Khmer Civilisation: Majestic Temples

Back from one of the best vacation I've had for some time. Been planning this trip for ages, purchased the tickets almost a year before lol. Siem Reap!

Flight from KL-Siem Reap is at 6:50am. The horror. TY, Ev and ZX from Penang were to take the last flight to KL on the night before, and we all spent the night at the airport. Lol. Logistics problems solved.

I'm going to cut the long story short and just say that we didn't really get to sleep much and after a breakfast of toast and coffee, we hopped onto the plane (almost full) and landed safely at the Siem Reap International airport close to 8am, local time.

The flat land of Siem Reap... I think I have close to 9GB worth of photos @@ some more all of them almost look the same, rocks, rocks, rocks or temples, temples, temples :p so I just selected a few of my favourite ones to save you from the torture of looking at repetitive shots :D

Already impressed by their airport! Clean, small and simple. We later found out from our guide, Hok, that another international airport roughly 40km from the current one will replace this airport. Shame, really. This one nice ma :(

Back to Hok. He was recommended by my sister who was there 5-6 years ago. When I exited the arrival hall, looking for my name and couldn't find it, and suddenly saw my name on a placard held by this dark man who emerged from the crowd and shook my hand lol. He later said to have thought that he could recognise me as I should look similar to Su Jen but later took back words :p Ev and the rest buat kacau and asked who's prettier, sister or me but Hok played it diplomatically and said both are. Ha!

Our guide drives a light blue-green Camry (superb air-conditioning that four-wheel has! In a different world between the car and in the dusty, hot roads of Siem Reap). Traffic in this town is a real chaos! Motorbikes (which they also call moto hehe), bicycles, cars all hog the roads, albeit at a slow pace. Oh, Cambodians drive on the right side of the road, but you can see that some of the drivers are seated on the right of the car! Hok says that some of the cars are brought in from Thailand at a cheap price, and hence the disparity.

Little piglets ('kon chirru' in Khmer kekeke) being transported. Oh by the way, only the first few shots are from my camera. The others are, of course from TY :D

We were all getting hungry after the mediocre breakfast and Hok said to check in to our hotels first before getting breakfast and we duly agreed.

Hotel, booked for us by Hok is a 3 and half star hotel. No complaints there. Decent, clean and complimentary breakfast! At $30 it's a great deal. Our hotel is located by the Siem Reap River (which flows to the Tonle Sap lake) and better still, a stone's throw away from Central Market, Old Market and Pub Street ;)

As it turns out, our rooms are still not ready and we took the stipulated 15 minutes to grab our second breakfast.

Hok brought us to a nearby local shop which serves noodles and rice, or whatever you please. I ordered a 'Thai noodles with fried chicken' (yes I know it sounds like a strange combination and trust me, it tastes a bit strange too, more on that later) with iced coffee while Ev had chicken rice, TY koay teow noodles with beef balls whereas ZX beef fried rice.

I don't know what got me to order this combination lol... Lack of sleep I presume. Anyways the 'Thai noodles' turn out to taste similar to maggi mee and the chicken..... had to tear the meat from the bones like a barbarian lol. Seriously the meat is really tough... like kampung chicken leh... In a sense I suppose that is good... but during my stay in Cambodia, I had to floss my teeth like, twice a day.

After the less-than-satisfactory breakfast, we got back to our hotel, got our keys and got our much needed shower and freshened up for our first photoshoot of the day!

Urh, photoshoot as in our mugshot for the three-day passes hehe. Anyways, our photos turn out pretty funny. I'll post them up when I can find them :) The three-day pass gives access to pretty much all the main temples around Siem Reap and is a better deal at $40 than the one-day pass at $20. When Su Jen went, it was also at the same rate. Great job for not hiking the price.

We have to keep the our temple passes with us at all times and show them to the temple guards on demand or upon entry. The others passed the less-than-glamourous job to me as the temple-pass holder.

As soon as we got out of the comfort of the air-conditioned car, we were soon cursing the hot, humid and dusty nature of Siem Reap! Just our luck that we were there on one of the hottest months hehehe. Oh well, that is not without its silver lining... temples are not as congested as they would have been during the peak season.

