As I said in my previous post on Angkor Wat, there is so much more to this archaeological site than I ever would have imagined. We spent a good chunk of three days there and still didn’t come close to seeing it all. Angkor Thom is the section of sites above Angkor Wat.
We spent part of two separate days exploring Angkor Thom. Our first day we went to Angkor Wat and spent several hours exploring that area. It is extremely hot and humid here in early March so we were exhausted, hot, hungry and drenched in sweat by the time our tuk-tuk driver got us to Bayon, the main temple in Angkor Thom I was starting to get a bit light-headed, so we only went to Bayon the first day. The second day we started a little earlier and went directly Angkor Thom and spent 4 hours walking the area.
*original map from here – edited for this post by me
You enter Angkor Thom through the South Gate. Although you can’t really tell from this photo, it’s massive and quite the experience to pass through!
Bayon is the first site inside Angkor Thom you see. Built for the king Jayavarman and it definitely commands attention.
There are over 200 faces of Avalokiteśvara (the bodhisattva- an enlightened being- who has postponed reaching Nirvana in order to assist others on their path to Nirvana) smiling at you. Our tuktuk driver says there is one on each side to represent compassion, sympathy, sincerity & happiness.
We cooled off in the shade as we watched this adorable little boy tucked between the pillars stacking rocks over and over.
Stacey tried her hand at stacking stones. She got a decent stack going at the expense of two others she accidentally knocked down with her elbows.
We started day two off continuing where we left off in Angkor Thom- Baphuon or “The Pyramid Temple”. I made the mistake of wearing shorts that day (silly me, it was only 100 degrees outside) but I didn’t think about the fact that I would need to have my knees covered in order to enter temples- which I completely understand.
While Stacey went ahead and went up this temple, I had some nice me-time. I explored the fallen columns finding interesting examples of bas reliefs, I sat and journaled and I explored the area in front of the temple.
In front of the temple, there was a large pool with stone steps. I was on the opposite side of these little boys when they started swimming and playing. I asked them and their fathers who were sitting beside me if I could take their photo and the boys proudly jumped in over and over making big splashes, wresting around and flashing their precious smiles at me!
I was roaming around when I saw a small monk (left photo). He was holding a smart phone (seriously) and he held it up and looked at me with eyebrows raised, asking if he could take a photo of me! Of course, I smiled and he grinned as he snapped a couple photos of me. Then I held up my phone and pointed at him, then me. He nodded and I walked over to him and there I was taking selfies with a monk! Who would have ever guessed?! Then a whole group of monks, mostly younger, gathered around me and we had a little monk photoshoot. Stacey came down from the temple to find me filled with joy from this experience!
After the photoshoot Stacey and I began to roam around the backside and we walked through gates and marveled at these massive trees until we stopped at Phimeanakas Temple or “The Palace” (two photos down).
After exploring Phimeanakas Temple and fending off a preteen “tour guide” we wandered until we got to Preah Pallay. This felt like a little adventure because we came up from the backside and crawled up in there. It felt a little bit wild and extra adventurous because no one else was around.
We rounded the corner and wound up at this beautiful temple. There was this massive Buddha figure under an awning and then down from that there is a larger building with a temple on top and dorms for monks below. As we walked past a monk was blessing three small girls. It was absolutely beautiful to watch. He was chanting has he dipped a bowl into water and poured it over the girls’ heads repeatedly. It was a beautiful moment to watch.
We realized when we came out there we had missed a few things, plus I bought elephant pants so I could go back to “The Pyramid Temple”.
We ended our day here. We found our tuk-tuk driver and rode back to our hostel. The next day, my 25th birthday, we were coming for sunrise and then exploring more of this amazing temple complex!
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