Old Market of Siem Reap
So we reached Siem Reap after a good flight actually and a very supportive Isha who was a wonderful kid during the journey. In Siem Reap there are two main attractions, Angkor Wat temples (obviously!) and Old Market Area. We went to the latter the first and it was a nice easy evening to walk around the place. It was obviously very hot during the day but evenings were much more pleasant. Not totally but sufficiently to walk around for an hour or two.
Somewhere in the Pub Street
The famous Pub Street, Old Market Area of Siem Reap
So day 2. The plan was – I will go with mom dad on day 1 and see how the day pans out. We will take 3 day passes. Heena and Isha will stay back and have fun at the resort while we explore the temples and see which one or two are best for Heena to see, since her outing will be more restricted. As for us, we targeted to complete all three temples quickly on day 1 itself so we can see which one to go to on day 2. But that was not the case to be, given the heat.
We started quite late in the morning actually which was not the best of decision in the hot sun to be honest, which we rectified in later days. Went to the main Angkor Wat temple first which was a delight, to know the history and of course see the architecture. The temples as of 2015 and in my view, were not in the best of shape due to years of war and lack of preservation as a result of the tumultuous times the country has gone through during the last many years.
But despite that, even the remaining beauty of the Hindu temples (which were later converted to be called Buddhist temples) speaks highly of the architecture and grandeur of the Hindu Kings of the time and the wealth they possessed.
Angkor Wat temple from the front
At the front of Angkor Thom temple
Idol of God Vishnu at the entrance of Angkor Thom temple, the main temple in the Angkor Wat complex
Angkor Thom temple
Angkor Thom is a really big temple and actually the biggest of all in the complex. It is best to go early morning given how much time it can take to go around the temple. We did that and we kept going further inside, the crowd got thinner till we reached a point where there was hardly anyone. It was a delight taking photos there.
At the back end of Angkor Thom temple
Angkor Wat – Bayon Temple
So post Angkor Thom temple, we moved on to Bayon temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the God of destruction in the trilogy of Gods (Angkor Thom as seen above is dedicated to God Vishnu who is God of Sustenance while the third temple we visited was for God Brahma, the Creator of Universe). Rich Hindu history, how well depicted at this place!!!
The Tuk Tuk from Angkor Thom to Bayon temple took us hardly 10mins and before we entered the premises of the temple the following beauty greeted us.
At the entrance of Bayon temple
Bayon temple is known best for its large Shiva (now Buddha) faces carved out of the stones with which the temple was built. Our guide told us that the carvings were done after the stones were put in place and the temples were built. Quite a work, I must say! Respect to the craftsmen of the time! God knows if they know how much good their work is doing to their country.
Bayon Temple in Siem Reap
Open ground outside Bayon temple
Day 2: Angkor Thom sunrise and Ta Phrom temple
So the heat made us give up after 3-4 hours of being out and visiting the two temples in Angkor Wat complex. Day 2 was kept for THE FAMOUS sunrise behind the Angkor Thom complex as well as visiting the third temple. Heena and Isha decided to stay back another day for a repeat of all the fun they had together on day 1 of our temple visits but also that it was kinda tough for a 7-mth young kiddo to wake up at 430am and be ready for the 545am sunrise.
Well, though it felt a bit uneasy at first to take a tuk tuk in the darkness before the dawn and for most of the route, being the only moving thing on the road. But soon the 15min ride was over, we were greeted by the ticket checkers at the entrance of the complex and we knew we were on the right route and almost there. At 520am mom dad and me were hopping our way to the complex to get that perfect spot for the magical picture I was looking for (how supportive of them)!
By 530am, everything was set. Tripod in place, some random shots taken to see composition was all right (whatever little was visible on the moon-lit night) and the sparsely populated area at that time had not posed a challenge for us to get a spot where I didn’t feel I was getting that “right angle”.
In about 20min, the sun started showing its range of changing true colors (literally) and went off the clicks clicks of cams… presenting of the many photos shot then. Truly worth the effort.
