From afar, I could see high rise majestic ruin. 4 beautiful faces ‘building’ of high archway. But I never asked what’s the name – well, couldn’t do so because I walked last.
Siya and the those who walked first stopped at the side of the ‘building’ and waited for us to gather there. Seeing this, the ‘belakang’ ones quite walked there. He then explained that we were standing under the South Gate of Angkor Thom. We asked him on why the arch is built so high up. He said,
“for the elephants to walk through in the past.”
Immediately all of us went “Ohhh!”
We quickly crossed as there were cars and lorries going in and out through that entrance.
And we found overselves at causeway of a total of 108 statues on both sides.
On the left side of the gate is the statues of Devas (Guardian Gods).
While on the right is the 54 statues of Asuras, the Demon Gods.
Siya explained the 54 statues depicted the myth of the Churning of the Ocean, where the Devas were pulling the head of a Snake and the Asuras were pulling the tail of the snake in the opposite direction.
Siya did tell us the myth of the Churning of the Ocean, just that I don’t really catch what he said. Again, was busy snapping around and walking here and there. Lol. So I wikipedia-ed about it. Apparently there’s more story behind the Churning of the Ocean.
The Story of Samudra Manthan : Once Indra, the King of Devatas (guardian spirits), while riding on an elephant came across a sage named Durvasa who offered him a special garland. Indra accepted the garland but put in on the trunk of the elephant. The elephant was irritated by the smell and it threw the garland on the floor. This enraged the sage as the garland was a dwelling of Sri (fortune) and was to be treated as prasada. Durvasa Muni cursed Indra and all devas to be bereft of all strength, energy, and fortune.
In battles that followed this incident, Devas were defeated and Asuras (demons) led by Mahabali, gained control of the universe. Devas sought help from Lord Vishnu who advised them to treat asuras in a diplomatic manner. Devas formed an alliance with asuras to jointly churn the ocean for the nectar of immortality and to share it among them. However, Lord Vishnu told Devas that he would arrange that they alone obtain the nectar.
The churning of the Ocean of Milk : Mount Mandaranchal was used as the dasher (churning tool), and Vasuki, the king of serpents, became the churning rope. The gods held the tail of the snake, while the demons (Asuras) held its head, and they pulled on it alternately causing the mountain to rotate, which in turn churned the ocean. However, once the mountain was placed on the ocean, it began to sink. Vishnu in his second incarnation, in the form of a turtle Kurma, came to their rescue and supported the mountain on his back.
Note that the Mahabharata version of the story differs in many respects from the one in the various Puranas such as Bhagawat, Brahma-vaivarta, and Agni. For example, in Mahabharata, it was not Vishnu who took the Kurma avatara, but the Akupara, the king of tortoises, who did it on request from Devas and Asuras.
Interesting story. And I feel of going to Angkor again to see the statues and bas relief after knowing all the stories.
From the South Gate, we proceed to Phnom Bakheng. But we stopped for toilet break on the way there. Haha.
After relieving ourselves, we walked to the ‘base’ of the hill where Phnom Bakheng is sits on top. Apparently Phnom means Hill. So Phnom Penh means Hill Penh?
As we were walking there, we were surprised by loud thuds coming from our right.
It was an elephant!
Luckily we froze in time. Or else accident involving human and elephant would happen. Lol!
We then began our hike up to the top. It wasn’t that steep, just easy brisk walk. But we walked quite fast – afraid that the sun might set by the time we got up there.
After like half an hour hike (I think so la, can’t recall d), we reached Phnom Bakheng!
Well, didn’t really reach yet – as we need to climb up the steep stairs to get to the top. Before climbing the very the steep stairs, I saw alot of people offering prayers to a statue of ox. I never know why is that so, I couldn’t ask Siya on this as he’s no where to be seen at that moment. So, I assumed it’s because this year is the year of ox. Lol!
Uncle Google told me that the ox statue is Shiva’s guardian. It’s not surprising to see a Nandi statue there then, as Phnom Bakheng is dedicated to Shiva.
We got up the very high and steep stairs that required us to ‘climb’ up using our limbs. And in front of me and Sat, there were this girl in a SHORT DRESS!
You see, short dress and very steep and high stairs are not the right combination. The girl was practically holding the lower end of the dress to avoid being ‘exposed’ while climbing up the stairs. And the boyfriend constantly placing his hand on her butt, sort of protecting the gf’s dress from flying up due to strong wind.
And they took forever to climb up.
Seeing that, Sat and me decided to wait for awhile. I wouldn’t want to see the girl’s undees, nor wanting Sat to have ‘eye candy’ there, so yeah, we sort of waited down there. However other people just climbed up behind them, sort of glance up – intentionally or not, that I didn’t know. Lol. But I think the bf realised that, as he walked behind the gf instead of beside her halfway up the stairs.
We met up with the rest after finally got upself at the top level. They gotten themselves a nice spot, which was too ’sunny’ for me. Moreover, it seemed like there wasn’t enough room for us. So we walked around the temple. The view from Phnom Bakheng is stunning! We could see Angkor Wat from afar, could even spot the Siem Reap city too. Didn’t know why I didn’t take any pictures of the view. Hmm.
Done rounding the area, we managed to find strategic spot to photograph the sunset. If you didn’t know, we were the for the sunset viewing as Phnom Bakheng is claimed to be the best place to see the sunset.
I snapped pictures while paktoring with Sat. It’s a very nice moment to paktor what – holding the hands of the person you like while seeing the sun goes down, ahh.. heaven! XD
Once the sun set, we quickly packed our things and left the place. I took one shot of the area and climbed down. The climbing down process wasn’t easy at all – but Aaron made it very easy! He went down damn fast! @.@
As you can see in the next picture, the reason why everyone left quickly is because the sky got dark very quickly.
I turned back, took a glance, took a last shot of the temple. It was getting dark and I wondered why some people hasn’t leave the temple yet.
We joined the crowd, walking through the ‘jungle’ to get to the foothill. It got dark very fast, therefore quickly took out my torchlight to look out for rocks/holes/exposed roots on the trail. I can still remember the journey down the hill, it was very scary (to me) and I held Sat’s hand all the way.
Our van picked us up at the road near the Phnom Bakheng foothill’s base. We headed back to our lodge, feeling very tired and hungry. That’s why the first time we did after we got down from the van was to look for food.
Well, we didn’t look very far. We walked to one of the restaurant near our lodge and ordered the food there. It wasn’t easy speaking to the lady, but we managed to order something edible with the help of the menu. Haha.
After dinner, we walked back to our room and rest early for next day’s activities. Stay tune for Day 4 in Cambodia.