Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Visiting the Borobudur temple in Indonesia, changed the momentum of bucket lists of my life. Until that point of my life, I was a typical teenager – suffering through teenage angst, pimples, shoes, clothes, adjusting to a new country, culture shock…. blah blah blah. But Borobudur painted this whole new picture of a world that is accessible and yet unexplored. Oh, I still have my angst and clothes and shoes; But now there is this inner satisfaction that comes with travelling to a new place, experiencing the unfamiliar, and coming back home with the knowledge that you have ticked another item off your bucket list.
Angkor Watt holds a special place in the hearts of tourist, not only because of its significance place in the pages of history, but also because of the simple grandeur of its architecture. The main reason why you can visit and enjoy the beauty of Angkor Watt today can be credited to the efforts of the archaeologists from the Ecole Francaise d’Exteme Orient. As such, transportation to and from the monument site is very easy and readily available at a minimal charge of 15 USD.
Once you sit in your preferred mode of transport, the first thing the driver himself will enquire is whether you have a ticket to visit the place. If not, he will directly take you to the ticket counter where you have to make a Temple pass with a validity for the main Angkor temple and the surrounding temples. The counters are open from 4.30 AM till 5.30 PM.
Unlike the Indian system of providing you a ticket, this is a much sophisticated and definitely more convenient. Once you mention your requirement of a ticket, a picture will be taken which will be attached to your pass and then the printed pass will be provided to you. The whole process takes approximately 5 minutes of your time. This eliminates the whole conspiracy of duplicity and free loaders; each temple has a check point where the pass will be validated to confirm your actual physical presence. The cost of a ticket pass will be:
- For 1 day visit – $20/ person
- For 3 days visit – $40/ person
- For 7 days visit – $60/ person
The best way to experience Angkor Watt is to start your visit from the sunrise itself. Mornings have always been the hardest time for me; most often I do not function well before 12 in the afternoon. The only thought segment that resounded throughout the whole time was: This better be worth it. Post your ticketing session, head off to the Wester Gate from where the temple is accessible by the causeway. The causeway was literally a flashback to Indian heritage site where you are surrounded by guides shouting their guiding expertise and their rate card. As a first timer to the place, it is advised to opt for a guide not only to glean a greater understanding and appreciation of the temple, but also to have a company of someone who knows their way around the temple.
You reach this lawn-like area where you will immediately see that you are not the only bleary-eyed individual, desperately sipping coffee while trying to hustle and jostle for the best lookout point at the waterfront for your tripod ad other gadgetry. It may seem like a over-hyped endeavour, but the time lapse captured by yourself will prove it to you why it was all worth it. If you think you will just stand there and someone will miraculously move to let you in for the glimpse, then you are sorely mistaken. People actually have brought chairs and camped out at the shoreline in that dark, and will not budge an inch for you.
Sunrise officially occurs in Cambodia at 6.20 AM, but the highlight is documenting the play of colours.
One thing I must say what impressed me the most was the patience with which people were willing to wait – no elbowing, crying, whinning, commentary, loud garish music, nothing. Just silence punctuated with occassional murmur or a click of the camera. As the sky lightened, one can literally hold their breath in wonder at the spectacular sight that was slowly unfolding. It is as if the nature is the magician, slowly lifting the curtain to reveal the glory of this man-made structure.
The “Wat” History
The term Angkor Wat is the combination of 2 words: “Angkor” is derived from sanskirt word ‘nagara’, means city or capital. And “Wat” means temple or pagoda. As world’s largest religious monument, built during the reign of Suryavarman II in the first half of the 12th century, it is rightfully considered as a masterpiece of humankind simply on the sheer scale of dimensions – 200 hectares of total area where the temple itself stands in the middle on a terrace measuring 332 x 258 m, nearly 9 hectares, enclosed within 82 hectares of the outer enclosure,.
The temples that has been built with an orientation facing the West, instead of the traditional East, in honour of Lord Vishnu who is often associated with the West direction. Khmer temples are built with one exclusive purpose – the temples are palaces for the God so that blessings can be bestowed on the ruling dynasty. All structures of Khmer empire are built using brick, sandstone and laterite. The earliest temples are built in brick since they were easier to use; since stone demanded more manpower and greater skills, they were purposed for secondary use such as door frames. Laterite, despite being an easy medium, were often preferred for foundations and other massive elements due to its rough finishing appearance. Sandstone, being the most expensive, would often be used in its entirety for important structures such as temples.
The entire temple and its surrounding design is based on Hindu symbolism. The moat surrounding the temple represents the mythical oceans surrounding the earth. The succession of concentric galleries represents the mountain ranges that surround Mount Meru, the home of gods. And, the five towers peaks represent Meru’s peaks.
The temple combines 2 major features of Khmer architecture: a pyramid and concentric galleries. There are large galleries of Bas-Relief extending to the left and the right as you get closer to the entrance gopura of the temple. Majority of these bas-reliefs are adapted from the two Hindu epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata, along with carvings of apsaras and Churning of the Sea of Milk.
Each gallery of the temple wall is a work of art. While sunrise represents the best time to view the silhouette of the central sanctuary with reflections from either of the water-filled basins, late afternoon is the best time to see the beauty of bas-reliefs showcasing the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Interesting fact, while Ramayan continued to make its presence known in Khmer culture, Mahabharatha is virtually unknown in modern Cambodia! Still, each layer of beauty is a true testament to workmanship and belief. It comes as no surprise that the temple if known as the Asian pyramid.
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