Angkor Adventures Part 8 – Atmospheric Ta Prohm

Oct 23, 07 at 12:00 am

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Click here for Part 7

Before I continue, I would like to reiterate that all those temples we covered earlier on; South Gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas and Terrace of the Elephants are nested within Angkor Thom. We have not visited other temples outside Angkor Thom.

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We resumed our adventures after lunch and the next temple we were supposed to go was Ta Prohm. Okay, it may sound another normal temple for you but here’s the catch. It is where Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider was made.

The journey from the town took about 15 minutes. The driver dropped us and John at the east entrance of Ta Prohm which required us to walk a short distance before the real temple could be seen. On our way, we saw a group of men playing some sort of instruments. Upon further look, we found out that these men were victims of landmines; with some could be seen without arms or legs. I felt helpless seeing them so I gave them all my riels I have in my wallet.

I had this eerie feeling as we walked deeper into the jungle. Also, I took every step with care for fear I might stepped on landmines. *shrugs* It wasn’t long when we saw Ta Prohm from far.

Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm

Now, it looks unimpressive from outside. A support structure to support the falling ruins and there are no majestic bas-reliefs and carvings like what we saw at Bayon. All we get to see was this giant tree sprouting outside the entrance.

Ta Prohm
Looks quite ordinary to me

Ta Prohm
Only the tree impresses me

Upon entering the temple.. I was like OH.MY.GAWD because it looks like this..

Ta Prohm

How on earth a tree can grow like that?

Ta Prohm

I think I understand why Tomb Raider was filmed at this temple. Period.

Ta Prohm is the modern name of a temple at Angkor, Cambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara.

Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor’s most popular temples with visitors. [Source]

My travel buddies were probably stunned by the surroundings in Ta Prohm as they were slow in responding my call to get their photos taken. I needed to raise my voice a bit to get them posing for me. o_O

Ta Prohm
The blurred models

Took few more shots and when I turned back, I saw ang mohs been lining up and waiting with cameras for their turns.

-_-”

We continued our walk accompanied by John and saw more weird trees growing all over Ta Prohm. I felt I was in AlienLandTM because these trees look like they’re going to eat me.

Ta Prohm
Mutated tree at Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm
Some had to be chopped off as they pose danger to visitors

Ta Prohm did not undergo much restoration because the archaeologists would like to retain its picturesque and atmospheric look.

When the effort to conserve and restore the temples of Angkor began in the early 20th century, the École française d’Extrême-Orient decided that Ta Prohm would be left largely as it had been found, as a “concession to the general taste for the picturesque.” According to Maurice Glaize, Ta Prohm was singled out because it was “one of the most imposing [temples] and the one which had best merged with the jungle, but not yet to the point of becoming a part of it”. Nevertheless, much work has been done to stabilize the ruins, to permit access, and to maintain “this condition of apparent neglect.” [Source]

Not surprising when we saw a lot of collapsed stones scattered around Ta Prohm. Like it just experienced a series of powerful earthquakes. Some bullet holes were seen planted on the walls as a result of Khmer Rouge regime where communists used these temples as their practice grounds.

Ta Prohm
Collapsed ruins

Ta Prohm
Support structure to stabilize the ruins

Ta Prohm
More ruins

I started to love this temple. It’s just so different from other temples. Along the way, we saw more mutated giant trees.

Ta Prohm

The trees growing out of the ruins are perhaps the most distinctive feature of Ta Prohm, and “have prompted more writers to descriptive excess than any other feature of Angkor.” Two species predominate: the larger is the silk-cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra), and the smaller is the strangler fig (Ficus gibbosa). [Source]

Trees aside, Ta Prohm also features some carvings too although not as many as Bayon.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

Some of the carvings look faded due to erosion. Perhaps, the authorities should do something to prevent this before the carvings completely disappear from our sight.

As the walkway inside is uneven, a wooden pathway has been built to ensure visitors have an easy stroll while in Ta Prohm.

Ta Prohm
Wooden pathway provides a leisurely walk for visitors.

