Oct 31, 2016

Cambodia Travelogue: A Day in Angkor Archaelogical Park (1 Feb 2015)

After a relaxing day spent exploring Phsar Chas, Central Market, Angkor Night Market, we were ready to roll. This time, we were not going to suffer because we hired ourselves two electric bikes from Green e-Bike for USD10/day!

In order to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, tanner half and I started our day as early as 6am. The ride to Angkor Wat was surprisingly chilly despite many days of hot afternoon in Siem Reap. Within half an hour, we arrived at Angkor Wat with our tummies growling. Our worry faded almost immediately when we caught sight of mobile vendors, whom were busy cooking up some tasty local delicacies, right opposite Angkor Wat. Our breakfast was two pork baguette at USD1.50 each.

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Sunrise @ Angkor Wat
As the sun slowly crept out from the horizon, every nook and cranny of Angkor Wat came into life. We stood at the main stone causeway leading to the grand Khmer architecture, admiring the grandeur of Khmer architecture while bathing in the warm morning sun.

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Temple-Mountain @ Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is the world's largest religious monument, spanning 162.6 hectares, with two distinct Khmer architecture elements, i.e. temple-mountain and galleried temple. On top of this looming temple-mountain is a quincunx of towers, representing the home of the devas in Hindu mythology, i.e. Mount Meru.

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Walls surrounding Temple-Mountain @ Angkor Wat
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Waiting to visit Temple-Mountain @ Angkor Wat
We patiently waited at the bottom of the temple-mountain, hoping to climb up to the top for a bird eye's view of the surrounding. So full of hope we were that we forgot how steep the staircase leading up the temple-mountain was!

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Steep staircase leading up to Temple-Mountain @ Angkor Wat
Every step on this wooden staircase was not without risk - the handle was not well secured, the steps creaked with each step. Slowly we went. What greeted us on the top was a replica of the surroundings of temple-mountain, which was nothing much besides the views from the top.

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Panaroma View from Temple-Mountain @ Angkor Wat
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Hanging on to the Handle @ Angkor Wat
Given his acrophobia, it was not an easy task for my tanner half to go down this steep staircase. Look at how he hung on to every inch of the handle bar as he headed down!

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Sun-shiny Day @ Angkor Wat
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This Scene is Almost Magical Like @ Angkor Wat
As the sun climbed higher, it showered the outer walls of Angkor Wat with its glorious sunshine. It was as if the tree came into life in the warm embrace of sunshine. The galleried temple was right inside these outer walls, depicting stories of Battle of Kurukshetra, Army of King Soryavaman II, Churning of the Ocean of Milk, etc. The intricacy of carvings was so impressive that one could easily spend hours admiring its beauty.

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Snack Time @ Stall 3 Angelina Jolie, Angkor Wat
After 4 hours of "travelling in time" in Angkor Wat, it was time for us to top up with some snacks, at Stall 3 - Angelina Jolie, outside Angkor Wat.

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Stir Fry Pork Noodles @ Stall 3 Angelina Jolie, Angkor Wat (USD 5)
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Pork Noodles Soup @ Stall 3 Angelina Jolie, Angkor Wat (USD 5)
Despite being priced at a premium, food was lacking in flavour and balance.

Total Damage for 2 Pax = USD 10

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Palm Juice @ Angkor Wat (USD 1)
If you are lucky, you will come across locals selling palm juice in cup along the stone causeway. Sweet but tart, I would say it was an acquired taste. Better still, serve it chilled!

Total Damage = USD 1

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Hello! @ Bayon
Our next stop was Bayon, part of Angkor Thom, which is located about 4km north from Angkor Wat.

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The Ever Familiar Face @ Bayon
Bayon is another well-known temple in Angkor, with its distinctive feature of these serene smiling stone faces gracing almost every inch of the temple. Some scholars claim that these smiling faces are of Jayavarman VII's, while some scholars claim that these faces belong to the bodhisattva of compassion called Avalokitesvara or Lokesvara.

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Talking Bayon @ Bayon
As the sun rose higher into the sky, shadows shifted, giving these faces different characters that they once were. It did give me a little chill imagining if I were stuck in Bayon in the middle of night, surrounded by all these faces casted in moonlight.

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Panaroma @ Bayon
Despite its lack of size in comparison to Angkor Wat, Bayon was no less interesting. Moreover, its size promised an easier navigation around the site.

