i still find it surreal that i was at angkor wat today. the experience of walking on 10th century stones and seeing intricate carvings was overwhelming.
we were already speeding off in the direction of angkor wat at 9am. in the tuk-tuk, our guide, thia (spelling not verified), told us that today was actually their independence day. back in 1953, cambodia was liberated from the french on this very day. in two days' time, the country also celebrates the water festival, but we'll already be leaving for bangkok then.
our tuk-tuk drivers let us off in front of the moat of angkor wat. after letting us take a few photos of the famous towers, thia gathered all of us to start his spiel about the famous temple complex. first off, he clarified some terms: angkor actually means city or capital, which can be any place that the reigning king chooses to be. in this case, it was king suryavarman II who decided to reign from this particular angkor. wat, meanwhile, means temple, but angkor wat was only called a wat after the 16th century, when buddhist monks decided to take care of the temples.
thia also told us about the different "levels" of the temple. the entrance to the temple was the first causeway, signifying the movement from hell to earth. walking atop this causeway, thia pointed out that half the causeway has been restored, while half, as we saw, was still made of the very same stones placed by king suryavarman's men.
i was also surprised to find a lot of people all dressed up in wedding garb, having photo shoots for their weddings. thia told us that a cambodian wedding is a two-day celebration. eegz!
he then led us into the first temple, introducing us to the apsara, which is meant to be the perfect woman. about a thousand apsaras can be seen carved into the temple walls, but only one is smiling.
we spent half the day exploring angkor wat, walking to the second temple and seeing the lengthy bas relief galleries telling of the epic of ramayana, mahabharata, king suryavarman II's move from angkor wat to another city, and another large bas relief gallery telling of their idea of heaven, earth, and hell.
the entire experience was exhilarating, and my head is still swimming from all the information that thia told us about. thank goodness he was very easy to talk to, and he explained everything in a way that we could understand. the lighter side of the tour consisted of him telling us the best spots to take photos, with some insights on the view as well. another plus was the fact that he knew how to take photos, giving us great group photos with the angkor wat sights as our backdrop.
just so you know, though, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to taking photos in angkor wat. the temple is highly photogenic, and you definitely will not be going home with sucky photos. it's best to get a guide, though, so he can point out the best vantage point to you.
after that, we had lunch, and headed off to angkor thom. :)
see photos of my angkor wat experience.