race.

When we arrived at the Cambodian immigration, we showed our passport personally to the officer to have it stamp and took our picture. It was fast, we spent only 30 minutes. But the moment we entered Cambodia, our anxiety began. We did not have any Cambodian currency. So when the bus stopped for lunch, we ate nothing but biscuit (we packed biscuits and candies when we left Manila). We’re confident that the moment we reach Phnom Penh we can find a money changer outlet. We did not have any idea that in Cambodia, business establishments and drivers preferred US dollar currency than Cambodian Riel.


Rowie with Reychel Mendoza, the Pinay who guided us on our first day in Phnom Penh, she came from Bulacan and currently worked in Cambodia with her band performing in hotels and resorts. So grateful with her kindness but after this meeting we never heard anything from her although I gave her my email address so that she can search me in FB. 
She must have been sent by God to help us.


With Vangie Colaste, having dinner along the street in Phnom Penh

While pondering what to do, we overheard one passenger, a woman, talking someone over the phone in Filipino language! She’s an angel to all of us. The three of us exchanged curious glances, nudging each other to approach the woman who was also heading to Cambodia. We greeted her in Filipino and she smiled, then we started asking her how we could buy Cambodian riel. She told us what to do. She also shared to take precautions the moment we reach Phnom Penh city. 

Her name is Reychel Mendoza, she came from Bulacan and had been in Cambodia for a year and worked as a singer with her band. She was so extremely nice, we talked during our long trip to Phnom Penh, she shared lots of stories about a life in Cambodia, the people, customs, traditions. She must have been sent by God to help and guide us




At the terrace of Hotel Luxury World on our last day in Phnom Penh

It was almost six in the evening when we reach Phnom Penh. The place appeared to be more like a sub district than a capital city. It was plain, quiet and very ordinary. No skyscraping buildings and busy streets. The common sight in the street is Tuktuk, a tricycle-like vehicle with extended body and elevated floor. The moment we disembark from the bus, tuktuk drivers flowed to us offering their service. Reychel stepped forward to negotiate our ride with a cheaper rate. We agreed for $6.00 and Reychel instructed the driver to bring us to our hotel location.

We arrived safely in the hotel. After putting our bags in the room, we went down to make an arrangement with the receptionists for our bus ticket for Siem Reap city the following morning. Then we’re off to the street to find a money changer outlet. We crossed two main city streets but all money changer outlets were already closed as it was half past 8:00 in the evening.

Hungry, wasted, exhausted with numbing feet, we crossed more streets to look for money changers. Our search went into vain. With no hope of finding a money changer outlet, we decided to just return to the hotel, sleep with empty stomach or probably just eat another pack of biscuits and drink water.

We turned back, but after crossing several blocks and corners, we knew we’re in great trouble. We could not find the hotel. And the nightmare began. We’re officially lost! We crossed several dark corners without any fear of being robbed. What we had in mind was to locate the hotel, but after several attempts of asking bystanders all hopes went into drain as all of them could not understand English!

We continued walking, and walking with nothing happened. I was on the verge of losing hope. But just before we crossed another street, a miracle happened. I saw a Western Union outlet with a bold streamer of Money Exchange! Closing time is 9:00PM, We checked our watch and it was 8:30PM. God is good!!

After buying dollar currency, we strolled the street to look for a small eatery where we could take our dinner, we wanted to try some local food, Cambodian style of dining, so we chose a small food stall offering meals. The stall was just located along the road, in a small street that looked like Uyanguren in Davao city.

We started asking the name of the food. But the lady just shut us with a blank stare with no sign that she understood what we meant. But she kept on smiling, signaling us to sit down, naks! One customer, who was in a nearby table, showed us her plate containing the same food that we pointed to the lady. Having a difficult time communicating  in English, the customer just pointed her food without saying anything. My two companions and I exchanged glances again, what food was that? I was looking for a rice, but, oh God! They could not understand the word “rice”, so we settled for that order even though we’d no idea what was that. We’re extremely hungry.

Then I blurted another dangerous question (because we’re certain they would never understand it): How much per order? Ohhh no, no, I thought, it sounded so complicated to the lady because she frowned so hard, but I could not find any simple term how to ask a price.

The man came in, he looked like the husband of the lady behind the cooking bin, I blurted my question again, in a slow voice, how…much…is…that (with matching point, point to the food), he smiled and seemed got my point, he pulled a calculator and showed us the amount, it’s US$1.5. We started giggling at each other. We’re more than amused with this episode rather than scared.

After this amusing experience of dining, we continued walking the street and finally located the street of the hotel! God is so amazing!


