April 18, 2014

Cambodia : Siem Reap - Kampong Phluk Flooded Forest

Continuation from here...

Angkor Archaeological Park is huge, but we've seen the major sites - Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom, so we thought that's enough for us.

We decided to make a move to Phnom Penh later in the evening so after breakfast we asked our hostel manager to help book the bus ticket for us. To maximize our time, we got an overnight bus which cost USD 9.

Spending the morning, we rented bicycles and just cycled around the town.



Chillaxing at Chatime. Bought my usual Taiwan plum ice tea with coconut jelly for USD 3. More expensive than Malaysia but once in a while kan.. No Starbucks here so Chatime pon ok. haha..



 What 7-Eleven? There's only 6-Eleven here.

At the same time, I was trying to find a tour company from the pamphlet I took at the hostel. I saw their tour to Kampong Phluk Flooded Forest and the price is quite reasonable. I did some research on the Internet and most said the boat charge can be expensive if you go there on your own. So I guessed taking a tour with them would be a good idea.

The address brought us to here.



So we signed up for a tour to visit Kampong Phluk Flooded Forest. The tour itinerary also includes Wat Thmie Killing Field and Artisan D'angkor. For USD 18 per person, it was a good bargain.

We were picked up at 2 pm and headed to Artisan D'angkor and Wat Thmie Killing Field before proceeding to Kampong Phluk.

Kampung Phluk is a village on the Tonle Sap, a home to families who eke out a living on one of the most abundant inland fisheries in the world. When we arrived at the boat dock, I could see that the river was rather low. January is a dry season in Cambodia but we had no choice. I just hoped we could still see the village.

But due to the low water level, the boat could hardly move at the beginning. Our boatman had to jump into the river to push the boat. Pity him.



Once we reached higher water level, the boat moved faster. But the boatman slowed down as the first houses came into view.







I could only stare at all those houses open-mouthed. Amazed by the sight of houses that were built over stilts and tower six to eight meters high.

As we went on dry season, the stilts were exposed. On rainy season when the water level is high, the stilts are covered in water giving the impression that the houses are floating.



















Men fishing. Women selling goods. Kids playing on the boat.

Seeing how these people adapted with the flooding was very interesting.

The boat ride eventually took us to the Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Asia. Seeing the vast amounts of water in front of me, one could mistake it as sea. One thing I learnt about the lake is that when the season changes, so does the direction of its flow. From November to May, Cambodia's dry season, the Tonle Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. However, when heavy rains begin in June, the Tonle Sap backs up to form the massive lake.



If you hire a private boat perhaps you can wait for the stunning sunset on the lake.


boats waiting for sunset

The flooded mangrove forest around Kampong Phluk is also fascinating. Submerged for half the year, the trees have learnt to adapt and are an invaluable part of the extraordinary ecosystem there.





There are floating restaurants along the forest if you are hungry. You can also rent canoe for a trip through the mangroves but we didn't do it as it cost about USD 5.


 

 The visit definitely gave me an insight into another world and way of life. It's an amazing experience not to be missed.

Back in town, we asked to be dropped off at the Old Market for a last minute souvenir shopping and walked to the hostel.
Our bus to Phnom Penh would be leaving at 11.30 pm.
 

April 17, 2014

Cambodia : The Angkor Show - Angkor Wat

 Continuation from here ...

Our final destination on the Little Circuit was the Angkor Wat. It is the largest monument in the Angkor Archaeological Park and the best preserved, the most famous, iconic and grandest temple of all. So we saved the best for last.

Some visitors prefer to visit the temple at dawn, starting the tour as early as 5 am to watch the sun rise over the temple. We preferred to sleep so we didn't do that sunrise thing. But I saw the sunrise photos from other blogs and they are sooo beautiful!! #reasontorepeat


the temple's prime viewing spot


moat surrounding the Angkor Wat

The largest religious structure in the world, Angkor Wat was commissioned by Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. It was dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu, but later converted to be a Buddhist temple in late 13th century when Buddhism became the dominant religion.

Looking at the sheer scale of the temple and its grand architecture, I wondered how long it took and how many man power needed to complete this wonder. I mean, what engineering technology did they have back in 12th century?







Angkor Wat's main entrance is to the west across a stone walkway, with guardian lions marking the way.

Take a look of what's inside...








the main tower


walkway








Carvings on the wall.




bas-relief of Apsara



The main tower on the third level is the top-most part of the tour of the temple. Make sure you go up before 5 pm as they'll close the access after that. Luckily we managed to go up in time.

The tower houses four Buddha statues, each facing a different point on the compass. The locals believe that it will bring good luck to pay respect to all four Buddha images before leaving the temple.




 
It was extremely crowded inside the temple galleries but I managed to enjoy it peacefully towards the end of my visit since I was among the last visitor to leave the temple. At about 5.45 pm, the staffs began asking us to leave as the closing time was approaching but I took my own sweet time walking out, admiring the temple without the crowd.
 

Oh.. beware of the monkey! They roam freely all over the temple, and quite aggressive I tell ya.


We left the temple area after dark. I was so tired from all the walking and climbing but nevertheless, it was worth it!
If you are a fan of archaeology and historical sites, Angkor Wat and Angkor Archaeological Park is a MUST go!



April 12, 2014

Cambodia : The Angkor Show - Ta Prohm

 Continuation from here ...

So we're heading to Ta Prohm, which was used as a location in the blockbuster film Lara Croft : Tomb Raider. Various scenes were shot there, in which Angelina Jolie, as Lara Croft, battled a secret society called the Illuminati for possession of an ancient talisman. The temple is even now popularly called the Tomb Raider Temple or Angelina Jolie Temple.

I am a big Angelina Jolie fan so I was very excited as we walked towards the temple from the main road. From the gate, it was about 500 meters before reaching the temple. But it was a fun walk cos in my mind, I tried to recap the scenes from the movie. Ambik feel la konon. haha..

Ta Prohm was constructed in the late 12th century, founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. Shrouded in dense jungle, the archaeologists intentionally left the temple in its natural state when it was first discovered in the middle of the 19th century. This is to preserve the photogenic and atmospheric experience so we can have that authentic explorer feel.





















The temple is one of the most visited site in Angkor Archaeological Park so be prepared to brave the hordes of tourists. Everyone lined up to have a photo in the same spots that featured in the film.



Been there done that yo!

Indeed, the temple was extraordinary and breath-taking. Seeing how nature has intertwined with the temple was really unique. Trees spread their gigantic roots over the temple, reclaiming the site by growing out of, and into, the ruins.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nature vs Man? Yes, nature will win every time.