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Terrace of Elephants
Within Angkor Thom lays many other small temples but what caught my attention are the Terrace of Elephants and Baphuon, which are located a short drive away from Bayon.

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Elephant, Elephant and More Elephants @ Terrace of Elephants
Terrace of Elephants is part of the walled city of Angkor Thom, named after the carvings of elephants on its eastern face. It served as the platform for Angkor's king Jayavarman VII to view his victorious returning army, also a giant viewing stand for public ceremonies and base for kings' grand audience hall.

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Baphuon
Compared to Terrace of Elephants, Baphuon was majestic. It is a 3-tiered temple mountain, with total length of 120m east-west, 100m north-south at its base and 34m tall without the tower.

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Sharing Similarity in Architecture with Angkor Wat @ Baphuon
You could see the similarity in architecture between Baphuon's and Angkor Wat's. It made me feel like walking in a mini Angkor Wat.

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Collapsed Walkway @ Baphuon 
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One of the more Preserved Walkway @ Baphuon

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More Climbing to the Top @ Baphuon
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Collapsed Tower @ Baphuon
What remained of the tower of Baphuon was the frame of entrance/window and a few pillars. The collapse was predictable as the whole complex was built on land filled with sand.

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Panaroma View @ Baphuon
Somehow Baphuon had this intriguing beauty that surpassed Angkor Wat's. In which aspect? I couldn't pinpoint for certain but it could be its simplicity of structure, yet no less complexity in architecture.

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Amok @ Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar
By 3pm, we made our way back to town. We stopped by Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar for our late lunch before retreating back to our hostel for a short respite from the scorching afternoon sun. Tanner half ordered himself amok, to compare against Khmer Kitchen Restaurant's. I must say Nai Khmer's was more palatable to my taste and of course, cheaper too!

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Stir Fry Noodle @ Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar
I, on the other hand, ordered a typical Asian dish, i.e. stir fry noodle, to try. Similar to other Khmer dishes, it steered towards sweeter end, very different from what Malaysians are used to. Depsite the differences, this Khmer-infuenced stir fry noodle was delicious.

Total damage for 2 pax = USD5.75

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Fried Noodles from Random Mobile Noodle Stall (USD 1)
On the way back to hotel, we also conveniently ordered a takeaway fried noodles. Similar to Nai Khmer's in terms of taste profile but this was so much better! Just look at the gooey egg yolk!

Total damage = USD 1

Our last day in Siem Reap ended with exploring more street food and market visiting, until we were so bloated and tired that we had to retire ourselves for the night.

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The End

IN SUMMARY,

My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • Stall 3 Angelina Jolie, Angkor Wat - 1/5
    • Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Noodles Stall - 2/5
  • Price
    • Stall 3 Angelina Jolie, Angkor Wat - 1/5
    • Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar - 5/5
    • Random Mobile Noodles Stall - 4/5
  • Food
    • Stall 3 Angelina Jolie, Angkor Wat - 1/5
    • Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar - 4/5
    • Random Mobile Noodles Stall - 4/5
  • Verdict
    • Stall 3 Angelina Jolie, Angkor Wat - Touristy price but poor standard, so save your money and eat in Phsar Chas
    • Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar - Affordable Khmer food place with plenty of options for one to choose from. Oh, do I mention they serve cheap local draft beer too?
    • Random Mobile Noodles Stall - Simple food at its best, better still, it comes with egg!

My personal attractions verdicts for:

Angkor Wat - The only UNESCO heritage that you should not missed! It was majestic and full of wonder. I would advise to get a tour guide to give you the background stories behind these beautiful architecture and galleried temple.

Bayon - The signature smiley face was no doubt the highlight. In fact, the only highlight. Compared to Angkor Wat, Bayon was so small that you could easily explore the whole temple within half an hour.

Terrace of Elephants, Baphuon - For the love of elephants, you would drop by Terrace of Elephants even though there was not much left besides the platform. Baphuon, on the other hand, was surprisingly huge. I was personally intrigued by the layout of Baphuon. If you fear no heights, please climb the Baphuon.


DINING INFO:

Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar
Street 9, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Operation Hours: N/A (They serve brunch, lunch and dinner)
Tel: +855 63 964 154
Credit Card: No

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