2004 - Backpacking to Cambodia

Backpacking Adventure
12 days through Thailand & Cambodia
16 Dec to 27 Dec 2004

Enormous trees and monstrous roots embracing the ruins of Preah Khan, Siem Reap

The route
Ipoh > Butterworth > Bangkok > Aranyaprathet (Thailand) >
Poipet (Cambodia) > Siem Reap (& Angkor Wat) > Phnom Penh >
Battambang > Poipet > Aranyaprathet > Bangkok > Hadyai > Butterworth

Day 01 (16.12.04) Ipoh > Butterworth > Bangkok
Day 02 (17.12.04) Khao San Road, Bangkok
Day 03 (18.12.04) Khao San Road, Bangkok
Day 04 (19.12.04) Bangkok > Aranyaprathet > Poipet > Siem Reap
Day 05 (20.12.04) Siem Reap (Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom)
Day 06 (21.12.04) Grant Tour of Angkor Complex
Day 07 (22.12.04) Siem Reap > Phnom Penh by boat through Tonle Sap
Day 08 (23.12.04) Phnom Penh exploring Southern city
Day 09 (24.12.04) Phnom Penh exploring Eastern and Northern city
Day 10 (25.12.04) Phnom Penh > Battambang
Day 11 (26.12.04) Battambang > Poipet > Aranyaprathet > Bangkok
Day 12 (27.12.04) Bangkok > Hadyai > Butterworth > Ipoh

Day 01 (16.12.04) Ipoh > Butterworth > Bangkok

I left Ipoh by the 9.30am bus on Dec.16 and arrived at Butterworth by 12.30pm. Here I met Mr. Yeap who passed me the Lonely Planet guide book for my reference and we had lunch together at the bus station. I took the 2.20pm train for Bangkok. This was the trip that I have to travel alone and had to lie to my wife that I am going with Mr. Yeap.

Bus fare RM10-00. Overnight train is RM95 .

At Khao San Road, Bangkok

Day 02 (17.12.04) Bangkok, Khao San Road

11.30am arrived at Bangkok Hua Lampong railway station. Took a tuk-tuk (B100) to Khao San Road and stayed at Hello Guest House for B150 a night. This area is a backpackers’ paradise and it looks like Pattaya City, by day and night. It is a heaven for cheap accommodation. I explored the Khaosan Road area and walked to Wat Maha That passing by the National Theatre, National Museum, National Gallery, Thammasat University & Silpakorn University. I then took a boat across the Chao Phraya River visiting Wat Rakang Kositaram, Siriraj Hospital and Bangkok Noi Railway Station. 
Sleeping: Hello Guest House for B150 per day.
Khao San Road, Bangkok

I took this boat across the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok

Praying for their sick family to get well at the front side of Siriraj Hospital, Bangkok

Khao San Road by night, Bangkok

Free drinks at Arise Pub, Bangkok

Pretty bar-girls at your service

Hairdo in the middle of Khao San Road, Bangkok

Day 03 (18.12.04) Bangkok, Khao San Road
Morning walked to the following areas:-
The Democracy Monument, Bangkok

King Rama III statue, Bangkok

Phrakan Fortress, Bangkok

King Prajadhipok Museum, Bangkok

One of the many water canals in Bangkok

The Golden Mountain Temple, Bangkok

Wat Ratchanaddaram, Bangkok

The Bangkok City Hall, Bangkok

The Giant Swing, Bangkok

Wat Suthat, Bangkok

Buddha images at Wat Suthat, Bangkok

King Rama 1 statue, Bangkok

Wat Pho, Bangkok

The Military Office, Bangkok

Afternoon walked to the following areas:-
S. Vorapin Boxing Gym, Bangkok

The National Gallery, Bangkok

The National Gallery, Bangkok

The Grand Palace - Emerald Buddha, Bangkok

Day 04 (19.12.04) Aranyaprathet>Poipet >Siem Reap

I left Bangkok at 8.00am for Siem Reap by VIP air-con bus from Khaosan Road. The bus ticket was purchased at a local tour office along Khaosan Road the day before. The bus ride was very comfortable and smooth along the highway to the border. By 12.30pm we arrived first at Aranyaprathet a Thai border down for our lunch & visa application by other backpackers. We then had to walk across the bridge over to Poipet a Cambodian border town. We were at the immigration check point at 3.30pm and spent an hour before we could get out of both check points to continue our journey at 4.30pm.