Our first temple.... Angkor Thom!

Angkor Thom is the biggest temple complex in Siem Reap, built under the ruling of King Jayavarnam VII. The entire complex covers 9km sq and its name literally means 'Great City'. Here we are at the South Gate of the complex. Two rows of sculptures on either side of the entrance depicts the Gods (left) and demons (right) both supporting the King of Snakes, Na-ga.

I'll try to save you from the boredom lah lol, you can always google for more historic in-depths of the temples. But look closely at the top tower of the gate and you will see four faces, all facing in opposite directions, believed to be sculptures of the king himself.

An overview of the Angkor Thom temple complex.

Bayon, the state temple is the first to greet us after the South Gate. Here Hok dropped us off and told us that he will let us explore the area for an hour and half before picking us at The Terrace of Leper King.


Look at the detail of the carvings... I mean, these may have been from restoration works, but still, the existence of the whole complex even after hundreds, possibly to a thousand years prove that the Cambodian of those years have already reached a level of intelligence to be beckoned with. Hok also explained that Cambodia was the first ever country in the world to have universities! It is such a shame that a country so advanced from others would end up poorer than even Malaysia through countless bloodbath and war.

Apsara dancers carvings on columns.

Apsara is, in Hok's terms, celestial dancers, or dancers from the heavens.

Out from one side of the Bayon and approaching Baphuon, the royal palace.

The raised platform walkway approaching the palace is truly breathtaking! One can only imagine the grandeur of those days, with pools on either side of the walkway as the king, flanked by his concubines and slaves sweep through the walkway into the palace. Hehe.... one the algae covered pond (which used to be a pool) is bigger than the other used to belong to the females. Because back then the number of females on the palace grounds is larger than the male. Of which the majority of females would have been made up of the king's concubines.

We weren't allowed to get into the palace though. I think it was never really open to the public before this.

While waiting for TY (he was really slow with his heavy duty DSLR and all), Evan spotted his first herp of the day lol...

It really is a beauty. But the blue on its neck only comes out after Ev tried his very best to disturb the poor little fella.

Before we could reach the Leper King Terrace however, ZX pointed out a Camry flashing at us from the distance lol.... Tired and dusty, we met up with Hok close to the Terrace of Elephants. Hok then launched into the rich history of the temples, but I was too tired from lack of sleep that I could only absord a quarter of what he said! Oops... blame the weather! Who could ever absorb history lessons in a weather so hot and humid?

The Terrace of the Elephants.

It was already close to 12pm by then and Hok brought us to have dinner at one of the restaurants downtown.

There were already two bus full of tourists in the restaurant when we arrived! Hok says that they were Koreans and that there was a sudden surge in the tourist from that country lol. In any case, it was a relief to finally be able to sip on cool coconut shakes and rest our tired feet.

Top left, Amok, which is the Cambodian version of our otak-otak: steamed egg custard with fish bits, and a number of local herbs and spices, yummy!, stir fried morning glory vege (also yummy), seaweed fish soup (tastes like our Chinese version of the seaweed soup really) and finally steamed fish with glass noodles and carrots. The amok has to be my favourite in this case. Oh and another interesting fact: Cambodians would have soup to accompany their every meal! There was once that Hok was reluctant to bring us to a restaurant that doesn't serve soup and he was asking, is that ok? Lol.

After a satisfying lunch, Hok dropped us back to the hotel to rest and told us that he will pick us up at 3:30pm. After another bath and a quick nap, we met up again at the lobby and Hok was already waiting for us. When he saw me (dressed in a sleeveless top and short shorts) and TY (sleeveless shirt), he stopped us and apologetically asked to cover our shoulders and knees at least as a sign of respect because entry to the topmost level of the Angkor Wat is typically for the teachers or monks lol.

Angkor Wat, jewel of Cambodia,the heart of a Cambodian and the main attraction of Cambodia. The Angkor Wat (in Khmer it means City Temple) is the first Hindu temple and was built by King Suryavarnam II.

Uhh, the upside to the dry season is you get nice clear blue sky as your background.