READ MORE HERE:



Day 3: Travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia

January 11, 2015 0
Pick up from the hotel (this is free): 8:30AM
Time of departure from Phnom Penh city: 9:00AM


We left Phnom Penh for Siem Reap at 9:00 in the morning. Unlike in Saigon where signs and town's address along the road are translated in English, in Cambodia all words and road signs are in Cambodian language characters, very strange! So we’d no idea what's the name of the place we’re in.


Usual architectural scene that travelers could see around Cambodia

Bus had two stop overs, one for lunch and one for snacks. Again, we did not take for lunch because we could not understand the food  on display, we’re afraid we might eat crickets and other insects, so we decided to eat biscuits. I looked for a safer menu or food in the counter but could not find one until I saw "pinipig", so I bought half a cup. Pinipig is a provincial rice delicacy in the Philippines and I used to eat this when I was still a kid so I am a bit familiar with its taste.

It took nine hours before we reached Siem Reap. We hired Tuktuk to take us to the hotel at Wat Bo village, we're lucky because the driver is quite good in English, we were able to make an arrangement with him to take us to Angkor on the following morning. He suggested for an early schedule at 5:00 in the morning to maximize our time and also to see the beautiful sunrise at Angkor Wat.




Dinner time at Koulen II Restaurant in Siem Reap City, Cambodia


Upon checking-in, the hotel receptionist suggested to spend our dinner at Koulen II restaurant where most tourists dined due to the famous Apsara dance show every night at 7:30PM. Koulen II offers a buffet style with international cuisine and authentic Cambodian dishes and since we wanted to try something new and see the Apsara show, we gave it a go and the receptionist placed a call to the restaurant to make a reservation for us. 


We went out via tuktuk again and reached Koulen 10 minutes later. It was a nice place, conducive for dining. The atmosphere inside the restaurant was very relaxing. Lots of tourists jam-packed the area. And there was plenty of them when we arrived. We took our sit  nearly at the edge of the lined tables. 



Apsara dance show at Koulen II Restaurant in Siem Reap, near Wat Bo village. This cultural dance is said to be the foundation of Thai classical dance when the Siamese sacked Angkor in the 15th century and brought the royal dance troupe 
as part of the booty. 

Apsara dance show started at 7:30PM and ended at precisely 8:30PM which is also the closing time of the restaurant, pretty early isn't it? But we had a great time watching the show, it showcased Cambodian culture and customs and the presentation was really awesome.

After dinner, we crossed the street to look for a souvenir's shop, we found one and bought some items. Then went back to the hotel to take enough rest for our early morning trek to Angkor!



Tuktuk ride in Siem Reap 


Quiet street in Siem Reap city


READ MORE HERE:

BE A TRAVELER NOT A TOURIST
DAY 1: SAIGON
DAY 2: PHNOM PENH


Angkor At Sunrise!

January 11, 2015 0

Address: Siem Reap province, Cambodia
Opening time: 5:00am to 6:00pm Daily
Ticket: $20.00 (one day tour)

Stepping back in time to a completely different world!

Just visited this stunning historical landmark in the Cambodian province of Siem Reap last January 5, 2015. It was such a terrific experience. Simply because I'm a nature lover.  The breathtaking landscape, verdant trees, rain forest and ancient temple ruins filled with intricate carving details of mythological characters enthralled me to no end. 

Marveling at those huge ancient trees where canopy of leaves never leave you sweating under the summer heat and where atmosphere never ceased its coolness even at noon time seemed to be the perfect retreat for a tired soul. 

Angkor is a perfect place for nature lovers, not only it is located in the jungle of Cambodia, but because the sprawling park is literally covered with thick vegetation and  breathtaking trees. The historical temple ruins added to the fascination.

The temples originally built as homage to Hindu gods: Vishnu and Brahma, so almost none of the carvings depicted Buddhism characters. However, since the conversion of Khmer Kings to Buddhism in the 15th century, the temples are now being used by Buddhist monks for their religious rituals.

Spreading across more than 400 kilometers, Angkor Archaeological Park is home to several ancient temples built during the Khmer regime. Its existence and survival to the modern era largely shaped Cambodia's cultural heritage and thoroughly became the country's ultimate national symbol.


The Angkor Park is immensely wide and quite impossible to explore in just 5 hours and since our time was very limited, the Tuktuk driver suggested to just visit the three big temple sites: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm.

These three sites exude grandeur and mystery with historical charm that intrigued the modern world. Its imaginative carvings of bizarre faces have been hailed as some of the greatest architectural achievements of humankind. 

Angelina Jolie's Tomb Raider movie had film locations at these three sites which made these attractions even more famous.