In Siem Reap I stayed at Green Town GH for US3 per day by the river side. I walked to town for dinner with a Japanese friend met in the bus.

Bus – Bangkok to Siem Reap from KM Travel for B200pp
The border bridge to Poipet a Cambodia town

At Poipet, Cambodia, I noticed a strong contrast against the 7 Casinos of 5-star hotels, it’s like heaven and hell next to each other. Poor Cambodian children and beggars were everywhere and the town was really messy, the roads were very bumpy and dusty. We continued our journey by van and the clay road to Siem Reap was very dusty & bumpy driving through vast rice fields and small villages. We stopped halfway for dinner and finally arrived at Siem Reap by 10pm. It was hell of a journey driving through large pot-holes, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

The numerous casinos at Poipet

Scrap metal brought in from Thailand to Cambodia

I love this for my lunch - cheap and good

The long queue at the immigration check point

Tania, Debra and I at the Poipet check-point

I am sitting next to a Japanese backpacker

Day 05 (20.12.04) Siem Reap > Angkor Thom > Angkor Wat
Hired a half day motor taxi for US5 and visited the Angkor Thom Complex:Green Town GH – US3 per day

My morning breakfast

This is the South Gate to Angkor Thom complex

In front of each gate stand giant statues of 54 gods to the left and 54 demons to the right of the causeway

NORTH & SOUTH GATES: Angkor Thom is enclosed by a jayagiri (square wall) 8m high and 12 km in length and encircled by a jayasindhu (moat) 100m wide, said to have been inhabited by fierce crocodiles. This is yet another monumental expression of Mt.Meru surrounded by the oceans, both the city and the symbolic universe recreated by Jayavarman VII after the sacking of Angkor by the Chams. The city has five monumental gates, one each in the northern, western and southern walls and two in the eastern wall. The gates, which are 20m in height, are decorated with stone elephant trunks and crowned by four gargantuan faces of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara facing the cardinal directions.

The south gate is most popular with visitors, as it has been fully restored and many of the heads remain in place.

Bayon temple is located exactly at the center of Angkor Thom. It has a unique architecture of 214 smiling faces on the towers, and of course the bas relief carvings on its outer walls are also very interesting.

Two of the 216 stone faces that adorn the towers of Bayon

This third level of the Bayon temple is remarkable. There are 54 towers, each headed by four faces of Avalokitesvara which stare at the visitor from all angles.

A tower holds giant faces nearly 2 meters (or six feet) in height

The bas-reliefs deal with gods and their epic adventures, historical events and everyday life

I was praying for a safe journey at Bayon temple

A temple celebration in the Bayon complex ground

THE BAPHUON TEMPLE: A large pyramid temple built by Udayadityavarman II between 1050 and 1066. It features beautiful carvings including a 131-foot reclining Buddha. The Baphuon Temple was constructed as the principal temple in Udayadityavarman II's new city and was used to house his roya l linga.

This 3-tiered pyramid Baphuon Temple is currently undergoing restoration by Myanmar

THE PHIMEANAKAS TEMPLE, built by Rajendravarman (AD944 - AD968) was said to be visited every night by a snake princess, on whom the prosperity of the kingdom depended. Local guides and villagers will undoubtedly tell visitors more about the legends surrounding the once lost city of Angkor.

The steps up the Phimeanakas

On top of Phimeanakas temple

TERRACE OF ELEPHANTS: The 350m-long Terrace of elephants was used as a giant reviewing stand for public ceremonies and served as a base for the king’s grand audience hall. As you stand here, try to imagine the pomp and grandeur of the Khmer empire at its height, with infantry, cavalry, horse-drawn chariots and elephants parading across the at Central Square in a colorful procession, pennants and standards aloft. Looking on is the god king, crowned with a gold diadem, shade by multi-tiered parasols and attended by mandarins and handmaidens bearing gold and silver utensils. The Terrace of Elephants has five outworks extending towards the Central Square – three in the center and one at each end. The middle section of the retaining wall is decorated with life-size garuda and lions; towards either end are the two parts of the famous parade of elephants complete with their Khmer mahouts.

Elephant carvings all around the temple

I am standing on Terrace of the Leper King. This is actually a misnamed terrace.The "King" is actually Yama the God of Destruction, and the leprosy isn't real. It's moss growing on the statues, causing discoloration on the stones.