And if you noticed from the above photos, it looked like we were the only visitors to Ta Prohm. It’s because we were out of the “tourists time-frame”. I like it because I could take photos without unidentified subjects. :p

Ta Prohm
More weirdo trees

Ta Prohm
It rained roots

Sometimes, I do wonder how long it takes for these trees to grow like that. It’s just simply amazing!

Ta Prohm
Another wonder tree

Not every part in Ta Prohm is accessible as some are blocked by ruins. As we went to the inner part of the temple, we discovered more things… like this apsara dance carvings.

Ta Prohm
Apsara dance

It’s almost everywhere on the wall, still in very good condition.

Ta Prohm
More apsara dance carvings

I think I mentioned about this apsara dance in my earlier posts. Don’t worry, I will explain further in my upcoming posts.

Ta Prohm
More ginseng look-alike tree

Out of boredom taking photos of weird trees, I decided to change subjects for temporary..

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

We uncovered more gigantic “building-hugging” trees as we made our way out. The way each tree grow is so unique and blends well with the temple structure. Like they made for each other.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

That pretty summarizes our visit to Ta Prohm; big temple in the middle of the jungle, mostly ruins, big weirdo trees like ginseng, eerie atmosphere but great for photography. Certainly one of the must-visit temples in Angkor Archaeological Park!

Next.. scary climb begins at Ta Keo

More photos:

Siem Reap Day 2: Ta Prohm (Recommended!!)

Angkor Adventures Part 7 – Brief Encounter at Baphuon, Phimeanakas and Elephant Terrace

Oct 19, 07 at 12:00 am

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Click here for Part 6

As Baphuon or Bapuon is located quite near to the ever impressive Bayon, we made ourselves to walk. We started to feel tired and the hot weather did not help us at all.

Built in the mid-11th century, it is a three-tiered temple mountain built as the state temple of Udayadityavarman II dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. It is the archetype of the Baphuon style. [Source]

We rested near the entrance or gopura as it may be called as John explained the history of this temple. Baphuon was closed for visitors at that time because of the problematic in restoration as much of temple has collapsed. The restoration process was done by French archaeologists.

Listening While Resting at Bapuon
Resting while listening to John

Bapuon
The elevated approach to Baphuon

The temple adjoins the southern enclosure of the royal palace and measures 120 metres east-west by 100 metres north-south at its base and stands 34 meters tall without its tower, which would have made it roughly 50 meters tall. [Source]

Bapuon
A closer look at the temple.. still very much in restoration

Bapuon
There’s a giant reclining Buddha (not shown) located at the other side

Since we were not allowed to visit, we walked to the next temple called Phimeanakas. On our way, we were approached by several local children who kept pestering us to buy souvenirs from them. I was advised not to buy anything nor give any money to them because these kids are supposed to be in school, not haggling around selling postcards and trinkets to tourists.

There are stories that kids make more money than adults because tourists have soft hearts towards kids, so they tend to give money to kids even though they are not buying anything from the kids. So, do not ever give money to kids, get the adults to do the selling.

Local Girl at Temple
Little kid trying to sell us souvenirs using different languages

Phimeanakas (‘celestial temple’) at Angkor, Cambodia, is a Hindu temple in the Khleang style, built at the end of the 10th century, during the reign of Rajendravarman II (from 941-968), then rebuilt by Suryavarman II in the shape of a three tier pyramid as a Hindu temple. On top of the pyramid there was a tower. [Source]

It was inside the sanctuary of Phimeanakas, that according to some legends, the Khmer king lay every night with a woman who, as the incarnation of a nine-headed naga, had power over the lands of the kingdom. If the naga did not show up that night, then the king’s days would be numbered and if the king did not show up, calamity would strike his land.

It was very hot and humid plus my legs were sore, I did not climb up the temple. Only few climbed up to have a look.

Phimeanakas
Phimeanakas

Phimeanakas
It’s much easier to climb compare to Bayon

Phimeanakas
Another guardian lion without its head

The visit was brief, so we made our way to Terrace of the Elephants. On our way, I saw a cute kid playing around.

Cutest Kid Ever
Cute kid

I think he’s already immune to tourists. He automatically showed the “V” sign when I tried to snap him. Since he was wandering alone, my friend gave him a sweet as a treat.

