I recently came back from Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was my first time there. We had 2 full days to pack stuff in to see! One of the days, we picked to see 3 temples with our lovely and knowledgeable tour guide, Sothoun OK, who was recommended at the Sofitel, where we were staying.
We rode in a tuk tuk for our first early morning stop at Angkor Wat. Loved riding in a tuk tuk, such a great way to see a place without being confined by windows! Great for taking pictures as well, which I love to do!
We were told our shoulders and knees had to be covered to see the largest religious monument in the world, according to Wikipedia. I decided to wear jeans, since I didn’t pack any capris for my 17 day trip and brought a change of clothes for me to change into when we finished, as it was hot and humid in December here! I almost wore a long skirt, but was so glad I didn’t as they wouldn’t let the girl behind us up the stairs with her skirt on! Sothoun explained to us that it was originally built as a Hindu temple for the Khmer empire (Khmer meaning people of Cambodia), which later turned into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century.
There were people waiting in a line to go up the steep steps to look inside the temple, but since we got there around 8:30am the line was not so bad.
Dripping with sweat, we waited for about 20 minutes to get to the steps. Once we were in here is the view we saw.
Before we made it out of the temple, we all dug into our bags to get our lighter clothes out and changed before exiting the grounds! I felt so much better after peeling off my jeans that were sticking to me!
In a book I saw pictures of this temple when it stood not ruined; it was breathtakingly beautiful with all of the vivid colors showcasing all of its details. It would have been amazing to see it then!
After having lunch at a local spot near by and resting in hammocks for a bit, we were off to our second temple, Ta Prohm, known for its massive trees and also for the fact that they filmed parts of Tomb Raider here. I have never seen so many trees so gigantic and surreal looking. It really did feel like I was on a movie set here! Nature is a wonder!
Our third and last temple of the day was Bayon, which is known for its many smiling stone faces of the bodiesattva Avalokiteshvara. The word Avalokiteshvara is interpreted many ways as told on Buddhism.about.com, a couple of which include: “The Lord Who Looks Down” and “The Lord Who Looks in Every Direction.” Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara means the embodiment of great compassion.
According to Wikipedia, the Bayon temple was the last state temple to be built at Angkor and is unique in that it was the only temple to be built primarily as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine dedicated to Buddha. It was built by King Jayavarman VII around 1190 AD. Many have thought the curious smiling image is a portrait of the King Jayavarman and has been viewed as the “Mona Lisa of Southeast Asia” according to sacred-destinations.com.
I am glad I had a chance to see these famous ancient Cambodian temples. As always, seeing new places and learning new things is eye opening and expands our knowledge of not only history, but of other cultures and religions around the world.