And despite retiring to bed late at night and the exhaustion we felt for enduring an almost ten-hour road travel from Phnom Penh city, we’re fully recharged to wake up in the early morning to embark into a unique adventure. Trekking the Angkor complex, with its world-famous temples, is a dream of a life time.

Before coming to Cambodia, we never thought that we would be visiting Angkor at the early morning, but the Tuktuk driver told us that it’s the regular schedule of visiting Angkor to witness the breathtaking sunrise before everyone in Southeast Asia could see its loveliness.

Our hotel accommodation has a complimentary breakfast so we requested the hotel staff to pack the meals ahead of time so that we can bring it to Angkor and have breakfast there while witnessing the bright sunshine to spread its magic.


Everyone watches as the soft glow of the golden light of the morning sun ascends above the towers of Angkor Wat. This is the highly 
anticipated activity at Angkor indulged by adventurers and photographers

At 5:00 in the morning, we're off to the sparkling streets (due to Christmas lights) of Siem Reap city to Angkor Archaeological Park.The environment was still dark but everything was so beautiful because the streets were already filled with roaring vehicles carrying tons of tourists eager to see the beautiful sunrise.

Our first stop was at the APSARA authority, few miles from the city proper, this is where visitors can buy an Angkor ticket. Official passes to Angkor are only sold here, visitors should appear in person at the ticketing booth to have their picture taken. Angkor Pass is not considered valid without the photo of the visitor imprinted on the ticket. We only spent 10 minutes here, after securing our pass, we moved to our first stop: Angkor Wat!      

ANGKOR WAT          

I never thought I could see Angkor Wat in my lifetime! But it happened. God is good!

We entered the west gate of Angkor Wat and started walking along its pathway which has a lake on both sides, the soft morning air touches my skin with a smooth chill which made the whole thing very relaxing! Important note: You must bring a flashlight when coming to Angkor since the area is still very dark even at 5:30 in the morning.



By the time we arrived, the area was already filled with travelers and backpackers equipped with their powerful photo gears, state-of-the-art cameras and video equipment, personally, I felt so elated because it was my first time to experience such huge crowd of tourists from diverse cultural background, felt like we’re on a stunning adventure of our lives! So proud of myself to join this kind of journey, the feeling was something I could never explain!

Wat is a Khmer term for "temple" and Angkor Wat is a cluster of temples  with an individual courtyard. Its sprawling ground is enough to consume your energy walking but provides a very soothing atmosphere and the ground is neatly trimmed making the trekking a wonderful experience. The complex balances the tone of nature and the symbolic structure ruins which make it one of the finest monuments in the world.


Angkor Wat at Sunrise! Magnificent!

We chose to stay at this spot because we could directly see the tower 
where the sun casts its golden rays. 

We started looking for a good spot to see the sunshine ascends, with no particular goal where to take our position, we just climbed at the first temple we spotted, joining other travelers. There, we waited for this most wonderful experience to befall – the ascent of the first glow of the morning sun.

Angkor Wat structure is slightly unusual because it faces West that's why the image of the temple has the sun rising behind its back and only the shadow of the structure can be captured by the camera but the shot is a little dramatic because the golden light cuddles the image of the towers and cast a bright gleam that sparkles in a finished photo.

Ten minutes later, everyone raised their photo equipment as the sun slowly spreads its gleam above the towers of Angkor Wat. It was awesome! Such an incredible sight to behold, having seen the soft golden light of the sun bathing the green environment with its yellowish sparks. As if I saw magic. Sunlight filters through the chinks and openings of the temples and beyond the trees, hugging leaves with its infinite beauty of shimmery rays.

I kept on walking around, observing the surroundings, watching photographers choosing angles how to capture the beauty of Angkor Wat, taking snaps of the ruins of the temples in a reclining position. At one point, I imitated one photographer with his fantastic angle shoot, he was lying in the ground, trying to take a good shot of the towers.


At the sprawling ground of Angkor Wat

We entered three temples where most of its alleys were sculpted with images of gods which I assumed to be Vishnu and Brahma (Hindu gods). But what stunned me most was the relaxing ground of the complex, so beautifully maintained! Green environment as its finest. Trees are equally lovely. Lots of lakes and ponds.

In Khmer, Angkor means "City of Temples" which sounds true as temple ruins can be found everywhere. Angkor Archaeological Park became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992.
.
Angkor Wat,  one of the well-restored among the temple ruins in the Angkor complex. was built by Khmer king, Suryavarman II in 12th century and had been the official seat of court of the powerful Khmer Empire for several centuries. Originally intended for the Hindu god, Vishnu, Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple in later centuries when the succeeding Khmer kings converted to Buddhism. Today, it is considered the largest religious complex in the world. 
  
