Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Siem Reap Part 1: Angkor "What"?


Angkor Wat - Source of Inspiration and National Pride of the Khmers
Angkor Wat is the world's foremost ancient sites, with the epic proportions of the Great Wall of China, the detail and intricacy of Taj Mahal, and the symbolism and symmetry of the pyramids, all rolled into one. (Lonely Planet: Cambodia)


5:45 a.m. - Sunrise at the Heart and Soul of Cambodia
We were informed by our tour guide that the best time to witness the magnificent beauty of Angkor Wat is either during sunrise or the sunset.  As the dawn is breaking, we left our lovely beds for Angkor Wat.

Initially, Hazem and I planned to cycle around from one wat to another. But Melissa and John offered us an irresistible van ride with a guide for Angkor Wat tour. Thank you so much, guys!

I remember, the guide's name is Elf. Even though Elf is as a trained tour guide, who is able to explained in great length of detail about Cambodia, I find his dialect is quite difficult to be understood. At times, I had to ask him to repeat his sentences more than twice.

But I didn't recall the van driver's name since he preferred to keep silence most of the time. Karang kalau aku beriya-iya ajak dia sembang, dia ingat aku nak mengurat dia pula kan?


The journey from the hotel to the Angkor Wat is as far as 8 km, which will take approximately about 10 minutes. In the darkness of dawn, I could see the mad rush of the tourists to witness the beauty of sunrise in Angkor Wat. Chartered four wheels vehicles, tuk-tuk, motorbikes and bicycles filled the busy road with excitement.

On the way to the Angkor Wat, we saw a long queue along the pedestrian passage. Mostly women and children. I asked Elf whether they were queuing to enter the school?  According to Elf, they were queuing for medicine supply. Medicine is scarce in Cambodia, which is the main reason why the health quality in Cambodia is low. Many local people had to get up early in the morning to queue for medicine supply. Some of them were standing. Some were sitting on the grounds. Some kids were playing around. While little ones were crying out loud. Most of them cast a look on us with blank faces. I did not know whether I should give a friendly smile to them because my heart was breaking seeing their struggle to survive.
We arrived at the ticket counter 10 minutes later. We paid USD 20 for one day pass. There are also passes for three days (USD 40) and passes for a week (USD 60).

Lepas tu, anda hadaplah Angkor Wat sampai lebam. Apalah yang beriya-iya sangat nak duduk dalam Angkor Wat sampai seminggu.
Oh, lepas tu, masa beli tiket, sila pastikan anda sedang pose sendayu tinggi atau jamu mak dara. Sebab sebelum kaunter mencetak tiket, mereka akan mengambil gambar untuk dipaparkan atas tiket. Kebanyakan pelancong tidak bersedia, maka nah, muka masing-masing... sekian terima kasih. Muka aku nampak lubang hidung besar. Macam director Ahmad Nispu. Tak suka tak suka tak suka.

Before entering Angkor Wat, Hazem and I performed Subuh prayer at the edge of the counter building, equipped with a sarong and Qiblah compass.


REMINDER: Please do not lose your ticket. Some of the officers will check from time to time. Any visitors found without ticket in the temples will be fined USD 100.

6:15 a.m. - Angkor and I
We arrived at the entrance of Angkor Wat while the sky was still dark. The route to Angkor Wat are filled with uneven bricks. As a safety measure to avoid from tripping, most tourists and tour guides brought flash lights and kerosene lamps. We listened to the history and legend of Cambodia explained by Elf along the way. 

Angkor Wat was built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the twelfth century as temples and major cities. Originally, Angkor Wat was a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Later, it was transformed into Buddhist temples. Angkor Wat is now a symbol of pride, engraved on its flag. 

We on the mattress provided by Elf, surrounded by hundreds of people. When the first ray of morning sun shone in the sky, I could see that we were sitting in front of a lake, facing Angkor Wat. The surrounding area was filled with photographers mostly equipped with their sophisticated photography tools. 

As the sun was crawling up, the shutters' sound formed a coordinated musical orchestra. Even though I neither have the best DSLR not the best photography skills, witnessing sunrise at the Angkor Wat with my own two eyes was a rewarding experience. No money can buy.

8:00 a.m. - Angkor "What"? Let's Check it Out!
Before the ancient building got crowded by tourists, Elf led the tour from one part to another. We were first brought to the west side of the building, where the wall's carving depicts the war scene from the Hindu Mahabrata and Ramayana scene. 




What fascinates me the most, the east side of the ancient building depicts the afterlife. The rewards in the heaven and the punishments in the hell. For examples, each evil acts in the world will severely be punished including traders who cheated on scales, abortion offenders and also premarital sexual offenders. And the most celebrated scene, Churning of the Sea Milk can be found at the east side as well.

Angkor Wat features apsara (heavenly nymphs) and devatas as decorative motif on walls and pillars. According to Elf, many of these exquisite apsaras and devatas were damaged due to the chemical or acid cleaning techniques employed by the Indian in the 1980s. However, the apsaras were revived by the German Apsara Conservation Projects. 


I could see few apsara dancers were getting ready for their performance. I was told that any photos taken of the apsara dancers are chargeable with USD 1.


10:00 a.m. - Sayonara Angkor Wat
The sun was shining so brightly, a sign of a beautiful day is ahead. We were indeed fascinated by every inch of Angkor Wat. To me, Angkor Wat remains as one of the greatest historical monuments and a symbol of devotion to religious belief. 



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