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Cambodia: Breathtaking Angkor Wat, other temples, and Apsara dancers

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It was still dark when we left our guest house (Hak's House) at dawn for the temples. The tuktuk driver was already there, waiting.

We bought temple passes at $40 each good for 3 days and had our picture taken for the id.

Our first stop, of course, was Angkor Wat, the grandest and most famous of all the temples. I was pretty excited as I glimpsed it from afar. A lot of people were already by the lake, waiting for the sun to come up so they could get the perfect shot. We just went ahead and explored.

A lion guarding Angkor Wat's entrance
I was slightly disappointed that green nets covered some parts of the temple, ruining our photos, but I guess it was necessary because they were doing restorations to Angkor Wat.

The most famous angle of Angkor Wat.

Some areas were also off limits, like the very narrow stairs leading to the central temple. Still, we had a great time exploring the structure and taking photos of apsara carvings. Our better pictures were taken at the temple's rear because there were no green nets and the towers were visible.

The highest temple

East gate

Angkor Wat from behind

An eerie hallway

Some distance away from the main temple was a path leading to a smaller, ancient ruin. I don't know what it was for but we also took photos. There was a lake and several monkeys wandered freely.

Keep all dangling objects close!

Ruins directly behind Angkor Wat

After having breakfast at one of the eateries, we looked for our tuktuk. He brought us to the Angkor Thom south gate where several huge stone figures were lined up. They were supposed to be carrying a naga, depicting the "Churning of the Sea" myth. The gate itself had 4 faces, each facing one of the cardinal directions.
Stone figures line the sides of the gate

Angkor Thom South gate

The next temple we visited was the magnificent Bayon temple. This was the temple with the huge stone faces and one that really looked like ruins.

Bayon Temple

Huge Stone faces in Bayon

Near Bayon was the Baphuon temple but we couldn't find the entrance and thought it was closed to the public.

We also visited the Elephant Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King, where the carvings were really amazing.
Elephant Terrace

Terrace of the Leper King

Next, our tuktuk took us to Ta Prohm. I was looking forward to this temple because it had huge trees whose gnarled roots curled around part of the ruins. There was also a very pictureque spot here that was used when shooting Tomb Raider.

Ta Prohm Temple

Still Ta Prohm

We then visited Banteay Kdei and Srang Srang, passing by Ta Keo on the way. Banteay Kdei's towers were held together by some kind of rope. This temple also had nice apsara dancer carvings. Srang Srang was a lake but rain started to pour down just as we neared it so we took shelter in some nearby souveneir shops while waiting for the rain to subside.
Banteay Kdei

Apsara dancers

By that time, it was already 1pm and we had nowhere left to go. So we decided to visit some of the farther temples, the Rolous Group. The Rolous Group consisted of Lo Lei, Bakong and Preah Ko.

We went to Lo Lei first. This was a small temple ruin composed of 4 red towers. Nearby, we could hear monks praying.

Carvings from Lo Lei


Next was Bakong, the biggest and most majestic temple of the Rolous Group. It had a central tower that could be seen even from a distance.

Bakong Temple

View from the top

The last of the group was Preah Ko, a temple with a set of 6 towers and statues of bulls guarding them.

The towers of Preah Ko

Bulls guarding Preah Ko

We added $3 each to the initial agreed upon value of $15 because of the unplanned Rolous Group tour. We went back to Hak's House to rest. Hak informed us that he knew of a restaurant that had a traditional Apsara dance performance and khmer buffet for only $8. Although I originally planned to see the Apsara dance in Temple Restaurant in Pub Street because it was free, we opted to accept Hak's suggestion because of the buffet. Usually, buffets with dances cost around $12.

So that night, we were joined by one other guest, an American student by the name of Santiago. The tuktuk took us to Amazon Angkor Restaurant. We enjoyed the food and the company. Santiago had been to China and was telling stories about his trip.

Apsara dancers from Amazon Angkor Restaurant

Graceful and serene

The performance started off with some other traditional dancing, very similar to our own native dances so I didn't pay much attention. When the Apsara dancers finally took the stage, a lot of people got up to take photos. The dance was very graceful and deliberate. Afterwards, we were allowed to take photos with the dancers.

The final performance

When we got back to the guest house, we exchanged facebook accounts with Santiago to keep in touch.


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