Archive for the ‘Cambodia’ Category


Sisophon Market

Copyright Praveen Chamarthi

See more photos here


Angkor Wat

No matter how many times I see this it doesn’t cease to mesmerize me..Angkor Wat

Image Copyright © Praveen Chamarthi

Siem Reap to Poipet

18th Sep 2006

I hired a taxi early morning and we left Siem Reap at 5:30am, to gain time and speed before the traffic increases, sun gets hot and the weather really humid. This time the ride to Poipet costs only 30USD as opposed to 50USD to Siem Reap. Strange!! but later I figured out that when you leave to Siem Reap there is a certain amount of fare paid to the taxi association by the drivers thus the high prices.

I was lost in my thoughts and memories that Cambodia had offered me in mere three days. The temples, ardous designs, ornate carvings on the bas-reliefs the long causeways and lotus bud like stupas, smiling colossal faces, the “3 for 1 dollar” kids the smiling women at the shops, delicious Khmer food and of course the Angkor beer. Thinking about it the pride of Cambodia: Angkor Wat was, every where, on their flag, their money, their clothes and infact on the beer too. By the way I recommend the light Angkor beer which is usually served at a discount price (50 cents a can) after the sun goes down.

During my stay in Siem Reap I did the best that I could to eat from the locals, drink the local and stay at the locals (even smoke the local cigarettes: PALLMALL). This way I felt I did my little part to support the Cambodians.

The taxi dropped me off at the border at 9AM. I paid off the taxi driver and walked across the bridge toward Thai immigration. It was quick and in no time I was again in Thailand, what a contrast. I relaxed a while and had breakfast at a quite restaurant with wooden tables and chairs which served very good Khao Phat (fried rice). This is Aranyaprathet

I took the 11Am bus to Bangkok and reached Bangkok at 3:30pm.

Exploring Bangkok would start from tommorow 19th Sep 2006.

Bantaey Srei, Bantaey Samre, Sra Srang, Bantaey Kdei and Ta Prohm

17th Sep 2006

I woke up at 5am this morning to catch the sunrise once again at Angkor Wat. Saphol (my tuk-tuk driver was already waiting there) since today will be a different route altogether he asked a new price. I bargained finally for 15USD for the whole day.

After a long, peaceful and quite drive passing through the lush green, unexplored landscape we reached Bantaey SreiThe Citadel of Women“. The temple is considered to be the pinnacle of Khmer art. Otherwise referred as “The jewel of Khmer art“.

This monument is dedicated to the God ‘Tribhuvanamaheshvara‘. These walls exhibit themes of Shiva (Ravana trying to disrupt the meditation of Shiva enthroned on Mount Kailash, by shaking the mountain; Kama attempting to disturpt his medidation by means of seduction). Other themes of Vishnu such as ‘The Rain of Indra‘ and ‘The Killing of Kamsa‘ are a few themes that can be viewed on these walls .

Bantaey Srei

It is said that the art on this temples walls must have been carved by some skillfull women as the intricate carvings and the 3 dimensional art wouldn’t have been possible by the hands of a man. Bantaey Srei though very small in size is considered the most beautiful of all. The ornatley carved stones on the pink hue stone is a wonder to watch.

Carvings, Bantaey Srei

Carvings, Bantaey Srei

Our next stop was Bantaey Samre
built by Suryavarman II in the middle of the 12th century has bas-reliefs depeciting the legends of Vishnu

Bantaey Samre

and then to the famous Sra Srang (the wide pleasure pool) used for ceremonies and royal bathing, faces Bantaey Kdei .It is said that “Elephant bathing was not allowed” was inscribed on the walls of this pool.

Sra Srang

As I was walking up to the view point I was swarmed by kids trying to sell me bracelets and metal buddhas I looked around to find that there were more stalls trying to sell clothes, linen, T-Shirts, Cool drinks, Coconut water, beer. I heard screaming voices “ you want something cold to look tiiered”. “Sir would you like to buy a T-shirt..very cheap 1 for 3 dollar..I give you best price sir” having experienced all these in the last two days…I ignored those calls..noticing that the girls started again “Sir..I remember remember me OK? When you come back you buy from me OK..otherwise you make me cry”

I burst into laughter and so did all the tourists around who are being subjected to this. Honestly, it could be annoying for most tourists if they are not used to this selling, tailing you back until you buy..but for me it was a very pleseant experience as I had humour filled in me all the fact I think it is the golden rule if you wish to make your travel memorable. Be ready to get conned, ripped off, buying fake stuff etc c’mon this happens to innocent tourists in your home country careful but don’t snap back at them or get angry..ignore if it annoys you..but if you have to confront be polite..say “No, thank you” and add a smile if you can.