Sunrise overlooking Angkor Thom temple
Soon I started feeling bit strange. We were only three of us and a few more bodies around. How come I am hearing so many camera clicks around… well, turn around and here is what you see. We are in good company !!!
So with this and after having the $1.00 customary Coconut Water drink from one of the many stalls near this place, we headed out to our third and final temple, which was bit further than Bayon Temple we visited on day 1, from this place.
Ta Phrom – The Tomb Rader temple
In case you are wondering about the title “Tomb Raider temple”, then it is because the movie was shot here and it is most famous for that scene in the movie and the site. The temple was much destroyed during the hostilities with Vietnam in the 70s but is being rebuilt with the help of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to help regain the beauty of the temple. The temple is about 20min tuk-tuk drive from Angkor Thom.
Ta Phrom temple is dedicated to Lord Brahma, the Creator of the Universe per Hindu religion. Famous for the large overgrown trees which seen to have overtaken the temple completely. Have a look for yourself…
Nature takes over what man created… literally!
And that’s the famous Tomb Raider spot… deja vu?
With this came an end to day 2 of our temple visits. We chilled out at our resort for rest of the day given the heat we had been through for these hours. Nothing beats a shower and a dip in the pool thereafter!
Day 3 – Travelling with everyone to the two temples we decided for
So with the first two days we knew what to expect in each of the three main temples. Day 3 was where we bring along Heena and Isha and right early in the morning which was our big learning from the much better day 2 experience. We started the day at 630am and went to Angkor Thom temple, since that is one place we thought Heena was not to miss – it is the main temple, the biggest and with most historical significance.
Monk at the Angkor Thom temple
The second shortlisted temple was Bayon, which we thought was more interesting than Ta Phrom – just a personal choice for better time management.
View from inner entrance of Bayon temple
Passes are for all the temples – not just the above three
So the goof up we did in the trip was that we thought the Angkor complex was all you get to see with the Angkor pass (1 day to 7 day options) you buy and that is about it. However, little we realised that the pass is valid for as many temples you want to see in the area subject to days limitation and not just those three. So well, we ended up buying another 1 day pass to visit the Bantaey Srei temple. Was it fun paying extra for a missed out fact – no. Was the extra spending worth it.. umm, yes I would say so.
Further from the Angkor Wat main complex but one of the best preserved temples – Banteay Srei
The main Angkor Wat temple complex has the above three main complexes. However, there is a little gem that is not so near but near enough for a half day trip (4-5 hours or so) which is also the most preserved temples at the place
Bantaey Srei temple – entrance
The temple is made of pink sandstone since it is dedicated to women (Bantaey Srei means Citadel of Women) and that is a unique feature and what sets is apart from the many other temples in the area. It is about 25km from the complex and takes about 45min to an hour to reach there. The temple itself is much smaller in scale, but has beautiful carvings that is very well preserved even today.
The beautiful carvings in Bantaey Srei temple
Bantaey Srei temple – a very well preserved temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia
There are some local shops at the entrance of the temple and they did sell some very good stuff. Below are some of the pictures I took of them. Quite reasonable as well if you bargain somewhat, but would recommend / request not to do much. After all, an extra penny saved for many of us may not be as much valuable as an extra penny earned by them.
Local market near Bantaey Srei Temple
Items being sold in the local markets
Items being sold in the local markets
Within this, our trip comes to an end. We did spend the remaining two days just chilling out at the resort and visiting the Old Market again in the evening and there was a friend who happened to be there at the same time so hanged out with them etc.
It was overall a fun filled trip. We did venture out for the 4 out of 6 days there but since those out days were only half days, we had a lot of rest and relaxing stay at the Lotus Blanc Resort. I am in no way affiliated to them and would highly recommend staying there. I would think almost all the hotels (at least those which get good reviews on booking.com or agoda etc websites) are good enough, but I must specially commend Lotus Blanc’s service they provided.
I have to say that with an infant, guests can get quite demanding for being in situations where you need their out of ordinary help and though they ewre / were not prepared depending on the situation, we did feel each time that they tried their very best in helping us out. For most of the times, that is a job well done. Facilities are what they are and it was a well maintained resort. God Bless! More soon!