Kids Around Temple
Peace be with you

Without realizing, we already reached the back entrance of Terrace of the Elephants.

Terrace of the Elephants

The terrace was used by Angkor’s king Jayavarman VII as a platform from which to view his victorious returning army. It was attached to the palace of Phimeanakas, of which only a few ruins remain. Most of the original structure was made of organic material and has long since disappeared. Most of what remains are the foundation platforms of the complex. The terrace is named for the carvings of elephants on its eastern face. [Source]

As it is a platform, there is nothing much we could see. I saw some inscriptions on one of the walls.

Terrace of the Elephants
What’s the meaning behind?

Terrace of the Elephants
The entrance to Phimeanakas

Terrace of the Elephants
The platform

Terrace of the Elephants
Now you know why it is called like that..

Half of the day already spent exploring some parts of Angkor Thom and we showed some signs tiredness especially me. Nevertheless, we took a break, headed back to the town to have our lunch before continuing our adventure!

Next up… where Lara Croft once ruled!

More photos:

Siem Reap Day 2: Baphuon, Phimeanakas and Terrace of the Elephants

Angkor Adventures Part 6 – The Striking Expression of Bayon

Oct 18, 07 at 12:00 am

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Click here for Part 5

The journey took just under 5 minutes to reach Bayon. Even from afar, Bayon looks awesome to me! This must be a very interesting visit, I thought to myself.

Bayon Temple
The impressive Bayon temple from afar

The Bayon is a well-known and richly decorated Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia. Built in the late 12th century or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, the Bayon stands at the centre of Jayavarman’s capital, Angkor Thom.

The Bayon’s most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and massive stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak.

The temple is known also for two impressive sets of bas-reliefs, which present an unusual combination of mythological, historical, and mundane scenes. The main current conservatory body, the JSA, has described the temple as “the most striking expression of the ‘baroque’ style” of Khmer architecture, as contrasted with the ‘classical’ style of Angkor Wat. [Source]

Hmmm, I don’t know where to actually start describing about this great temple, so if you understand what I’m trying to say at the end of this post, then congrats. Else, read from start to end again lar. Hahaha.

Ok ok, back to story. Apparently, this temple is undergoing restoration process by experts from Japan under this Japanese Government Team for Safeguarding of Angkor (JSA). The duration of this restoration process will take 5 years and it’s going into 2nd year now.

Bayon Temple

As John shared his story about the complex with us, I did not waste time and started to snap around. Too bad, there were loads of tourists cramping the complex which sometimes blocked the view that I wanted.

Bayon Temple
Arghh, some unwanted objects in my photo!! Ggrrrrr

Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple
Some damaged carvings on the wall

After a rather lengthy talk by John, we proceeded slowly to the outer gallery, which features a series of bas-reliefs.

The outer wall of the outer gallery features a series of bas-reliefs depicting historical events and scenes from the everyday life of the Angkorian Khmer. Though highly detailed and informative in themselves, the bas-reliefs are not accompanied by any sort of epigraphic text, and for that reason considerable uncertainty remains as to which historical events are portrayed and how, if at all, the different reliefs are related. [Source]

I didn’t really pay much attention as I seek refuge under some shades because the weather was too hot. It was just some precautionary measures to ensure that I really recovered from fever. Anyway, John did a good job in telling us the story behind each carving and why it happened. I think if you are a historian, you will definitely love this place.

Bayon Temple
Just trying to be artistic!

Bayon Temple
There is a story behind it. Historians will be busy for sure..

Bayon Temple
It’s so amazingly detailed and clear!

Bayon Temple
Some didn’t bother and cam-whored for while!

Bayon Temple
Restoration process is not an overnight task. It requires patience, patience and patience.

We proceeded to the inner gallery which shows the real character of Bayon complex. It is really a massive complex and the view is superb!

Bayon Temple
A step into the past.. Walking to the inner gallery

Bayon Temple
Bayon with many face towers

As you can see from the above photo, there are many impressive face-towers all over the complex.

