Monday, November 19, 2007

Demystifying the Angkor Wat

People who know me are quite aware of the very reason why I wanted to see the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. And like the immensity of the Angkor Complex, I could tell you a whole lot of reasons why one should not miss exploring this particular temple. I have at least 9 reasons why I wanted to see and explore this place:

  1. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site (I believe, the only one in Cambodia).
  2. If you are a movie buff like me, you know exactly that this magnificent monument plays a (very) symbolical role in Wong Kar Wai’s movies, In the Mood for Love and its sequel, 2046.
  3. Magnificent and well-known sunrise.
  4. The temple itself is enough reason.
  5. Angkor Wat is just one temple inside the whole Angkor Complex, meaning there’s more to explore and discover.
  6. It is a great opportunity for photography. A very challenging one, if I may say so.
  7. Stories and legends you’ll only hear straight from the locals.
  8. Angkor is a convergence, a meeting place of the most diverse people you will ever meet (or people you thought you will never meet).
  9. I am keeping a personal promise. :-)


The Angkor Wat before the break of dawn featuring the three classic towers which according to a Buddist Khmer tour guide, represent Vishnu (center), Shiva, and Rama. There are actually different interpretations. But this one is what I remembered the most.

I will not bore you with the hard facts of this temple as you would easily find them via Google. There are hundreds of literatures in the Internet about this site, so I will just share with my own experience.


On our way to the entrance, I spotted this lady who seem to be in a pondering mood. Love the way she looks over that moat. Can't resist not to take a shot.

We took the 3-day pass which is enough to explore the Angkor Archeological Park. You need to pay $40 for the whole visit. I personally think it is worth the fee and the effort. Some of you may get a stone burnt-out after the third day of seeing nothing but stone temples and ruins. As my friends would often joke, “Wah, bato na naman?” (Stone again?!) After awhile, they would all look the same.


A closer look at the three main towers. Sunrise time is over, we get a better detail of the temple, particularly the texture. But the sky is dull.

Out of the 9 reasons I listed, the only disappointment would be number 3. Yes, I failed to see the sunrise. A shame really. So, the set of photos I took in Angkor Wat was nothing compared to what Ferdz got. No kidding. I am not comparing my works with his' but to fully appreciate the number 3 reasons, I think you should re-visit his post which in my humble opinion is a collection of superb shots. Mine is a mediocre.


Main entrance of the temple proper as seen from the eastern end of the naga causeway. Angkor Wat is flocked by thousands of tourists from all over the world.

Visiting Angkor Wat during the month of November has its own disadvantages. One, it’s the cold/rainy season in Cambodia, meaning either we get the drizzle early in the morning and late afternoon or we get nothing but thick clouds covering the sky. Second, it is considered the peak season so obviously, the temple is flocked by thousands of tourists. They usually come in large groups carried by buses. It was (so) hard to take a decent shot of the temple without a tourist included in every frame, grrr! It’s frustrating.


Out of the many people walking on the main entrance of the temple, these two got my attention. They were in a bit of a hurry, still they hold hands going through the thick crowd.

We got up as early as 5 am just to catch the famous Angkor sunrise, waited for hours and didn’t get anything worthwhile. So the least we could do was to enjoy the place. The lighting condition was not good to take photos. Worst, it's a bit dark going inside the temple since there’s not enough light to work on. Using a flash is a big spoil.


One of the libraries upon entering the Angkor Wat.


We met a novice monk from Vietnam. We saw him again two or more times that day during our visits to the other temple. He asked for my e-mail so I could send him his photos. Smart guy.


Another interpretation is that, the temple was build according Brahman techniques to represent the entire universe. The central tower represents the sacred mountain situated at the centre of the universe. The 5 towers make the symbolism consistent with the 5 peaks of Mt. Meru.

Anyway, I did whisper my deepest secret in the holes of Angkor (which I’ve been acheing to do since I got there, hehe!). We also met a lot of great people along the way. One could use a lot of the extra time while waiting for the sun to rise. We met a nice couple from Reykjavic, Iceland who informed us about the status of Filipino migrants in Iceland. He said that Filipinos are third, next to Thailand. We also met a guy from The Netherlands who made a joke about us, inquiring “Are all Filipinos crazy?”. He was referring to my friends’ wacky poses of course, which he joined in eventually. And this novice monk from Vietnam whom we met three times during our whole visit to the Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples.

