on February 20, 2006
Angkor Wat is the ancient capital city of the Khmer Empire, dating back to 9th century, under Jayavarman VII (1181-1218). It epitomises Cambodian spirituality, culture, and history. Despite centuries of pilferage by colonial masters, neighbours, and in modern history, by the Khmer Rouge, the beauty and magnificence of Angkor Wat remains undisputed in South East Asia. Angkor Wat has always evoked an image of a lost city amidst thick jungle, and the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raiders depicts it perfectly. In reality, Angkor Wat is under constant restoration, aided by different agencies from across the globe. The jungle has been tamed into manicured lawns and pavements for the convenience of tourists exploring the grounds. During our weekend sojourn, we lost count of the number of coaches bearing noisy Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, and European tourists, not to mention independent travellers like us pouring into every corner of Angkor Wat. We arrived at the checkpoint before Angkor Wat in less than 20 minutes from our hotel. There, we headed into the office for a head-shot, needed for the application of the permit pass into Angkor Wat. The whole process took less than 10 minutes and was hassle-free.Upon arriving at Angkor Wat, we were swept away by the vista before us. We showed our newly minted pass to the guards, and made our way across the moat via the causeway. The moat seemed more like a river and is a favourite spot for local children to swim in and cool off, especially during the warmer seasons. Welcoming visitors at the end of the causeway are the impressive nagas, or the seven-headed serpents (each representing a day of the week). Appreciating Angkor Wat became a challenge for us. We had to navigate around the large number of tourists, vying for spots to view the intricate carvings of the bas-reliefs, waiting our turns to climb up and down the temples, and of course, taking photographs. The latter proved especially challenging, as we tried to capture the beauty of Angkor Wat and tourists who had a knack of walking into the frame at the exact moment our fingers pressed the trigger—thank God for digital and the delete button. Our guide, Mr. Thy was quick to point out the various interest points which we might have otherwise missed had we chose to see the sights on our own. He regaled us with local tidbits and stories, especially those depicted on the bas-reliefs and was patient in answering our questions. We spent a leisurely 2 hours exploring the grounds before heading for Phnom Bakheng for a sunset view of Angkor Wat and the Lake Tonle Sap.This website gives a succinct summary of each temple in Siem Reap.
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