The inner gallery is raised above ground level and has doubled corners, with the original redented cross-shape later filled out to a square. Its bas-reliefs, later additions of Jayavarman VIII, are in stark contrast to those of the outer: rather than set-piece battles and processions, the smaller canvases offered by the inner gallery are decorated for the most part with scenes from Hindu mythology. [Source]

This was where the real “adventure” began. The fact that the inner gallery is lighted up with only natural light didn’t help us much. It was quite dark along the pathway, and lots of uneven stairs too. I did not follow the group as I was caught up with some photo-taking of the Bayon. Ended up I missed out all the explanations by John.

Bayon Temple
Inside the temple.. Just got in time to help them snap this

More impressive photos of Bayon taken from inner gallery.. I just couldn’t resist from posting them here!

Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple
Note that the object without the head on the right is the guardian lion

Bayon Temple
This thing is called linga.

It was impossible for us to explore the entire Bayon complex as it will take hours. We then climbed up to the upper terrace from one of the entrances in inner gallery.

Look out as the stairs are steep and narrow!

Bayon Temple

The upper terrace is home to the famous “face towers” of the Bayon, each of which supports two, three or (most commonly) four gigantic smiling faces. In addition to the mass of the central tower, smaller towers are located along the inner gallery (at the corners and entrances), and on chapels on the upper terrace. [Source]

The upper terrace provides a completely different view of Bayon. In short, it’s breathtaking!

Bayon Temple

At one point, the temple was host to 49 such towers; now only 37 remain. The number of faces is approximately 200, but since some are only partially preserved there can be no definitive count. [Source]

To compare Bayon with other temples is a bit unfair as each stands out on its own. By far, this is the most impressive temple I’ve ever seen. The structure, design, architecture and the face-towers are so amazing. I’m glad that I made it here to be part of the history.

Bayon Temple
Face-towers

Bayon Temple
One of the towers

We spent quite some time at the upper terrace relaxing and taking photos around.

Bayon Temple
Upper terrace in general view

Bayon Temple
Smiley faces

Bayon Temple

We left for another temple after spending almost 2 hours admiring the grand temple of Angkor Thom. Bayon has indeed left a lasting impression in our hearts.

Bayon Temple
Last photo of Bayon. Taken at the other side of entrance.

Next.. brief stops at Bapuon, Phimeanakas and Terrace of the Elephants

More photos:

Siem Reap Day 2: Bayon Temple

Angkor Adventures Part 5 – Sunrise and the South Gate of Angkor Thom

Oct 17, 07 at 12:00 am

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Click here for Part 4

The day began with a sunrise view at Angkor Wat which I didn’t go because I felt my body didn’t allow me to go. Instead of joining my four other adventurers who woke up at 4am, I chose to rest more. But here’s my advice, you shouldn’t give it a miss because the view is breathtaking. Just don’t be a sack of unfit lard and bunk until the sun burns your a$$. If I wasn’t sick, I’d have had enjoyed the view just as my four other friends did. 🙁

Here’s my pick among the four up-and-coming photographer wannabes.

p1060908.jpg
My favourite although some photoshop has been applied on the photo

Nothing beats the view from the original spot if you think the above photo mesmerizes you!

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They came back to hotel for breakfast and I woke up feeling rather tired. I actually worried about the fever rather than that day’s plan. Sigh.

We didn’t waste much time and we set out at 9am to out first second destination, the South Gate of Angkor Thom.

The south gate of Angkor Thom is 7.2 km north of Siem Reap, and 1.7 km north of the entrance to Angkor Wat. The walls, 8 m high and flanked by a moat, are each 3 km long, enclosing an area of 9 km². The walls are of laterite buttressed by earth, with a parapet on the top. There are gates at each of the cardinal points, from which roads lead to the Bayon at the centre of the city. [Source]

This is the most popular entry point of Angkor Thom, the South Gate. It’s just few hundreds metres away from Phnom Bakheng which we visited yesterday.

South Gate of Angkor Thom
South Gate of Angkor Thom

From the photo above, you will see some statues lining up on both sides of the bridge leading to the gate.