We left Angkor Wat at 7:35am and proceeded to our next destination, Angkor Thom.

ANGKOR THOM

Angkor Thom is where the famous Bayon temple is located, it’s just 10 minutes ride away from Angkor Wat and the most picturesque of all the surroundings of the Angkor Archaeological Park. Personally, Angkor Thom is my favorite. Cool, super tranquil atmosphere with greenery and large tropical trees covering the whole environment. 



Front gate of the Bayon temple in Angkor Thom

Observers say the enigmatic faces carved on Bayon towers depicted its builder, 
King Jayavarman VII, others say it depicted a Hindu or Buddhism god

According to its history, Bayon temple was established by King Jayavarman VII as his state temple. The carvings on the walls and towers, even doorways, are enigmatic faces believed to be ancient gods of Hinduism and characters of Cambodian mythology. Others say it depicted Jayavarman himself.



We entered Bayon temple at the front gate, and again, the area was flooded with tourists with their high tech cameras. It was in this area that I dared to climb every ruin, unconcerned if one of the shambles will shatter, I just want to reach to the top of the ruins and see those amazing and strange iconic carvings.

Each door of the temple is adorned with historical figures of Cambodian mythological characters, some depicting different gods, others depicted the nature of Hinduism. The intricate details of the carvings are so complicated and imaginative.



At the beautiful surrounding of Angkor Thom with my friend, Vangie Colastre

We moved forward to the north gate to visit more temples, we reached the Victory square where the Royal Palace ruins are located. Because we’re extremely tired, we just viewed the ruins from a far and took photos. We exited at the terrace of the elephants pathways and waited for the Tuktuk driver to bring us to the next temple.

TA PROHM

Visiting Ta Prohm is like entering a wild jungle of a forgotten ancient world. Eerie, bizarre and creepy because the whole temple is totally covered with strange trees, its unusual large roots are crawling everywhere!The formation of each tree looks very gross as if something sinister or morbid is housed inside. Well, it's like time traveling to a different century. 

According to its history, when this temple was built in the 12th century, it was intended to be the monastery of King Jayavarman II. Ta Prohm means ancestor of Brahma, which refers to a Hindu god. However, Jayavarman successor converted to Buddhism, thus, the Hindu gods were replaced by Buddhism characters. Its architectural style is purely Khmer.


Ta Prohm temple


Ta Prohm looks like being left behind among the big three must-see temple ruins in the Angkor complex, but this is one of the most visited sites in Angkor Park due to these peculiar trees. The interior of the temple where other fight scenes of Tomb Raider were exactly filmed looked kinda scary. At first I hesitated to enter the inner part of the temple, but I have no choice because the exit area is located on the other side of the ruins and the parking area of Tuktuk vehicles are also in that area.

Unusually gigantic roots of large trees covering Ta Prohm temple

Among the three temples we visited, Ta Prohm is my least favorite because the road leading to its inner temple from the entrance gate is quite dusty and far from the main road. The interior looks really messy and if not for those big trees and cool atmosphere, I would never endure staying another 30 minutes. But the environment is so lovely, I was stunned how everything was preserved and maintained.

We left Angkor at 11:00 in the morning because our trip back to Phnom Penh is at 12:30. 

Siem Reap province is incredibly beautiful and magnificent. All those extraordinary trees I have never seen in my life, the beautiful horizon, placid lakes, relaxing surroundings, cool atmosphere, thick vegetation, reflect my fascination towards a country living.

I hope I could go back to Siem Reap, see its stunning gift of nature, enjoy the stillness of the mother earth, take hundreds of photos of the environment and create memories.

Some helpful Guide when visiting Angkor Park

Angkor complex is located in Siem Reap city, an eight-hour drive from Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh. Cebu Pacific Air is serving a direct route from Manila, Philippines to Siem Reap, but if you are coming from Vietnam, the easiest route is through Ho Chi Minh city crossing the border by land via Moc Bai to Phnom Penh city. Travel time is eight hours, and don't get shock if you will be stuck in the immigration because Moc Bai has several tourists flowing in and out of the border. The processing time to get your passport stamp is more than an hour.

There are several buses traveling between Vietnam and Cambodia and the travel is very comfortable. They offer one bottled water and wet tissue to passengers and bus conductors are the one bringing passport to the immigration.

Upon arrival in Siem Reap, Tuktuk rides are available on the bus stop, drivers are nice, we never encountered any inconveniences in making arrangement with them. The one we hired even agreed for a discounted fare when we told him to bring us to Angkor complex on the next day.

Travel time from Siem Reap city to Angkor is just 15 minutes. Tour guides are available but you can explore Angkor on your own just like what we did. Everything is safe there.


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