Cambodia 2004

Travel time: July / August 2004  |  by Christian Werner

Angkor, Chong Kneas, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville...


From the 19th of July 2004 to the 7th of August 2004 the destination was Cambodia. But things have changed since my last big trip. I found my dreamgirl for my further life and this should be our first holiday together. 1st of all our flight brought us to Bangkok. As Nicole had never been there before, we decided to stay here for one more day before we travelled eastward to the Thai- Cambodian border. And slowly we came closer to the dream to visit the temples of Angkor...

By train from Bangkok we reached Aranyaprathet, the Thai border town to Cambodia. At Aranyaprathet we took a Tuk Tuk to reach the border. We negotiated a price but once driven round the corner the driver was asking for the double charge. We left the Tuk Tuk. Even a coming back to the old price couldn´t stop us from walking as we really didn´t want to part procedures like this. We walked to the border just for a few minutes before we joined a Pick- Up Truck to the border. One hour later all paperworks were done and we entered Cambodia.

With an aircon bus we started from Poipet to Siem Reap. The streets in Cambodia are in terrific condition. So it was more a bumpy than driving on our way forward. When we reached Sisophon, the only town on our way, the lightning machine of our bus turned off. Of course it was one of these tourist ripp offs to let you arrive in Siem Reap on a choosen hotel after dark. But what else could we do? When the "repaired" bus arrives I nearly missed it, as I went to toilette just a minute before. At about 9pm we arrived in Siem Reap. We decided to leave this choosen hotel as soon as we get our lagguage because, again, we won´t be part of this scummy procedure. When they realised we going to leave they started a big pleading which we ignore. It didn´t change the situation as all other tourists seemed to stay. I can´t understand this, because, as so long as this system works it won´t be changed. It was strong raining but just a few hundred meteres away we found a realy nice double room with private bath, air-con and TV for US$7.00 per night. There was a guide living as well (the brother of the hotel owner) which was willing to bring us to the temples for the next 3 days.

The tempels of Angkor were built in the years between 800-1500. The historical Khmer capital of Angkor Thom was surrounded by a city wall. Exactly in the middle of these walls the temple of Bayon was errected. The power of the Khmers in South East Asia at that time is comparable to the power of Rome earlier in Europe. Nearly the complete region was under Khmers control. About 100 temples of this time are known around Siem Reap. Like the Pharaones of Egypt all kings of the Khmer empire were building one or more temples.That´s why you still can find so many temples today. It all ends when the Thai plundered Angkor. The Khmers settled southward and built their new capital: Phnom Penh. Angkor was recovered by the jungle, before it was rediscovered by the French in 1860. Since then a growing number of tourists arrive in Angkor each year.

First of all we went to Angkor Thom, the ancient capital of Angkor. We walked through the Southgate before we went on to the Bayon. The temple was built from 1177-1230 by Jayavarman VII and absolutely amazing. First of all the 54 gothic towers with its 216 faces on it (the experts are not sure if this is Vishnu or the king hisself) was unbelievable. After lunch we went to the enclosed Baphoun temple, which was built by Udayadityavarman II from 1049-1065. The temple is restoring at the moment so that we couldn´t see the 40 m long lying Buddha on the back of the temple. We moved on to the Royal Palace and the Elephant Bridge before we went to Prasat Tonlé Sagout which looks like Phimai in Thailand which I saw 4 years ago (see Thailand section Khorat).

Our next stop was one of the highlights of our trip: Ta Phrom, which was built in 1186 by 80,000 people. But the ingenious thing about Th Phrom is that the archeologicals have been left this temple to the jungle. So we saw lots of trees which trunks were growing directly out of the temple. It seemed like they are holding the temples in their hands. We felt like Indiana Jones on one of his trips through the jungle and even as this temple isn´t that spectacular as a historical site this circumstances made him to one of the highlights of our trip. At the end of the day we visited Phnom Bakheng, from were you got a perfect view over Angkor Wat and the surrounding area. We were late there, but not too late, as Phnom Bakheng is famous with the tourists for the sunset. It was a quiet and nice place when we have been up there, but when we wanted to go back down the hill, hords of tourists came which wanted to see the sunset. It was close to impossible to leave this place. Oh, Angkor is so beautiful if you avoid the hords and doing your round trip the other way around as anybody else.

The next morning we first visited the temple of Angkor Wat, which is the biggest religious building in the world today. His outer walls are 1.3 X 1.5 km long. This walls are surrounded by a 190 m wide ditch. If you realise this you will feel the castles in Europe as toys for kids. Angkor Wat was built by king Survayaman II. and shows the hinduism universe. The big tower in the middle shows Mt. Meru, the smaller ones around his companions. The ditch is the world surrounding ocean. So we enjoyed our time by wandering around this ancient world before we left for Preah Khan. In the afternoon we visited Preah Neak Tean (the ancient swimming pool), Ta Som, Eastern Rebon, Pre Rup and Banteay Kdei.

Our 3rd day in Angkor started with a 26 km long ride to Beantey Srei, which is north of Angkor. This is the only temple in Angkor which wasn´t built by a king , but by a Brahman. It was built between 967-1000. The small temple is famous for its reliefs, which were absolutely nice detailed. Our next stop was Beantey Samre before we went to Bakong, the main temple of the Rolous Group, which was the capital before Angkor. The Rolous group is about 20 km south of Angkor and Bakong was built by Indravarman I. about 880.

© Christian Werner, 2005
You are here : Overview Asia Cambodia Cambodia: Angkor
The trip
Start of journey: Jul 19, 2004
Duration: 3 weeks
End of journey: Aug 07, 2004
Travelled countries: Cambodia
The Author
Christian Werner is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 17 years.