A causeway spans the moat in front of each tower: these have a row of devas on the left and asuras on the right, each row holding a naga in the attitude of a tug-of-war. This appears to be a reference to the myth, popular in Angkor, of the Churning of the Sea of Milk. [Source]

This is how asuras look like…

South Gate of Angkor Thom
Mind the missing head due to vandalism

And this is how devas look like.

South Gate of Angkor Thom

The mythological relationship of the Devas (good, victorious) and the Asuras (bad, defeated) has been used by nations of history and literature to conceptualize their relationships with rival or enemy nations. The Devas stand for “us;” the Asuras stand for “them.” [Source]

I suggest you to dig further if you want to know the details by clicking on the source link above. The website is very informative and has lots of photos too.

Angkor Thom, which means “Big City” (It’s bigger than Angkor Wat) is surrounded by a canal-like thing called moat. It provides a preliminary defense for the city.

South Gate of Angkor Thom
Moat that surrounds Angkor Thom

The morning traffic was quite heavy as vehicles like motorcycles, cars, vans and even elephants used that gate to go into Angkor Thom.

South Gate of Angkor Thom
Even elephants are used as a mode of transport

As we reached the gate, John told us the meaning of each carving on the gate itself.

South Gate of Angkor Thom

The faces on the 23 m towers at the city gates (which are later additions to the main structure) take after those of the Bayon, and pose the same problems of interpretation. They may represent the king himself, the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, guardians of the empire’s cardinal points, or some combination of these. [Source]

We took few photos before we continued our journey in Angkor Thom.

South Gate of Angkor Thom

South Gate of Angkor Thom
It is wrong to climb up that gate but we did it anyway..

Next.. the real adventure begins at Bayon

More photos:

Siem Reap Day 2: South Gate of Angkor Thom

Angkor Adventures Part 4 – Phnom Bakheng and End of Day 1

Oct 16, 07 at 12:33 am

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Click here for Part 3

I was taken aback by the mass killings that once rocked Cambodia. It reminded me of the Nanking Massacre which I actually read about it from the book “The Rape of Nanking” by Iris Chang.

Meanwhile, we headed to the entrance of the Angkor Archaeological Park to get ourselves a 1-day pass which costs USD10 per person. This pass will be used when we get into various temples later. Optionally, you can buy a 3-day pass for USD20.

Some 10 minutes later after getting our passes and being drove around, we have reached the first of many archaeological wonders of Angkor, Phnom Bakheng.

Phnom Bakheng at Angkor, Cambodia, is a Hindu temple in the form of a temple mountain. Dedicated to Shiva, it was built at the end of the 9th century, during the reign of King Yasovarman (889-910 A.D.). Located atop a hill, it is nowadays a popular tourist spot for sunset views of the much bigger temple Angkor Wat, which lies amid the jungle about 1.5 km to the southeast. The large number of visitors makes Phnom Bakheng one of the most threatened monuments of Angkor. [Source]

The crowd was building up as everyone tried to beat the time to watch sunset. If you reluctant to walk, you can always pay USD10 and take the elephant ride to the top. And you most probably won’t be able to avoid these pushy souvenir sellers trying to convince you to buy from them. And these sellers are only few years old!

Phnom Bakheng
Little girl trying to persuade us to buy souvenirs from her. Amazingly she spoke to us in few languages.

The journey to the hilltop was pretty enjoyable, partly because of the cool breeze. It took us about 10 minutes of walking non-stop and soon after, the sight of the temple was in front of us. And my jaw dropped upon seeing those stairs.

Phnom Bakheng

The stairs are so narrow and steep! And how we going to climb that?!?!

We stood there watching how others actually climbed up. Maybe we should have learned few tricks from Alain Robert before coming here. Time didn’t wait so we proceeded and started to climb slowly and carefully.

I think I reminded them to be extra careful every 30 seconds during the climb-up. *shivers*

Phnom Bakheng

It was not so hard after all. Maybe I was too worried. Hahaha.

There aren’t much to see at the top because most look like this…

Phnom Bakheng
One of the towers

Our guide did not follow us, so we were a bit lost of what to see here except for the sunset.