The Sra Srang lakes faces opposite Bantaey Kdei The Citadel of Cells“. Banteay Kdei was built as a Buddhist complex by Jayavarman II. It is said that the existing condition of this monument is due to hasty construction which was carried out during that period.

Bantaey Kdei

Ta Prohm is stones throw away from Bantaey Kdei .

Ta Prohm means “Great City“. It is said that Jayavarman VII, has dedicated this temple to his mother. A classic example of nature against man. One witnesses here the conflict between nature and stone: The stone trying to withstand and the vegetation growing tall over the monuments

see for yourself.

Ta Phrom

massive roots embracing the walls..these trees must’ve been growing on the top of these temples for atleast 200 to 300 years may be older.

Ta Phrom, Entrance

unfortunately a few years ago, part of a gallery inside this monument was damaged due to lighting which brought a massive tree down.

Bayon, Angkor Thom: Cambodia

16th Sep 2006 (Part 2)

After grabbing a quick bite, stir fried chicken on fried noodles (for a discount price) and some iced tea I headed towards Bayon.

As I walked towards Bayon I felt like as if I was part of an “Indiana Jones” movie.
Bayon is a class apart unlike other temples of Angkor, Bayon is rich with its depictions on the bas-reliefs surrounding it.

As I walked in I was stared by numerous huge colossal smiling faces.

Bayon Faces

These faces represent Lokeshvara, who projects Buddha consciousness.

The structure of Bayon represents a microcosm of the mythological cosmos.


Originally, there were forty-nine towers but now only thirty five stood the test of time.
It is said that Bayon has gone through lot of remodeling and restructuring as it faced kings of different generations. The now standing faces, they say, represent the King Jayavarman VII, the king becomes the god thus expanding his power throughout the universe.

Bayon, enjoys the reputation of holding the best of Khmer art, on its bas-reliefs.

I shot pictures for all possible angles walking around the Bayon, I still couldn’t get enough of it.

Hastily driving away I headed over to my next stop: Phnom Bakeng, the sunset point.

The tuk-tuk driver left me at the base of this little hill and after a steep walk-through on a muddy track for 15 minutes I reached this structure which invited me again with its steep staircase. By this time I was sweating profusely due to the humidity in the air and the steep walk up. I gathered some more strength and climbed the steps to find some hundred tourists waiting for the sun to set. I looked around to find the best spot. I was hoping to see Angkor Wat and other temples from the birds-eye view but it was quite disappointing I could see Angkor but not completely. I tried a few stunts by climbing up the rocks to get the best view but my efforts went in vain. Anyway, I shot a couple of pictures of whatever it was just for the record’s sake and then I walked back to my tuk-tuk driver.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

16 Sep 2006: Part 1 (Angkor Wat)

I couldn’t catch the sunrise but I was there luckily when all the tourist hoard was away.I hired a tuk-tuk for 7 USD (whole day) that would take me to Angkor Wat, Bayon, Baphoun, Prae Khan and Phnom Bakeng (Tourist spot: Sunset view point).

The Tuk-tuk dropped me off at Angkor at 9AM after collecting my three day pass, to visit all the temples of Angkor, for 40USD. The weather was pleasant and would get hotter as the sun goes high. The sight was breath taking. A huge moat surrounds Angkor wat and a bridge connects the gopura at the entrance to the causeway.

Causeway at Angkor Wat

The causeway could be approx. a kilometre. The stones that make the causeway are worn out. Taking millions of tourists now and thousands and monks and visitors in the past the stones show their age by the smoothness on them.  As I walked on it Water reservoirs in front of the structure are filled with lotuses and provides a perfect and a complete reflection of Angkor wat.

Angkor Reflection

Lotus bud like stupas rising high pointing towards the sky. Four stupas surrounding a huge one in the center. Apparently, these were built according to the Hindu cosmology.

Entrance Angkor Wat

Steep stairways (steep as 75deg) providing access to the hallways and to the prayer rooms. A step inside these temples takes your imagination back a couple of thousand years. The archaeologists have dated this structure to belong to the 10 century, 967 A.D but are now reconsidering the date as they suspect that it could be older because the architecture of the 10th century some how doesn’t match with that of Angkor’s. I spotted some monks climbing the steep stairways effortlessly by using their hands, it seemed to me like as if they were rock-climbing minus the gear. I later found that it really reduces the effort if one walks up by using the hands on the next step as support. Really fascinating. The most fascinating of all are the carvings on the walls they are so ornately carved that some are almost three dimensional. So much detail went into it. What still fascinated me was how it stood strong against time, ageing gracefully and exhibiting more beauty as it grew old. How did this structure make it through rain, storm and other calamities that nature brings? I read somewhere that there were no earthquakes registered in Cambodia till date.

