Things to do in Cambodia in a day

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When did the mystery of Angkor Wat temples begin to uncover?  Was it when in 1586, Antonio da Madalena visited this “such extraordinary construction” which he can’t help but admitted that “it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world”? According to the Portuguese monk,   Angkor Wat “has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of.”

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Or when it was popularized in the Western world by French naturalist and explorer, Henri Mouhot in the mid-19th century when he wrote in his travel notes: “One of these temples—a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo, —might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.”?

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We are uncertain. But whatever period it was when this powerful symbol of Cambodia became a mystery; one thing is for sure, that it has always been a mystery. Lying 5.5 kilometres (3.4 mi) north of the modern town of Siem Reap, exploring the most eminent temples of the 1992 UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE such as Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Phrom, and Angkor Thom is probable with a one-day pass for only 20 USD.  You may exclude the outer temples but these 4 main ones are a must.

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I was puzzled when the receptionist at the counter asked me if I’m half-Cambodian. Should I have confirmed yes, I would had free passage to the Angkorian temples.

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Angkor Wat, means “City of Temples” in Khmer. Measuring 162.6 hectares (1,626,000 sq meters), Angkor Wat is the largest religious site in the world. This best-preserved temple was built by the Khmer King, Suryavarman in the early 12th century as a state Hindu temple which gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple at the end of the said century and still is until present time.

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AngKor  wat temple is one example of a high classical Khmer architecture style with two-basic plans: the temple-mountain and the galleried temple. According to scholars, it is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in the Hindu mythology. This representation is further detailed with the countless symbols of devatas which look like wall ornaments and its extensive bas-reliefs.

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The grandeur of the temple is undeniable that Cambodians are tremendously proud of it that it is embossed in their national flag.

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Described as “the most striking expression of the baroque style” of the Khmer architecture. Bayon is the last state temple built for  the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII.

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The Bayon’ s most distinguished feature is the throng of amused  stone faces.  It stands at the centre of Jayavarman’s capital, Angkor Thom. Like Angkor Wat, Bayon was altered from a Hindu to a Buddhist temple.According to scholars, the 216 similar oversize faces on the towers represent the face of King Jayavarman VII himself who think of himself as a “devaraja” (god-king). Some galleries feature a series of bas-reliefs.

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A western visitor once described Angkor Thom “as fantastic as the Atlantis of Plato”. It was loyally constructed in the Bayon style noted by the many face-towers placed at each of the entrances. Similar to most Angkor ruins, it displays various bas-reliefs with figures that resemble like mythological characters.

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According to pioneering Angkor scholar 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”.

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I believe that the world began to notice this unusual find in the remote jungle when hollywood film Tomb Raider used it as one of its primary locations. The battling scene between the heavy, stoic, centuries-old tree, standing firm and coiling its roots around the equally enduring Angkorian architecture provokes a mysterious tale that no one could unveil.

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The spunning of the tree on the temples only proves that Ta Phrom was abandoned for a long time. It is the most distinct Angkorian temples, not because it wears a different structural style. In fact, it has the common flat Khmer temple characteristic, adopting the Bayon styles which was built in 12 th century.

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Once called as Rajavihara,Ta Phrom was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1992 by UNESCO. It is the grabbing-attention tree that makes it stand out from the rest and is one of the most visited sites in Cambodia.

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So if you’ll just have one free day to dedicate a tour on the Angkorian complex, better check first these 4 best and most visited temples in Cambodia. The tuk tuk driver who guided my itchy feet around the immense Cambodian empire also recommended these big 4.

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Angkorian temples tour

It is simple to find a tuk tuk driver, who likes the rest of them,would patiently wait early morning in front of the inn I stayed because this affordable accommodation is a backpackers spot for Angkor visit. For just 15 USD, he agreed to drive me around the major temples in one day.

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Where I stay

I have nothing unpleasant to say about this Mandalay inn, now Mingalar inn  (Burmese name for  hello) where I spent the night for 500 Php or 10 USD only. It has wi-fi and comfortable bed. I liked its French-styled house adorned with cozy furniture, mostly made of dark woods with a wood-carved figure of Buddha in the living room.

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The only thing I noticed is that the water was a bit rusty and smelled like a dry land. Other than that I had a great vacation in Siem Reap and was ready to continue the Indochina tour to Vietnam.

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Food & Currency

Cambodian currency is called riel. One riel is equivalent to 0.11 PhP or that’s 0.00024 USD. When I exchanged 15,000 php , I was a millionaire for a day with ,1318,750.47 riel after the exchange. And food in Cambodia is as cheap as 1 USD per meal.

Related article: Foods to try in Cambodia

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Cambodia,has a fair share of violent history. But behind its dark clouds of tragic past, there once shone a kingdom as splendid as Atlantis. Present Cambodia is gradually moving forward to bring back the glory it once achieved.

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Anna La Viajera
Anna is a travel buff, logophile, choreophile, an adventurous foodie & glossophilia.She loves writing, dancing, traveling & learning languages. She speaks more than 5 languages and have been to more than 20 countries so far. In her leisure time, she loves to listen to music, dance & try cooking.

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