Constructed more than two centuries before Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng was in its day the principal temple of the Angkor region, historians believe. It was the architectural centerpiece of a new capital, Yasodharapura, that Yasovarman built when he moved the court from the capital Hariharalaya in the Roluos area located to the southeast. [Source]

No doubt this is the best place to witness sunset but we did not manage to see any because it was partly hazy and cloudy. 🙁

Phnom Bakheng
Where’s the sunset?

I continued on my photo-taking while others tried to look for a suitable spot to have a rest. Actually this is a good place to have a rest but the huge crowds and the noise will instead make you restless.

Phnom Bakheng

Phnom Bakheng
There are four entrances each at a side for you to climb up

Phnom Bakheng
Strolling around the temple

Phnom Bakheng
We even took our time to take photos using tripod

We decided to end our visit before the sky turned dark.

Phnom Bakheng
Climbing down.. scary!

And a photo to mark our visit…

Phnom Bakheng
What kind of pose is this?!?

Phnom Bakheng
Phnom Bakheng in general view

The sky already darkened by the time we reached the foot of the hill. We then headed for dinner which I didn’t touch even a single dish because my fever came back! We decided to call it a day earlier as we need to conserve our energy for the next day.

I crashed out very early that night with a hope I’ll recover in time for more adventures.

Next on day 2… full day at Angkor Archaeological Park.

More photos:

Siem Reap Day 1: (Almost) sunset at Phnom Bakheng

Angkor Adventures Part 3 – The Killing Fields Memorial

Oct 14, 07 at 11:26 pm

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Click here for Part 2

The visit to The Killing Fields Memorial wasn’t included in the itinerary but since it was still early for the next destination, the guide decided to bring us there for some educational purposes. It is located at Wat Thmei, a place between Siem Reap town and Angkor Archaeological Park.

The Killing Fields were a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the Communist regime Khmer Rouge, which had ruled the country since 1975. The massacres ended in 1979, when Communist Vietnam invaded the country, which at that time was officially called Democratic Kampuchea, and toppled the Khmers. Estimates of the number of dead range from 1.7 to 2.3 million out of a population of around 7 million. [Source]

There is a commemorative stupa built and filled with skulls of the victims.

At The Killing Fields
A stupa at Wat Thmei

At The Killing Fields
Skulls and bones of the victims

John actually told us a long but informative history about this mass killings. We couldn’t help but to listen attentively to his story although we felt we were losing it somewhere during the narration.

The executed were buried in mass graves. In order to save ammunition, executions were often carried out using hammers, axe handles, spades or sharpened bamboo sticks. Some victims were required to dig their own graves; their weakness often meant that they were unable to dig very deep. The soldiers who carried out the executions were mostly young men or women from peasant families.

The Khmer Rouge regime arrested and eventually executed almost everyone suspected of connections with the former government or with foreign governments, as well as professionals and intellectuals. Ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Chams (Muslim Cambodians), Cambodian Christians, and the Buddhist monkhood were the demographic targets of persecution. [Source]

If you feel this is nothing, check out these photos which I took at the site.

At The Killing Fields
Some of the torturing methods that they used on the victims

At The Killing Fields
Victims of all ages

At The Killing Fields
These were actually dug up at the end of the Khmer Rouge regime

At The Killing Fields
The man who think killing is fun!

I saw a cruel torturing method described in words… and I was literally speechless!

At The Killing Fields
Split the chest and take the heart and liver out

It saddened me of how these people can be so inhumane and cold-blooded.

And now I understand the intention of John for bringing us to this place. I think he just want us to understand a little bit more about the modern Cambodian history.

We hang around the area to visit some Buddhist temples, or to kill time before heading to the next destination. I managed to capture some photos of the kids playing nearby the temple.

Cute Cambodian Kids
They are not shy in front of the camera!

And a monk sticking out his tongue too!

Monk Daydreaming

Nearby the memorial place, there is a school or to be precise, a language school and John did not hesitate to struck up the conversation and introduced them to us. They are really nice and speak very soft.

Friendly Cambodians
Friendly Cambodians

Before we left, we took a photo together…

Friendly Cambodians

Nice meeting you all!

Next… witnessing sunset at Phnom Bakheng

More photos:

Siem Reap Day 1: The Killing Fields Memorial