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Angkor Wat part 1; riding our bikes to Bayon and through Angkor Thom

Angkor Wat part 1; riding our bikes to Bayon and through Angkor Thom

The cool air hits our faces, as we pedal our bikes as fast as possible through the dark streets of Siem Reap. It is not even 5:00 am but we are excited to race through the unusual quiet town. Where there was hustling and bustling with hardly any room to ride our bikes yesterday, there are only a few scooters and cars to spot this early in the morning. Yet, some people are getting ready for work already and a few vendors are slowly prepping their carts, but traffic is so enjoyable in this early morning hour.

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The nice thing about being here early is that you are pretty much all alone to explore.

 

There is still an ocean of stars in the sky and a sliver of the moon is hanging over the horizon. We reach the ticket booth just as it opens. Besides us, there are only a couple of other tourists and guides at the booth to buy tickets. We go get our tickets, it comes complete with our picture on the front of it and head into the huge temple complex.

As we get closer to Angkor Wat, we are overtaken by a few tuc-tucs and minibuses: the first tourists are heading to the ancient temple to see the sunrise. We however, are blasting right by the the moat surrounding the biggest temple in the park. We pedal even faster, once we reach the parking lot to the huge monument. Our destination still lies a few more miles ahead of us. Bayon Temple is right in the middle of the ancient Jayavarman’s capital: Angkor Thom. To get there we still have to ride through the mysterious looking southern gate and down the straight, empty road.

The city has five monumental gates (one in each wall plus an extra in the eastern wall), 20m high and decorated with stone elephant trunks and the king’s favorite motif, the four faces of Avalokiteshvara.–www.sacred-destinations.com

We arrive at Bayon temple just as the last stars are fading away; yet, the sun is still waiting to peek over the horizon. We quickly grab our headlamps, secure the bikes near the entrance and head up the stairs into the temple. It is quiet, dark, and mysterious. The only sounds we hear, come from hundreds of bats zinging through the air around us. They dart in and out of the temple while a few still hang quietly upside-down from the temple ceilings.

Angkor Thom (large Angkor ) is a royal city of 10 Km² surrounded by walls and ditches. There still, a book would not be enough to describe all the richness of this unit. The tourists in a hurry will cross the site in less than one hour, but those which are interested a little in this style of construction can largely envisage a half day on the spot! –the angkor.net

We climb all over the ancient structure while our headlights illuminate the many faces on the towers. Ancient, mysterious faces are watching us everywhere, from every angle. As the sun finally rises over the jungle, we can see the structure in its full beauty. The detailed decorations   on the rocks, the mosaic of huge, weathered stones which are put together like an integrate 3D-jigsaw-puzzle are amazing. While we explore the whole site we feel a little bit like Indiana Jones and we are sure to find some magical objects hidden somewhere. Amazingly, we have the whole site pretty much to ourselves. There is only one other couple which came on rented bikes and an older gentlemen taking pictures while we explore Bayon temple. All other tourists are at the Angkor Wat, watching the sunrise.

Bayon Temple (circa 1190) is a Buddhist temple but retains elements of Hindu cosmology and imagery. Standing in the exact center of the walled city, it represents the intersection of heaven and earth. It is known for its enigmatic smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara and its extraordinary bas-reliefs.–www.sacred-destinations.com

Once, we are sure, that we have seen every nook and cranny of the temple, we decide to find  breakfast and coffee. As we finally, reach our bikes, which are patiently waiting at the entrance, we notice the first touring buses arriving at the site. Also an official is now sitting near the stairs to check tickets. Happy, to have had the site to ourselves to explore, before the masses arrive, we head to the small food stalls to fill our bellies before exploring the rest of Angkor Thom.

Angkor Thom (large Angkor ) is a royal city of 10 Km² surrounded by walls and ditches. There still, a book would not be enough to describe all the richness of this unit. The tourists in a hurry will cross the site in less than one hour, but those which are interested a little in this style of construction can largely envisage a half day on the spot! –the angkor.net

It is a lot of fun, riding through the ancient Khmer city and the footpaths are easy to cycle on. Since the site is so huge, we are very happy that we have chosen to take our bikes. We explore the famous Elephant Terrace, the Royal Palace, and several more smaller temples, before calling it a day.

The Terrace of the Elephants served as a viewing platform for royal parties and depicts elephants and garuda (a mythical bird-like creature).

 

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