Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Makin' A Dream Come True in Siem Reap

In my Siem Reap series so far:

Temple Runnin' (Siem Reap, Cambodia Part 5)
Kickin' Off the Temple Tour (Siem Reap, Cambodia Part 4) 
Travel Expenses (Siem Reap, Cambodia Part 3)
Rithy Rine Angkor Hotel (Siem Reap, Cambodia Part 2)
First Night (Siem Reap, Cambodia Part 1)

Date of travel: October 4-7, 2012

Let me start by saying that I was at my academic laziest and lousiest during my sophomore year in high school. I attribute this to two things -  the overcrowded classroom (I was public schooled from elementary to college. I turned out okay, yes? So have a little faith in our public school system.) and the inclusion of letters in math (read: algebra). I was so uninspired that only a few of things from our history class stuck:  the backstory of Iliad (the apple of discord) and a few monuments of Asian civilization. Of those monuments, what stood out the most were Angkor Wat, Borobudur, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (which I guess I will have to see in a different life).  So yes, I had been dreaming of seeing Angkor Wat for over a decade (And let me just say that I regret not paying more attention to Mrs. Ferrer, my history teacher, who had an eidetic memory and was over-all a great teacher). 

Let's get to that dream coming true in a bit. 

Pre Rup. Portal to another universe. Not.

After Banteay Srei, we were supposed to head to Angkor Wat. Pre Rup wasn't included in the list of temples that Narith planned for us to visit, but when we spotted the brick towers along the way, we asked him if we could stop over and have a look.

These girls make the climb through the narrow and steep steps of the pyramid look easy. The view from terrace of the temple ruins below was breathtaking, though. 

Pre Rup was the state temple of King Rajendravarman's capital. It's not as massive as Angkor Wat and does not have a lot of detailed carvings, but the name "Pre Rup" is intriguing because it means turning of the body which could be an allusion to the turning of the body of a corpse in a cremation rite. Legends say that a king was accidentally killed by a gardener here.

They say the stone cistern (directly in front of the lady in the hat) is proof that  Pre Rup was a cremation site. Some say that it was merely the base for a statue of Nandi (Shiva's bull). 

I don't remember why, but we decided that Pre Rup was our favorite among all the temples we visited. Probably because it's massive compared to Banteay Srei and we weren't as exhausted as we were when we got to Angkor Wat and Bayon. 

 Istine and one of the lion guards in Pre Rup. 

The summit of Pre Rup has a majestic view of the jungles of Siem Reap and one of the towers of Angkor Wat. They say the interplay of light with the color of laterite, brick, and sandstone also make it an ideal place to catch the sunrise and sunset. 

Istine chillin' like a villain. :) 

Pre Rup temple ruins. 

We couldn't have spent more than 30 minutes in Pre Rup before we were off to lunch. Lunch was uneventful except for the Richard Gere-ish dude (read: elderly) whom one of my companions found attractive. Ah, also I think I got laughed at for asking the waitress if we could take away the leftover food. Seriously, she pointed to the food, and in between giggles asked "You want to take home?" So, I said never mind. 'Must be a cultural thing. Then, when we got out of the restaurant, a boy persistently asked us if we could give him a US dollar for the two twenty Philippine notes that he had. When it became clear to him that we weren't going to budge, he started asking us for Philippine notes instead. I guess lunch wasn't uneventful after all. 

 Monkeys around the temple complex. Check out the baby monkey clinging to its parent in the photo on the left. 

And then, Ponleau whisked us off to Angkor Wat in his carriage (read: tuktuk). We had to walk a bit before we finally saw the complex. Angkor Wat elated and disappointed us at the same time. 'Elated mainly because of its size, and disappointed because most of the complex has obviously been weathered and has thus gone through restoration. I know the restoration bit is necessary but the scaffolds all over the temple were a bit of an eye sore. The restored carvings in the galleries look so new that they almost ruin the faux travel-back-in-time experience. 

We didn't enter Angkor Wat from its famous west gallery facade. Narith took us to one of the three other galleries (I don't remember which one) which worked quite well because only very few tourists found their way here. The grass growth and the trees in the area make it idyllic;, it reminded me of Herschel's farm in The Walking Dead,  I almost expected to see a lone walker strutting through the forest. 

Pagadian and Masbate, represent! 

We were disappointed too that we only got to spend a couple of hours at Angkor Wat when a visit to the vast complex requires more than a day. It was, after all, built to be the microcosm of the Hindu universe- complete with the moat that represents the ocean and the towers that represent Mount Meru, the home of Hindu gods. Nonetheless, as Istine put it, the Angkor Wat experience was humbling. Or as I put it, surreal! 

Narith narrating (alliteration, ftw!) the Churning of the Sea of Milk as depicted on one of the panels of the east gallery.  (Photo by Grace Saqueton) 

The panels of the corridors are decorated with about 600 m of Hindu narratives. 

The size of Angkor Wat does not translate in these photos. Narith kept asking us rhetorically how we thought the Khmer were able to create something so huge and so grand a long, long time ago. And every single time, I was tempted to say 'Aliens!' 

There are about 2,000 apsara bas reliefs all over Angkor Wat. 

Old meets new. Istine still chillin' while Grace hams it up. :) Thank you girls for making the Angkor Wat experience richer. 

And that's the story of how my dream of over a decade came true, or how I ticked one off my bucket list. But I am definitely going back to Angkor Wat with a vengeance ( I know it's a Brad Pitt Chanel No. 5 ad sentence [read: non-sensical], but c'mon, you have to admit it sounds awesome, so let it slide). Next time I vow to lounge around Angkor Wat from dawn till dusk.

Apsara dancer wannabes. These girls are crazy. Cuh-ray-zzy I tells ya! 


This is for Ian Marc Lazarte. You're such a rockstar Yanyan - leaving us at the same age as the  27 Club members and, erm, Heath Ledger. You're now part of everything and one with the universe, but we will miss the cocktails and the dishes you whipped up and made us try, the offer in jest to beat up the guys who broke your Ates' hearts, and your all-around silliness. In my mind, you will always be the guy who lay on the floor hugging the dogs while watching TV, the guy who regularly teased Nay Uping with "Kaupay hine!" in your weird Waray accent, and the guy who reluctantly played Tekken with us one long summer. Nous t'aimons. 
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