Our Perfect Gamer Holiday Guide begins in Siem Reap by visiting some of its oldest temples. Get your Uncharted backpack and some sturdy shoes, plus a camera or sketchbook as you’ll certainly want to bring some of this home with you!
Perfect Gamer Holiday Day 1: East of Angkor & Khemer Dance
Depending on the season of your visit, Cambodia can be very hot and quite dry, or very hot and quite wet. We picked “Green Season” (July) as it’s low for tourism which means cheaper rates, fewer crowds and more availability for the good guides.
First of all you’ll be needing transport to the temples. Since this is a rainy season with lots of frequent and strong showers, we set out on a vintage Jeep (no winch, Sully!).
Lolei (893 AD – Rolous Group newest)
The smallest and first temple we visited was the last one constructed for the ancient capital of “Hariharalaya“. Lolei used to be surrounded by a body of water, which made it resemble Hinduism’s “Mount Meru” in the cosmic ocean. The building king Yasovarman dedicated it to ancestors, and depict the deity Indra mounted on an elephant
The temples were constructed without any cement, and a “plaster” made of sugar, lemon, tree sap and soil was used. This became invisible after it dried out and the structure had set, so current restoration is injecting glue into the crevasses to keep with the style.
For a rather fantastic contrast, a new Buddhist monastery has recently been painted by local artists. Paintings costing 200 USD for the local donors.
Preah Ko – (879 AD – Rolous Group oldest)
Our next stop was a sandstone-built structure looking rather good for its 1200 years of age. The first temple built in “Hariharalaya” is named “The Sacred Bull” as it’s dedicated to Shiva, one of the three main gods of Hinduism. Shiva was usually depicted symbolically as a “Linga”, a phallic statue fostering fertility and prosperity.
The windows on these structures have an iconic cylindrical look, that you’ll see later on has a particular decorative purpose. They are now broken, and made my Uncharted 4 senses tingle.
Now to get a view of the entrance leading to the inner temple structure. Some interesting things to note:
- The guardians were built with single blocks of stone, carried from a local quarry 15-40km away
- That quarry was used for most of the temples of the region, and only 14% of it was exhausted
- The stone was carried by Ox cart, pulled by Elephants and floated down river.
- All the carvings were done by hand – nothing is cast
- Several different artists participated, meaning no one thing is the same as the other
There are a total of six towers on this structure, each with Lions guarding the main entrances. Lions do not exist here, and the concept and design were likely imported from China. This particular temple is rather small compared to some others, and took over five years to build. Below you can see a “blind door”, or fake door for the dead. Spirits enter from these decorated walls, and humans from the real opening. Each of these is one giant block of stone.
Angkorian Civilization is still a mystery because of a lack of historic preservation. The Khmer wrote in Palm Leaves and Sheepskins about daily affairs, and only committed to stone the most important of information. As such, modern records of life in the Angkorian Empire are largely from guesswork, word of mouth and the records of Chinese travelers.
Bakong – (881 AD – Rolous Group largest)
The last temple of the day is the most impressive, and mistakenly credited with being the first “temple mountain” (Mount Meru representation) since earlier attempts are now buried. The site features a stepped pyramid and is dedicated to Hindu god Shiva.
As you approach Bakong, you’ll be able to see an enormous man-made and hand-dug moat. This 5 year long project enabled the builders to recreate the concept of Mount Meru complete with a “Rainbow Bridge” that one may cross to travel to paradise. On the sides and corners, serpent god Naga stands guard.
The ride back took us through unpaved streets and poor agricultural villages. This peek into the everyday life of poor Cambodia will probably tug at your heartstrings, but you have chances to contribute by supporting their tourism and craftsmanship industries. You may also enjoy learning about “cricket traps” and other local tips and tricks to catch tasty beer and rice wine snacks!
Once back at the resort, we had a wonderful evening thanks to Sophea Kagna’s Traditional Khmer Dance. You can read about it in our Aman Amansaran Review.
You can also go to our other articles for this series:
- Introduction to Cambodia
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 1
Uncharted East of Angkor & Khemer Dance
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 2
The Faces of Bayon and Angkor Thom, The Great City
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 3
Angkor Wat at Sunrise, Ta Prohm Tomb Raider, and Traditional Khmer Breakfast
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 4
Lost Temples of Banteay Srei, Beng Mealea & Koh Ker
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 5
Conservation d’ Angkor, Tonle Sap Sunset Cruise
- Tour Guide to Siem Reap: Day 6
Museum, Shopping, Bargaining and a Spiritual Water Blessing