I wondered why would someone build something like that? Why were the stairs so steep? Why were they built so high above the ground level, so high that once you climb to any one of the stupas you could almost see the flat landscape for miles and miles. Was it to keep an eye to the approaching enemies? How the hell did they build those high rise structures? How did the stone reach so high? Did they use pulley’s? or was it just manpower? Many questions lingered in my head.

Stone, stone and stone everywhere. Chocolate chip colored. Algae and fungi found their homes on the moist corners of the walls.

The clock was now showing 11:45am. Wow! time just flies by. Apparently the busiest time at Angkor is at sunrise and at 3pm onwards, guess I have missed all the tourist hoards.

I have shot many pictures at Angkor wat but I don’t think any lens could capture the complete beauty of Angkor wat.

Angkor Sunrise

Moat surrounding Angkor Wat

I got back to the tuk-tuk where my friendly driver waited for me to take to the next wonder that Cambodia has to offer the Bayon..

Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia

15th Sep 2006

I overslept for two hours and got out of bed at 5:30am (I planned to be at the bus terminal by 5:30am) and reached Mohr Chit-Mai a.k.a Northern Bus Terminal at 6:15am.

Quickly purchased a ticket to Aranyaprathet (border town of Thailand) for 207 bhat. The ride was smooth the roads fabulous. The bus reached Aranyaprathet at 11:20am. I quickly hopped on to a tuk-tuk and asked him to take me to the border which was around 6km from the bus terminal. After sending off to tuk-tuk driver I walked towards the sign which said immigration and departure. I was already feeling the change in the air as soon as I took the turn I was approached by a few kids asking for a dollar, I was happy that I finally made it.

Immigration was a breeze through I stood in the line which said foriegn passport (they had separate line for the thais) at my turn I was told to take the re-entry VISA as I would be returning back to Thailand. I was little worried about the cost: 1000 bhat (again!!), as this was not planned for (the re-entry VISA). Anyways after getting my re-entry VISA stamped from the clumsy thai employee at the immigration (he stamped the date wrong on my passport and then re did it after some striking with his red pen..eeks i hate mistakes in my passport). Leaving my 1000 bhat and worries behind I crossed the friendship bridge and the border to Poipet, Cambodia. Poipet is a seedy place with lots of casinos and gambling centers as it is illegal to gamble in thailand people cross over to this side over the weekend to gamble.

This is how the border looks like

Thai-Cambodia Border

It was totally a different landscape just a few hundred meters away(thai side) was clean and quiet and now I saw touts, beggars, labourers, visiting thais and khmers (cambodians) crossing border to shop at the friendship market. I saw the cambodian flag with a picture of angkor wat on it flying high a smile ran through my face …it felt good.

I walked right into the VISA counter to get my VISA on arrival it was a breeze through. I guess every foreigner, no matter how well read or cautious about cambodia, they get scammed into this and so did I. Well, it was plain and simple the VISA costs around 20USD i.e. 800 bhat but they charge you 1000 bhat i.e. 25USD you can’t do much about this. After having my VISA stamped I hopped on to the free shuttle which dropped me off at the immigration. I filled in the arrival card and a few minutes later I was out of the line. I guess not many Indians travel to Cambodia cause I was stared at all the time.

Did I mention that there was this tout who was following me right from the thai border asking me if I wanted a taxi to siem reap? Well, I was ignoring him as I knew that this is all a scam I would be lured into taking one of those taxis ridiculously priced and I would be dropped off at some guest with which they have a deal with. Anyways after ignoring him for a long time he was kinda pissed off/angry with me as I was not responding to him the way he expected. For instance I told him that I would be “taking a walk around poipet and then decide where to go”, which is highly unlikely that a tourist does it and they know why everyone comes to cambodia.

I got into the free bus shuttle service which drove through the mucky streets and dropped me off at the bus/taxi station. The time now read 12:40noon. I decided earlier that I would not be taking the bus. I looked around to see if anyone would be interested to share the cab to siem reap the town closest to Angkor Wat.