I didn't tell this to my friends, but given the chance, I want to visit Angkor Wat again. Maybe spend some more time and see the sunrise this time. I don't know if I can comeback, but who knows.



    haggis basher said...

    Every time I see Angkor Wat on TV there is no tourists, it looks beautiful and peaceful. This is just the way I would like to see it. The reality is that there are masses of tourists and this for me would spoil the experience.

    pieterbie said...

    Wow, shame of course when your photo's do not turn out as you had expected them. But then you cannot control the elements and sometimes you have to make do.
    Understand completely about the massively present tourists, I know that feeling of frustration.
    I France and Italy you have another problem: they park their cars everywhere.
    Thanks for this detailed report, fascinating!

    Sidney said...

    What I hate most are tourists!
    I am quite surprised they are already there at 6 or 7 am...

    I think it is impossible to take pictures that are better than reality...

    Anyway you did a splendid job in recording your travels and I am taking notes in case I go there!

    kyels said...

    I'd love to visit Angkor Wat too if given a chance. To see it with my own eyes is just simply amazing. I loved your documentation; really interesting.


    Yes, it sure is frustrating when there are tourist in almost every frame of composition but I guess it happens especially the holiday seasons.

    Off topic; ate, you can look me up in Friendster or Facebook if you have accounts there. Just look for my name.

    Ferdz said...

    uy thanks for the plug there, I guess we're just lucky with the season. Still it's good to hear you encountered a lot of interesting people there. I've never seen a place with so much convergence of nationalities other than angkor. Ayus yung kuha mo sa Monk. Kakaiba na talaga sila ngayon, biruin mo, internet savvy na rin sila. Baka me blog pa nga yan eh. Hehe

    Like the capture of the lady as well. Mini tripod ba yung nasa harap nya? Again enjoyed this documentation.

    Tien said...

    mediocre, but still lovely pictures though. anyway, i wish i could visit ankor wat too, before it was completely destroyed by pollution... :(

    rayts said...

    you're right. i've always viewed myself walking along the silent and cold corridors of this temple alone, sucking in the moment but the thing is, i can't even find the space i need since everywhere i go there are tourists, most of them noisy. hehe!

    thanks. of all people you know how it feels like. you know how frustration could sink in and ruin a day especially when you don't get the image you envisioned. but like you said, there are things beyond our control.

    I didn't believe it either but every tourist who booked into a hotel is reminded of how lovely the sunrise is in Angkor Wat so waking up early to see it is an effort worthy of taking.

    i guess when you finally decide to go there you should consider the month when to go. We avoided going there in April because the summer heat was just too much to bear. But then again, going there in November has its downside too. hey by the way, i saw your pics! thanks for the invite...appreciate it. now i can say that you and your li'l bro really look the same, hehe. cute.

    tama ka dyan, andami naming na-encounter na monks. super dami nila, most of them are also tourists. dati akala ko bawal makipag-usap sa kanila pero pagtumango na sila at ngumiti parang okay na. saka mukhang sanay na sila sa mga kamera (may mga camera at video din sila eh) at sa mga curious look. andali nilang umangat sa crowd dahil sa tangerine get-up nila.

    tinitigan ko yung "mini tripod" na sinasabi mo. hinde ata. parang bakal lang na naka-usli. nung pumunta kase kami, nirerenovate yung kabilang wing ng Angkor. dun kami sa may moat dumaan hindi sa west wing kungsaan nandoon ang temple proper. yung babae na yan, nakakahawa yung moment nya. emote na tipong ang lalim ng iniisip, o baka ako lang ang nakapansin, hehe!

    didn't your parents go to Cambodia? they should give you first hand info about it. we meet two Singaporeans in Pnom Pehn on our way to visit the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, I am really amazed by their accents, hehe. Nice people. Thanks Tien.

    iskoo said...

    ang picture depende sa kumuha, minsan kasi iba composition kasi iba ang gusto mong ipakita sa makakakita. ang ang ganda ng isang picture nag va vary sa bawat tumitingin. maganda ang mga picture mo, alam mo nagsisisis ako bakit di ako tululoy sa cambodia after my boarder frightening experience, ang ganda pala dyan. kakausapin ko si Ferdz one time papaturo ako paano pumunta dyan.

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