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The Magical Land Of Cambodia (Part 2)

If you want to make the most out of your Angkor Archaeological Park visit you should spend at least three days exploring the area. There’s no question that Angkor temples complex is something of a spiritual hub.

One of the best things about visiting the Angkor Temples is having the time to read, to sit down, to reflect, and to allow yourself to picture each temple and each ruin in the ancient Khmer city that once stood on that site.

Bayon Temple

After visiting Angkor Wat our guide  Tes Chhaya took us to the main park road into Angkor Thom, passing through the South Gate. We were greeted by fascinating giant faces having different expressions – smiling, serene, serious, angry, scary, etc. The left side is lined up with 54 figures of gods and opposite right side with the same numbers of demons. 

The Magical Land Of CambodiaThe left side is lined up with 54 figures of gods and opposite right side with the same numbers of demons.

Another much-loved temple on the tourist trail, Bayon is best known for the huge faces carved into the stone towers. Although small in comparison to Angkor Wat, this sacred building is much more condensed. It was built in the late 12th- and early-13th-century as the official state temple of King Jayavarman VII. Huge restoration work has since taken place, and is ongoing, so expect to clamber over stones and through dark, narrow passages to see it all.

The giant stone faces of Bayon have become one of the most recognisable images connected to classic Khmer art and architecture. These faces, dubbed the ‘Mona Lisa of South East Asia’ came in sets of four, each identical, and pointing to a cardinal direction.

The Magical Land Of Cambodia BayonThe Bayon temple consists of 54 towers which represent the Khmer Empire Period (Angkor period). The main tower is located in the center and called “the Gold Tower” showing four faces.
The Magical Land Of Cambodia BayonThe iconography of the four faces represent the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara – Lokeshvara – and they are generally believed to to be the four faces of King Jayavarman VII demonstrating the omnipresence of the king.

Don’t miss a photo spot where you can take a picture that looks like your nose tip touches the nose tip of the face sculpture!

The Magical Land Of Cambodia BayonFaces symbolize the four smiling faces which are the charming smile, sad smile, glad smile and beautiful smile.

Travel Tips: Arrive at the park in the afternoon. Many people start their days around 9am and leave the park shortly after lunch, meaning the crowds always die down around mid-afternoon.

The Temple is surrounded by two long walls bearing an extraordinary collection of bas-relief scenes of legendary and historical events. In all, there are  total of more than 11,000 carved figures over 1.2km of wall.

The Magical Land Of CambodiaAmazing collection of bas-relief scenes of legendary and historical events

Exploring Angkor Thom can take a few hours, leaving you exhausted. And here good opportunity to grab top views of these amazing temple ruins by riding an elephant. An elephant ride is a great way to soak up the atmosphere under the shade of the huge trees and also offers a different view on the temple.

The Magical Land Of Cambodia BayonGreat opportunity to grab top views of Bayon temple ruins by riding an elephant
The Magical Land Of Cambodia BayonA different view on the ancient temple

It was first experience for my wife, and immediately, the elephant became embedded in her heart. Well, I would like to mention the way the elephants are treated was incredible: they start operating in the morning until about 11.00 am and restart at 3.30 pm to give animals some time to chill out during those crazy hot hours.

Ta Prohm

Another favourite with visitors, Ta Prohm was flung into the limelight when Angelina Jolie was filmed amid the dramatic, root-ravaged walls for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. One of Angkor’s oldest temples, Ta Prohm is said to be the first built entirely of sandstone and features a five-tiered pyramid with steep staircases on each side. With many of the ruins consumed by the roots of towering trees, this temple is by far one of the most magnificent.

The Magical Land Of Cambodia BayonSilk-cotton and strangler fig trees took root in the loosened stones of the temple, which was built entirely without mortar.
The Magical Land Of Cambodia BayonThe roots wound through the structure, creating an astonishing merger of nature and architecture.

Travel Tips: Remember to bring a lot of water and keep yourself hydrated, take frequent breaks by sitting down to admire the views and take in the significance of the park. Wear comfortable foot wear and be careful not to slip while climbing up and down the stairs.

The Magical Land Of CambodiaUnlike any of the other popular Angkor temples, Ta Prohm really gives you the feeling of discovering something hidden and truly ancient
The Magical Land Of CambodiaThe roots of the trees attach to the porous sandstone, extracting the water from the stones.

After the fall of the Kmer Empire in the 15th century, Ta Prohm fell into despair. For hundreds of years, the temple was swallowed up by the Cambodian jungle. Trees began grow from the tops of the walls, and as they got bigger, they began to topple the stone walls. These ancient trees, with their invasive, gigantic rots, is what adds to the beauty and the mystery of Ta Prohm.

Floating village

Going through an authentic Cambodian floating village is a real treat for those who have never seen similar things before!

We took a boat up the river that slowed down around crocodile cages, lotus fields, and mangrove forests. You’ll see the local community preparing buckets of rice directly over a campfire, children paddling their way to school and even a solar powered bar. The river that passes the village ends at Tonle Sap lake which is the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia.

The Magical Land Of CambodiaVillage has its own schools, authority office, hospital, police station, two churches and few shops, bars and restaurants.

It is a one-of-a-kind experience to see what life is like over water – the local residents were busy doing laundry, cooking or fishing on top of their wooden boats. Pigs, cats, and chickens lived inside paddle boats floating around.

The Magical Land Of CambodiaSmall boats are the primary method of transportation in the floating villages.

More than 5,800 residents of a village live surrounded by water, but don’t have enough access to clean water for drinking, cooking, and washing. Some villagers are using chemical treatment to purify the water but some villagers drink water that hasn’t even been boiled. I believe those who take the risk to drink  Tonle Sap water should be paying a high price with diarrhea and other diseases, as brown, muddy and polluted water doesn’t look suitable for daily use.

Hopefully the local government and civil society will take an action to decrease the risks to residents in these otherwise idyllic floating villages.

The Magical Land Of CambodiaCambodians tend to smile or laugh in both positive and negative situations
The Magical Land Of CambodiaWe were really impressed with Cambodia loving the people, culture food and nature

A large percentage of Cambodia’s population lives below the poverty line. However, even being very poor, the people always smile and have fun with each other on their own way. 

We loved our time in Cambodia and are already planning a return trip.

Photography © Gurcan Sarisoy

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