A creation of human imagination
17 June 2013, we had a new guide today, Mardi, a naturalist who narrated the story of every temple we visited. It was fun and informative. At 5.10 am we drove to Angkor Wat for sunrise but unfortunately the sun was too shy to come out.
We went back to the hotel for breakfast and went out again at 8.00 am for Angkor Thom (Big Angkor) with Mardi. I didn't realize that it was going to be a long, tiring walking tour over a vast area in the hot sun where there were many more ancient temples. Lucky I decided to bring my walking stick-chair for resting my tired legs.
Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Angkorian Empire. Jayavarman V11 constructed Angkor Thom as his new capital city, reputed to be the largest in 12 century and his state-temple, Bayon, was in the centre. There are 5 entrances to this area and the South Gate was where most tourists were brought to enter. Each gate was carved with 4 huge faces - some still good and some destroyed.
Bayon was amazing. Though there was active restoration work, tourists still could see most part of the temple. Be weary if you come here. You need to empty your bladder first, the toilet was quite far away. Mardi had to take me to the nearest toilet at the monastery there and that was quite a long walk. Bayon was spectacular. The 37 out of 49 towers were carved with collosal faces with different expressions. The carvings at the wall told the story of those days and the way of living of the Chams and Khmer, as interpreted by Mardi. Though I have visited Bayon before, this visit gave me a more interesting history of the old Cambodia.
From Bayon a long walk followed by stopping at another ancient temple, Baphoun, a Hindu temple which was just opened last year. The restoration work was stopped during the Khmer war in 1970s but resumed in 1990s. I didn't climb up this temple which is multi-levels. Maz went up accompanied by Mardi. I waited down to enjoy the green, cool park.
From there we walked to yet another ancient Hindu temple. Phimeanakas, an impressive laterite and sandstone pyramid-like structure, the tallest scalable temple in Angkor Thom. It's located in the ancient Royal Palace ground and served as the King's temple. According to legend, the golden tower was inhibited by a serpent, which would transform into a woman. The King was required to make love with this serpent every night or otherwise a disaster would ruin the kingdom.
The hot sun made me feel so tired but we bravely followed Mardi, curious to see what to see next. The terrace of the Leper King provided more legends and stories and so is the Terrace of the Elephants. The statue of the Leper King showed his deformed hand but was defaced.
Hot and hungry, we took a break for a picnic lunch before continuing the tour of Angkor Wat in the afternoon.