Our second day in Cambodia could be summed up in three E’s: exhausting, educational, and exciting. We basically spent this day hopping from one temple to another. It’s a good thing we got some good sleep at the Moon Boutique Hotel the night before, or else we wouldn’t have had the energy for the following day.
We hired a tour guide named Samreth Kao (who goes by “Sam” for short) and a van driver, Sary Nem. I usually just go on tours on my own, but when paying a visit to the temples of Siem Reap, it is recommended to go with an experienced tour guide who has a deep knowledge of Cambodia’s history, culture, and civilization because the temples are truly replete with so much accounts, and a well-versed guide will help you appreciate everything more and understand the context of every single detail. Sam was not only erudite, but he was a fascinating storyteller as well, leaving me and my friends more in awe of each temple we visited. I will write a separate post about him later.
First things first: before visiting any temple in Siem Reap, we had to get a temple pass like the one below:
For USD 40, we could get in all the temples we wanted to visit until the expiration date. No need to bring a photo for the temple pass because someone will take your photo.
The first temple we visited was called Prasat Pre Rup. Prasat is a Cambodian term for ‘palace,’ ‘temple,’ or ‘tower.’ Pre Rup, meanwhile, is a term referring to a method of cremation wherein the outline of the deceased is traced using its ashes, and then turning it the other way around. Cambodians believed that funerals were conducted at the temple, though the reason for this is still unknown. This temple, according to accounts in history (and our tour guide Sam), was built for the Hindu god Shiva by Rajendravarman II. (I had to Google that name again just to make sure I spelled it right! Haha!)
The massive Pre Rup temple is made of five towers, and each tower is definitely worth checking out. It is made of brick, laterite, and sandstone, hence, its warm and lucid reddish hue. The beauty of Pre Rup is best seen either early in the morning or at sunset, where its color really stands out. That’s why we set out so early — to see Pre Rup when it is at its most beautiful.
|My friend Chin doing “the fashion blogger pose” at the entrance of Pre Rup.|
|Every single angle of this temple is astounding.|
|In the olden times, Cambodians did not use cement to build temples. They shaped each and every brick or stone so it would clasp against the other bricks and stones. I was lucky this structure didn’t collapse on me!|
For those who are afraid of heights, climbing the steps of Pre Rup might prove to be a challenge, but a challenge worth grabbing by the balls. The steps are definitely steep, and there are no handrails to hold on to, so my friends and I really took our sweet time going up and down because we couldn’t afford to miss a step. On our way down, we even had to descend while sitting! (Not one of our proudest moments!) After that, we saw a grandpa who just breezed his way through the staircase, and we felt ashamed of ourselves. How on earth can grandpa make it look so easy?! But the climb was really worth it because while the lower tiers of the temple was already majestic enough, it was even more mind-blowing at the top.
|Trying to look cool but the truth is, our hearts were pounding and our knees were shaking.|
When I reached the top, sat in between the two marble lion guards, and looked down on the world below me, it was really exhilarating! The pinnacle of Pre Rup offered a panoramic view of the countryside around it.
|Sitting at the peak of Pre Rup. I almost wet my shorts when I looked down below, but damn! It was an amazing experience!|
|Don’t look down! (But then I couldn’t help it).|
|My brave friends, trying not to fall|
|The dilemma: how to descend these steps in one piece|
We found this small Buddhist shrine at the crest of the tower. Unfortunately, it was off limits so we weren’t able to go closer.
|This was the closest I can get to the shrine|
|Stone carving on one of the towers|
|I forgot what Sam said about this but I think this was a tombstone of some sort. Pretty creepy!|
|Guardian lions at the top of the temple|
Not bad for our first temple stop! It’s smaller than most of the temples we went to, but it was just as impressive. This is one of Angkor’s treasures that is definitely worth visiting!