Such a scar to the beauty of the temple! Green nets were put up right smack on the front of the temple for restoration works. Hok has even planned out the route for us to take so we could maximise our time at the temple before going over to the ponds for sunset shots of the Angkor Wat.

Hok also told us to make our way for the top of the temple first before anything else. We had no trouble locating the route to the top as that is where everyone else seems to be heading.

Up the steep stairs to the third level of Angkor Wat. A limited number of people are allowed access at each time. But it didn't take long before it was our turn.

View of the front from the uppermost level of the temple. It's a beautiful place but such a shame that some sculptures or other pieces are missing because of the looters.

Air circulation was pretty bad in some parts of the structure though. We were sweating from the humidity!

We were really lucky to get the advice from Hok as when we made our way down from the third level, we noticed that the access to the top level has already been blocked off! Lucky, lucky.

We waited to get a sunset shot, but alas, there were clouds blocking the sun and we couldn't get a good shot of the temple bathed in the colours of the sunset. Well, still, we captured loads of good reflection shots of the temple on the pond.

Awww..... :p

There are plenty of little shops lined by the side of the pond with kids as young as five selling silk shawls, counterfeit books, and local crafts. I resisted and purchased my first buy in Cambodia - two pairs of silk shawls for USD 7... not exactly a steal but I was still getting warmed up to the marketing groove of the country!

By the time we finally decided to meet up with Hok outside, it was already close to 6:30pm. The sun sets around that hour in Cambodia. As we climbed into Hok's Camry, sweat, grime and all, Hok says that he will bring us to our buffet dinner at a restaurant called Tonle Sap, complete with Apsara performance. Though sticky and sweaty, I was game for the dinner as not to waste time because dinner starts at 7:30pm.

What can I say, buffet dinner was the worst meal I had during my stay in Siem Reap (which, in a way was good news because after that, each meal is significantly better than the buffet). But then again, anything produced in mass would typically not taste good. Though I have some shots of the food there, I'm not going to waste blogger photo space on that.

The Apsara performance was really something, though. Lots of controlled movement from the dancers. Graceful and not boring at all! I particularly enjoyed their elaborate and colourful costumes hehe.

Got fisherman and female farmers dance also lol.

After dinner, it was already close to 9pm. We requested for Hok to drive us to a nearby shop to buy drinking water and he dropped us at this place called Lucky Mall. There was already a concert of sort going on outside the mall. Apparently it's like some kind of talent show lah. Anyways, we got ourselves cheap beer there too :D

All of us were dead tired and had an early night... I think it was the only early night we had :)

More temples to come...


  1. really very need to change underwear every 5 mins....but the coconut there damn sipeh big....LOL!

    wonder why no Cambodians today topless wan...

  2. Interesting write up!
    haha, make me wanna go next year!
    more temples and more pictures ya! waiting!

  3. Thanks Baboon lol (what the heck kind of name is that??) Loads of pictures, hope can finish this weekend... :D

    uhh yea..coconuts as big as my head lol.

  4. Ishq already announced the blog but only one post??? Syok har, but Angkor Wat look so cacat with the green netting. I remember last time went in front by pond to capture reflection, but was windy. Waited for more than one hour to capture a few nice shots but we visited on second day kut. Hok really profit from our trip har, MCC also used him, I think Wee Yee also the same, right? And now you guys hehe Did Hok tell you Angkor Wat is the tallest tip in the city? Because of its holiness, no building should surpass that height. Or, that is no longer the case?

  5. Kekeke... preview mah. will try to finish by this weekend if possible. Lots of facts and figures to purge.

    When we were in Angkor Wat, it was so hot and humit, no breeze, nothing. We had very clear reflection of Angkor Wat on the pond. But yea, too bad about the green netting, some more smack right on the front pulak.

    Yea I am also recommending a few friends to him hehehe. He's quite flexible with timing and pleasant person too.

    Hok didn't tell us about the height restriction. But I think it's still true because when we were up in Phnom Bakheng, we could see Angkor Wat's tip amongst the forest and didn't seem as though there are any other buildings taller than that.

  6. trees are going to be taller soon


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