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Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat – the crown jewel of Cambodia, built by the Khmer king Suryavarman II in the twelfth century was rediscovered by a French scholar in the nineteenth century and has captivated scholars and travelers all over the world. I got a chance to visit the temple known to be the largest religious monument in the world this year.

We started our day at 5 am because we wanted to enjoy sunrise at this beautiful monument. Tip: No matter how early you go, you won’t be able to beat the crowds. However, entering through the gates of Angkor Wat, walking towards the sunrise spot and finding a place to take pictures while it was still dark was an experience in itself. There are lots of blogs on whether sunrise at Angkor Wat is magical or overhyped. My opinion – it’s overrated. My experience would probably have been different if the crowd was not so overwhelming. But I still recommend going for it because it’s a beautiful sight and it will give you an excuse to start your day early ūüôā

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The sun rising over Angkor Wat
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The sun still rising over Angkor Wat
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Difficult to avoid the crowds

It is hard not to admire this magnificent temple for its scale.

 

Angkor Wat is meant to be a replica of the Hindu universe with the towers representing Mount Meru. It was eventually converted to a Buddhist temple but it’s easy to spot Hindu symbols everywhere.

It is hard to find a spot in the temple without intricate carvings The outer gallery is known to have the largest stretch of carvings anywhere.

Visiting this iconic temple and getting to learn about the magnificent Khmer empire was truly a memorable experience.

 

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The Bayon – Siem Reap, Cambodia

We spent three days in Siem Reap in January 2017. My next few posts will be about the temples there. But I’ll start with my favorite temple in the Angkor area -The Bayon.

Like most tourists, I went to Siem Reap mainly for the Angkor Wat. I didn’t do a lot of research about the other temples in the area but I knew I would like the ‘temple with the faces’. However, I had not expected it to be so spectacular. We entered through the South gate and were immediately mesmerized by the smiling faces and the figures of devas (gods) and asuras (demons) depicting the¬†churning of the ocean milk¬†on the two sides of the gate.

I learnt that this temple was built under king Jayavarman VII and is considered to be the only temple in Angkor that was a Mahayana Buddhist shrine. The temple was built in the late twelfth or early thirteenth century.  It was a hot and humid day but the beautiful galleries of this place make you forget about everything else!

I tried to take pictures of the smiling faces and different galleries, but I firmly believe that photos can’t do justice to this architectural wonder. I had assumed that the calm, serene faces are of Buddha but later found out that some scholars have concluded that the faces are those of the king himself! Khmer kings used to consider themselves ‘God-Kings’!

 

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Phuket and Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

We had two days in Phuket. We spent the fist day at Patong beach (visit this beach for its lively environment and warm water). Bangla Road nearby is well known for its nightlife.

The next day, we took a speed boat to Phi Phi islands. We booked our tour with one of the local vendors in Phuket. Our stops included Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi leh and Khai Island. Needless to say that the boat ride and time spent at Maya Bay provided some stunning views.

 

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Bangkok city

Bangkok’s chaotic life, crazy traffic and intense heat may not come across as appealing to everyone¬†but don’t miss it if you like urban tourism! I spent two days in Bangkok – trying street food in Chinatown, walking around markets, taking the boat ride¬†and generally absorbing the sights and the smells of this colorful city. I fell in love with Bangkok!

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Bangkok – Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun)

This beautiful temple is on the west side of Chao Phraya river. We took the Chao Phraya tourist boat and got down at the stop for Wat Arun. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the view we were hoping for because of renovation work. However, it is a very beautiful place and we enjoyed some quiet, peaceful time there.

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Bangkok – Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho)

Wat Pho is one of the most visited sites in Bangkok. Apart from the 46 m long reclining Buddha, this royal temple is also popular as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage and is considered to be the earliest centre for public education in Thailand. Wat Pho is also known for its large collection of Buddha images.

 

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Bangkok – Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kew

Grand palace, the former home of the Thai king is now an important administrative centre that hosts many royal ceremonies. Wat Phra Kew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) is also situated in the same complex. It is considered to be the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand.