Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Phnom Bakheng

Cambodia post! In fact, this will be the very last of the Angkor temples we visited at the Angkor Archaeological Park. So don't get temple out just yet! Phnom Bakheng is a famous hilltop temple where hundreds (or perhaps even thousands) of people flock daily to catch one of the best sun set in Angkor (or in the early morning to catch the sun rise) with the view of the Tonle Sap lake and a distant Angkor Wat in the jungle.

I know the Angkor temples took quite a big chunk of my previous blog posts but in case you had missed out, you can read all about our Angkor temple hopping below (just click on them) :
1) Angkor Wat Sunset
2) Angkor Wat
3) Banteay Srei
4) Ta Prohm
5) Bayon Temple
6) Banteay Samre, Pre Rup and the South Gate

According to Sophea, our driver + guide + photographer + friend, it is best to reach there early to get a good spot. We arrived at the foot of Bakheng at around 5.30 pm but there were already a super huge crowd around. Since it is a hilltop temple, it only means one will need to climb a 'little' before they will reach the hilltop. There are actually two ways to ascend to the hilltop; one via climbing/walking up the immediate steep slopes and the other by the tourist elephants.

Like a child, I was most attracted to the elephant ride. Besides, after a whole day of climbing up and down various temples, it sounded like a better idea to be fetch up the hill than to climb. The elephants are fitted with a seat on their back, like a howdah except they are not as grand with the canopy and railings and driven by a mahout which gently guide them up and down the hill. A ride up the hill by the elephant costs USD 20 and a similar ride down costs much lesser at USD 15. We were given a number and waited about 20 minutes before it was finally our turn to get onto the good old elephant.

At the foot of Bakheng
The path up the hill
Good old boy that swayed left and ride slowly and steadily up the steep slope to Bakheng
None the less, there are still steps to climb to reach the summit to enjoy the overall view and sun set. Due to the large amount of tourists, most part of the temple was actually pretty run down and some already closed off to access
At the summit with hundreds of others awaiting the sun set
Most of the spots with the view of Tonle Sap and Angkor Wat in the distant had been filled up with barely space to squeeze in anymore so I find myself a nice cool spot facing the back of the temple to relax first while waiting for the golden ball to goes down
Characteristic small doorways of the Angkor temples
The view of the lush jungle of Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap lake far off
The cloud was really mean that day, directly trolling right in front of the golden ball of the sun as it goes down the horizon. Everyone just refused to leave, hoping the dark cloud would be blown away towards the end so we could all still enjoy the last bit of sun set but even in the end, the cloud stayed right in front of the sun all the time leaving everyone with a very disappointed sun set. Just not our luck that day I suppose

By the time we got down from Bakheng, it was already 7 plus-ish at night and of course, Sophea brought us straight to dinner at one buffet restaurant along the way where we only paid USD 6 while the other tourists paid USD 12. For USD 6, we got a huge selection of international and local buffet and cultural dance performance. We managed to pay only USD 6 because we have an awesome guide, Sophea. The usual tourist paid UDS 12 because half of what they paid were actually tips for their drivers who brought them there (of course without them knowing that!) and Sophea were honest to us about that and returned us each the USD 6 that was supposedly his tips.  we were truly touched by his honesty.

After the buffet, we then went back to the town centre where the night market is situated and walked around the Angkor Night market, which is a pretty small market where they have more phototostated Lonely Planets at even more expensive prices than those sold at Phnom Penh (that's why get your Lonely Planets in Phnom Penh instead of Siem Reap).
Lonely Planets at prices a fraction of the originals

It was certainly a long day, right up from even before sunrise, temple hopping from the majestic Angkor Wat to the beauty in red Banteay Srei to the exotic Ta Phrom, made famous by the movie Tomb Raider to the gorgeous multitudes of faces Bayon to my first elephant ride up Bakheng, all the Angkor temples are certainly testimonials to the skilled and amazing architecture and carvings of the Khmer dating back as early as the 7th century. I find each of the temple there really special, each with their own appeal and interesting history. I was definitely blown away and pretty much impressed and in love with the ruins of the temples; so beautiful, mysterious and standing in grandeur with their intricate and unique carvings. It could get very hot especially in the mid day, so don't forget sunscreens and light clothes when visiting the Angkor temples. The Angkor temples are definitely a must visit rich archaeological and historical site not to be miss by anyone visiting Siem Reap! :)

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2 fondue dips :

I'd love to visit Cambodia one day! (:

Hilda : You should. Especially the Angkor temples before they get completely destroyed by the large amount of tourists daily. :)