Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Angkor Wat, A Loner's Review

So the Angkor adventure begins with a blind scramble at 5.am in pitch darkness, across a bridge spanning a huge moat. Of course there are not barriers so unless you've got Spier senses its best to follow the torch lights of others near you. Or else you're going to be in for an early bath. Folks, bring torches. You WILL need them. There are no lights in Angkor Wat if you wish to catch the sunrise. If by some reason you forget to bring a torch, get your survival skills in gear and just latch on to any other tourists with a torch or better yet with a guide who has a torch AND also gives running commentary on the temple's history, facts etc. Its OK to be a parasite.

The sunrise was anti climactic of sorts. But a sun rise is unpredictable, like a box of chocolates, you just never know what you'll get. Since it's the dry season now the sky was cloudless and as featureless as an Englishman's underwear. Its shit. trust me. I get a better sun rise from my toilet window back home. Just that i dont have some almost thousand year old temple staring at my ass through the window.

OKOK, lets just get this out of the way.

You scramble in the dark, make your way to the the lake on your left. FInd a spot. The hotels will tell you to get there by 5.30A fuckingM. The sun only wakes its ass up at 6.45am. For photographers I assume you get there early to pick your spot but with everyone investing in telephoto lenses i dont see any drama. I dont photog so i just get annoyed when i'm stuck for almost an hour and half with some clown trying to sell me weak coffee for USD1. And a sandwich. AND a pony ride. I mean if you really want to kill time i guess you can try to chat up some of the cute Japanese tourists who travel in girl groups.

HIGHLY recommended are WIDE angle lenses. You would want that shot of the gateway and the road to Angkor Wat from the entrance. 

One of the sections at the Northern part of Angkor Wat

Moat at the West gate.

A worker chilling at sunrise.

What I Enjoyed At Angkor Wat

The East entrance.

Its quiet as the dry leavies rustle underneath my Nikes as I work my way around the ruins. We're shaded by the canopy from the towering trees above. Birds chirp overhead and ducks break the post dawn silence with hungry quacks. We are a world away from the cacophony of touristy chaos that is the Angkor Wat's main building and temple. It is peace. And quiet. And in this little corner for a while I can call this place my own.

I've had Lord of the Rings moments before. It was a book that pandered to my restless childhood urges of exploration. Always dreaming what was over that next hill or around that corner. I would dream restlessly of just hitting a never ending path that took me to all sorts of wonders.
This dream was put to rest after my trip to Nepal. In climbing the Thronglar Pass I was Gandalf and the dwarves (from The Hobbit) going over the Misty Mountains, walking out of the beautiful village of Tal, I was in the fellowship that followed Strider out of of Bree on a rocky small road edged by stone walls and now, on the grounds of the Angkor Wat, I discovered suddenly I was Frodo and Sam, working our way past the monuments of the great kingdom of Minas Tirith - memories of a grand empire now only see in age old rock and battered statues and buildings.

I don't really remember why I did not go into Angkor after sunrise. I just remember walking around it. Nex was accommodating to follow me (prob scared that I would throw a grumpy fit!). We worked our way around the Northern side and that was when i saw this path leading away from the temple into a low forest. Path's call out to me. I had to follow it. We went out back to the Eastern side for Nex to get some pictures of Angkor bathed in the morning sunlight and that was when i saw another path. I walked down it and discovered the eastern entrance and realized that there was another path that followed closely to the outer wall battlements. I just walked. I just wanted to get away from people.

The air is still a little cool. The trees on both our sides are still. The only sounds are our voices and the rustle of leaves from our shoes. The path goes ever on following the outer wall that is at least 15 feet high. There is a breach in the wall ahead. I barely see it. The rocks have tumbled down probably from the ravages of time. We scramble up and see the moat before us. Workers in the moat look up and wave. Probably startled into a friendly reaction from an unexpected touristy visitor in the lonelier part of Angkor.

Corridors within the entrance at the Northern outer walls.

View from window of the moat from the Norther guard house/entry point

We find the north entrance and I make my way out. Fantastic. There is just no sound. Nex is still inside, taking some pictures. I just flop down near those blocks you see outside the window and close my eyes. I could be any where in the world. I hear ducks in the distance. A child laughs across the moat. There is some splashing from a worker in a boat. The grass is dry and warm under my head. Above me branches of green leaves stretch across the sky as the trees umbrella me from the growing warming sunlight. I am alone. Lying next to stones with memories of a thousand years. I came here for this. I didn't really need anything else from the Angkor Archeological Park.

My stomach rumbles a little. Time to head back.

The overgrown road from the North entrance to Angkor Wat.

Nex shooting the path that encircles Angkor Wat,
running alongside the outer wall.

Nex framed by the door. The path in the background is the same overgrown road that leads back to Angkor Wat. We would take this path back to the temple after encircling the temple grounds along the wall battlements.

Workers cleaning the moat near the Northern shore.

Workers on restoration duty.

The moving scaffolding on rails - amplifies the amount of care put into the restoration work.

Inner walls of second section of Angkor Wat

Photographers wet dream - endless corridors. well sorta...

Bemused monks pose for a picture

Angkor Wat in the evening.


ghoul said...

You certainly got nicer pix than mine overall :) BWAHAHAHAHA.

word verification: immede

Chindiana said...

Thanks Ghoul! Pics from point and shoot only so anyone can take also la!

And I thought you would be more taken with my sensitive personal recollection of a burger spesel moment.... :(

Ah Chongzzz said...

Really love your pics. Consistently captivating!

You sure only point-and-shoot ah? :)

Nex said...

Ah Chongz, I can vouch for the point-and-shoot. Chindi has a great eye for photography; he does it almost by instinct, while the rest of us mere mortals need to stop to think and compose our shots...

Chindiana said...

Ah Chongzzz! Terima kasiiiih! Dinner at Jabba's on me next week!

Nex! wah bro you almost made me tear up man! thanks wei!

Jun-E said...

Need. To. Go. To. Siem. Reap. Again.


Nex said...

Come Jun-E, lets plan together; I wanna go again too! :D

Jun-E said...

Wah so fast wanna go again XD Sure we can go together the next time, maybe after my next big trip i.e. Europe in summer!

Chindiana said...

great call me too! I wanna see a green Siem Reap - not hot and dusty!