Visit To The Enigmatic Angkor Wat In Cambodia
One day I was watching Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. Parts of the movie were shot in a strange temple in Cambodia. The sheer e...
The hotel arranged for a cab at 4 AM to Mo Chit Bus Terminal, Bangkok. We reached the bus station within thirty minutes. Then we went to the ticket counter and bought two tickets to Aranyaprathet, which happens to be the border between the two countries. We chose a first class AC bus which cost us 210 THB per ticket. The bus was spacious with an in built AC which was a relief given that it would be a 5 hours nonstop journey. The bus left at 5:30 AM from Mo Chit.
At around 10:30am, we reached Aranyaprathet. As soon as we got off the bus, touts began to offer their services. But we knew exactly what to do. All thanks to our travel advisors in Bangkok. We took a tuktuk (a slightly modified Indian autorikshaw) and asked him to take us to the Government customs and immigration office in Poipet. The tuktuk driver tried to explain that the government office will take time and we will not be able to see Angkor that day, but we remained stern with our plan. Once at the government immigration office, we paid 600 THB and got a 48 hour visa permit to Cambodia in the form of stamps in our passports.
Once we had our visas, we began walking towards the bus/cab stands as if we knew where we were going. Honestly we did not! But luckily we met a police guy who helped us get a cab to Siem Reap. The temple of Angkor is about 5 kilometers from Siem Reap. My husband struck a great deal with the cab guy - 600 TBH to and fro Angkor Wat. Surprisingly he accepted Thai currency and did not force us to give him dollars or Cambodian riel. It was 11:30 AM and we were on the final lap of our destination.
The road to Siem Reap was hassle free. The cab driver was a chatty guy and spoke in English which was at least comprehendible. After a talkative couple of hours, we reached the gates of the famous temple complex of Angkor. The entry fee was a whopping $20 per ticket. But we knew it before embarking on this trip. The cab left us at the ticket office and we walked towards the temple.
The First Glimpse:
I was speechless for a few seconds as I stood before the panoramic view of Angkor Archaeological Park. This 9th century archaeological site covers 400 square kilometers of area and houses a multitude of temples as well as small villages. It represents the art and architecture of the Khmer Empire and boasts of being the largest religious monument in the world. After coming to terms with the fact that I was actually in Angkor, where Angelina Jolie shot her Lara Croft movie, we moved towards Angkor Wat, or the Temple Of Angkor.
Experience In Angkor Wat:
We were on a tight schedule and did not want to waste any time. It was true that a few hours was definitely not enough to explore the entire complex, but we wanted to see as much as possible. There weren't too many tourists thronging the place, which was a boon for us. It was hot and humid but we did not care about the discomfort. At the entrance we were received by two huge stone lions(Singhas). Many parts of the temple were under renovation and we had to take a detour to enter the temple.
The walls had intricate carvings of mythological figurines and following them carefully could unravel the stories of the bygone era. Soon our walk brought us to an enclosed low lying flat land surrounded by steps. We realized that it was a pond built centuries ago. Then we saw a group of tourists being ushered into a narrow alley by a guide. Taking the opportunity we followed the suite. And soon began the steepest climb of my life. I was very slow and was out of breath soon. But my husband went all the way up to the apex of the temple. I patiently waited for him at a landing area absorbing the beauty of the place.
Although the digicam was with my husband, I had my mobile camera with which I tried to capture a little of what I actually saw; vast expanse of history stretching before my eyes trying to tell me tales of the past. I was listening to the moss covered walls, the chipping stones, the broken pillars, when my husband jolted me out of my reverie. He was perspiring profusely, but he had the most satisfying smile on his face. I regretted not making it to the top, but by then it was too late.
The Journey Back:
After the tedious exploration of the temple, we went to the nearby souvenier shops and bought T-Shirts with Angkor Wat written on them. A good bargain was $2 each. Then we refueled ourselves at a café in the park with drinks, sandwiches and french fries.
Our cabby was waiting at the ticket office. On our way back to Poipet, we experienced rains on the Cambodian soil. It was lovely and felt like home. By 6 PM, we were at Poipet. We got our visas stamped once again for exit and took an ordinary bus from Poipet market. The bus left at 7 PM and we reached Ekamai bus stop, Bangkok at around 11 PM. We were too tired to notice that we were not dropped where we had started from in Bangkok. But who cares? We boarded a meter taxi and came back to our hotel at midnight. Needless to say the tiresome journey was worth the visit to the ancient, enchanting Angkor Wat as well as to the charming Cambodia.
Contributed By: Kriti Mazumdar