I met a friendly american who was waiting for the bus to arrive since 10:00 am she quickly agreed and we decided to hire the cab for 2000 bhat i.e. 50USD. It was a Toyota Camry. I hought “must be the japanese contribution”. The tarmac on the road faded quickly than I realized. We set our journey on the bumpy road for the next 4 hours.

Cambodian Landscape

The camry was hitting speeds of 90-100kms inspite of the potholes every 2meters. The cab driver (Nianmai) was very kind enough to gives us enough stops(Sisophon Market and Karhlan) before our asses got numb from the ride.

Sisophon Market

He took us to the “Killing Fields” in siem reap before dropping us off.

A little bit about killing fields

On April 17th, 1975 the Khmer Rouge, a communist guerrilla group led by Pol Pot, took power in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. They forced all city dwellers into the countryside and to labor camps. During their rule, it is estimated that 2 million Cambodians died by starvation, torture or execution. 2 million Cambodians represented approximately 30% of the Cambodian population during that time.

The Khmer Rouge turned Cambodia to year zero. They banned all institutions, including stores, banks, hospitals, schools, religion, and the family. Everyone was forced to work 12 – 14 hours a day, every day. Children were separated from their parents to work in mobile groups or as soldiers. People were fed one watery bowl of soup with a few grains of rice thrown in. Babies, children, adults and the elderly were killed everywhere. The Khmer Rouge killed people if they didn’t like them, if didn’t work hard enough, if they were educated, if they came from different ethnic groups, or if they showed sympathy when their family members were taken away to be killed. All were killed without reason. Everyone had to pledge total allegiance to Angka, the Khmer Rouge government. It was a campaign based on instilling constant fear and keeping their victims off balance.

Killing Fields, Siem Reap

We finally reached siem reap at 6:00pm I checked into Chao Say guest house, which was recommended by one of the tourists, for 7 USD a night, with fan and hot shower and no windows.

A quick shower and I was out to find some place to eat..something authentic..something khmer. I chose a quite restaurant which served “Angkor beer” for 50 cents. The most delicious dish of all was the “Fish Amok” (I highly recommend this) served in a coconut shell. Prawn pastis were ok. I thought of the french and their infleunce on the Khmers.

I crashed into my bed hoping for an early start to catch the dawn….

Bon Voyage

Tonite I embark on a journey to experience the wonders of the far-east.
To visit the most rarest sight on planet earth, an architectural marvel, a lost civilization and a mystery that surrounds these temples “the holy city which is a temple”: Angkor wat

I plan to post everyday my experiences during this journey.
So here is my plan

Day 1  14 Sep 2006

I fly tommorow morning 3:35hrs to Singapore and then to Bangkok 13:35hrs
Out of the airport by 15:30hrs (depends on how long the VISA takes)
Check into a hotel and roam around the city for a bit.

Day 2  15 Sep 2006
Leave to Morchit bus terminal to catch a bus to Aranyaprathet (border to cambodia) and reach Siem Reap
by 16:00 hrs Check into a guest-house or a budget hotel. Visit night market rest early.

Day 3  16 Sep 2006
Leave guest house around 4:00 hrs to catch the first rays of sun hitting the Angkor Wat temples then spend the whole day visiting the temples (I heard one can do max 3 per day)
Angkor Wat
Angkor Thom

Day 4  17 Sep 2006
More temples
Preah Khan

Ta Prohm
Pre Rup
Ta Som

Day 5  18 Sep 2006
and more..
Neak Pean
Banteay Srei
Banteay Samre

Day 6  19 Sep 2006
Early morning leave Siem Reap to Bangkok reach Bangkok by evening rest or leave the same day to Pattaya/Phuket

Day 7  20 Sep 2006
Pattaya/Phuket (actually havent decided which one)

Day 8  21 Sep 2006
Beaches, Coral Islands of Pattaya/Phuket (actually havent decided which one) Leave to Bangkok

Day 9  22 Sep 2006
Visit the Ratchaburi Floating Market, Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Cruise in the Chaopraya river
City night tour

Day 10 23 Sep 2006
Visit MBK Shop for some goodies souvenirs leave to COLOMBO

Day 11  24 Sep 2006
Sight Seeing in Colombo (luckily I dont need a VISA for srilanka)
Flight leaves 18:00hrs to Bangalore

Day 12  25 Sep 2006
Back to the rat race
but I will have some more cherishable memories for a life time..hopefully

Cheers my friends stay linked to know more about Thailand and Cambodia

This how Angkor looks from the eyes of s_st’s


and through arjuns eyes

Angkor Sunrise

and through shapeshift eyes

Angkor Thom