This is the day we started doing things in Cambodia. We woke up around 5 am in order to go to the temples. I already booked the tuktuk to take us to the temples. The day before we got a good advice from one of our fellow hostel dwellers from Sweden. He told us to go to the small temples first and then to the large temples. Even the ‘small’ temples in Cambodia are huge in modern standards. If you start with the large temples you will get tired easily and it is hard to see all the temples in Siem Reap. So first we went to the temple pass office which was on the way to the temple. Three different passes are available: one-day pass for $20, three-day pass for $40 and seven-day pass for $60. We got a three-day pass and our tuktuk driver Ang was waiting for us outside when we were buying the tickets.
It was about a 15 minute drive to the temple complexes from the ticketing office. The first temple that we went was Ta Prohm . On the first day I made the mistake of not hiring Ang but it didn’t hit me until later in the day. So we told Ang to come back the next day to the hostel and went inside the temple. Most temples have an outer wall and you have to walk few hundred yards inside to get to the temple. The temple was surrounded by several trees, especially Palmyrah tree. I was delighted to see those trees since those are also endemic to my hometown Yalpanam and we cherish those trees as a national treasure. Ta Prohm is a beautiful temple, it was built by Jayavarman VII, one of the prominent kings of Khmer empire. He built it in the memory of his mother. At present there are many trees overgrown all over the temple and showing the mightiness of the nature. This is a buddhist temple and there
were many buddha statues. Temple was filled with numerous sculptures and carvings, especially apsaras and mythological stories. The amazing thing is that even the roofs of this temple was entirely built with stones. There were some old women tying holy strings to your hand, this is a practice widely seen in Sri Lanka as well. I got one too! It was an overwhelming experience for me to visit these temples. It is hard to imagine these types of temples were built almost a millennia ago and they still stand to tell the stories. Another fun fact about this temple is that Angelina Jolie shot her movie tomb raider in Ta Prohm!
Then we went another temple called Banteay Kdei. It is also a buddhist temple built by king Jayavarman VII. This temple had a different structure than Ta Prohm. This one seemed to have a lot of chamber type areas and Banteay Kdei means citadel of chambers. Although it is a buddhist temple I found a lot of Shiva Lingam but without the lingam itself, you can only find the yoni and the pedestal. One thing that I found interesting in this temple is that the pillars were covered with fine carvings. They almost looked like a painting in the stone pillar.
Right next to Banteay Kdei was a reservoir called Srah Srang. It was a large reservoir and it was thought to be holy bathing place. After that we went to have lunch in a restaurant nearby. The food was much much better than the food we had at Queendwood hotel. Then I was planning to go to a hindu shrine called Kutisvara but none
of the tuktuk drivers knew where it was and the only one who knows about it told me it was a small ruin and there is not much to see. So we didn’t want to spend much time and planned to go to Pre Rup.
Pre Rup is a magnificent temple built by the king Rajendravarman in 8th century and dedicated to hindu god Shiva. This is a really tall temple you have to climb up many stairs to get to the top of the temple. I really liked the structure of the temple. It was built to resemble the mount Kailash which is considered to be the dwelling of Shiva. But unfortunately this temple was not taken care of very well. Inside the holy chamber and the sanctum sanctorum there were a lot of debris still left. I saw a huge pedestal for a Shiva lingam but it also missed the lingam. One of the chambers had a statue of buddha. This temples also had many exquisite carving in the temple mountain and the around the pillars. I have a feeling that since it is a hindu temple it is not taken care by the buddhist majority Cambodian government and even many Cambodians don’t know about the glorious past of hinduism in their land. But there were few tourists in here and very peaceful in the top.
Since there were not that many tourists there were no tuktuks either so we had to walk to the next temple which was East Mebon Temple. It was only a 15 minute walks but it was a bit exhausting since sun was blazing on that day. But on the way we were able to see the country side of Cambodia with fields, palmyra trees and buffalos resting in the mud. East Mebon had very similar structure to that of Prep Rup. It was also built by king Rajendravarman and dedicated to god Shiva. I went up the stairs to the top. It had very delicate carvings and sculptures in the door and pillars. One of the chambers had a broken shivalingam and from my estimate if it was intact it would be the size of an adult human. Lintel on the doors were decorated with different sculptures such as Garuda, Lakshmi and Indira. I really liked the structure of this temple. It is believed that the temple was surrounded by a huge reservoir called east baray when it was built, but the reservoir has gone dry for a very long time.
It was around 4 pm when we finished with East Mebon Temple. Since we started our day early we were already tired. So we planned to head back to the hostel the only problem is that there were no tuktuks. So we went to a nearby store and bought two coconuts and asked the lady serving us if she can call a tuktuk . She was nice enough to say that she can call someone but we have to wait for a while. We waited for almost half an hour but it didn’t feel like it since I was very tired. We got back to the hostel. I took a nap then took a shower and went to eat at a nearby restaurant where I got some Cambodian green curry and mango sticky rice for dessert. They were delicious, I think I only paid $4.50 for the food.
Then I came back didn’t do much for the night since we had planned to go to Angkor Wat for the sunrise and we told Ang, our tuktuk driver to pick us up at around 5 am. (To be continued…)