Back at Green Town Guesthouse

Visited Public Bank Cambodia branch

Photo taken with staff of the bank

For my lunch again

Siem Reap (pop 85k) was little more than a village when the first French explorers rediscovered Angkor in the 19th century. It is the gateway to Cambodia’s spiritual and cultural heartbeat, the temples of Angkor.

Day 06 (21.12.04) Grand Tour of Angkor Temples

After breakfast I hired a bicycle from the Guesthouse for US1.50 a day and cycled round the Small & Grand Tour Circuit of the Angkor Wat complex. It was a long journey cycling for more than 30km through the Grand & Small tour circuit visiting each and every Angkor Temples. As I was not used to cycling long distance, my buttock hurts and had to stand up every five minutes to ease the pain during the last hour. I reach GH at 6pm and walked to a Little India Restaurant for dinner with Ms. Tania & Debora.

Green Town GH – US3 per day
Booked speed boat ticket to Phnom Penh for US21pp
Angkor Wat entrance fee – US20per day or US40 for 3 days

For my breakfast and packed lunch

Poster of the new King along the road

Cycled along the 3km road leading to Angkor Wat - many hotels along the way

A wedding couple and relatives at the entrance of Angkor Wat

I too walked with them along the causeway

At the South Gate

The moat is 100m wide

This is a China made bicycle - not bad but my buttock really hurts

Notice the narrow passage through the gate

Eating fruits at the compound of Terrace of elephants

Exiting Angkor Thom by the North Gate

The temple is some 3 kilometers north of Angkor Thom

Jayavarman VII's first capital, before the completion of Angkor Wat

This temple is partly in disrepair with strangler figs crawling up the walls, but has some excellent carvings

The many vaulted corridors leading through the temple to the other side

The temple of Preah Khan (Sacred Sword) is one of the largest complexes at Angkor – a maze of vaulted corridors, fine carvings and stonework. Preah Khan was built by Jayavarman VII (it may have served as his temporary residence while Angkor Thom was being built), and like Ta Prohm it is a place of towered enclosures and shoulder-hugging corridors.

I am standing on one of the 4 processional walkways approach of the temple
Preah Khan has been left largely unrestored, with numerous trees and other vegetation growing among the ruins.

Preah Khan covers a very large area, but the temple itself is within a rectangular enclosing wall of around 700m by 800m. Approaching from the west, there is little clue to nature’s genius, but on the outer retaining wall of the east gate, a pair of trees with monstrous roots embrace as they reach for the sky.

Prasat Prei temple

Neak Pean. Not really a temple, this is an interesting quick stop. It consists of four pounds surrounding a large pound that has a tower in the middle. This tower is accessible on a causeway that cuts across the pond.

Neak Pean: A 12th century Buddhist temple has a large square pool surrounded by four smaller square pools. In the centre of the central pool is a circular ‘island’ encircled by the two naga whose intertwined tails give the temple its name. In the pool around the central island there were once four statues, but only one remains, reconstructed from the debris by the French archaeologists who cleared the site. Water once flowed from the central pool into the four peripheral pools via ornamental spouts, which can still be seen in the pavilions at each axis of the pool. The spouts are in the form of an elephant’s head, a horse’s head, a lion’s head and a human’s head. The pool was used for ritual purification rites and the complex was once in the centre of a huge 3km by 900m.

Bought some T-shirts from this girl

Once it was abandoned, the jungle slowly overtook the buildings, cracking and squeezing walls and pricing stones apart.

Ta Prohm. Built during the time of king Jayavarman VII and is best known as the temple where trees have been left intertwined with the stonework, much as it was uncovered from the jungle. It might be considered in a state of disrepair but there is a strange beauty in the marvelous strangler fig trees which provide a stunning display of the embrace between nature and the human handiwork. This is one of the most popular temples after Angkor Wat and the Bayon because of the beautiful combinations of wood and stone.

Some carvings and statues remain as sharply carved as they were nearly 800 years ago. The main attraction of this place is not the temple but the strength of nature, huge tree with its roots spreading like monstrous octopus squeezing around the building. The trees acted as a protector to the temple as it holds the building to prevent it from collapsing and also can be destroyer because it crushed some buildings to pieces too.

Do you recognize a few scenes from Angelina Jolie's Tomb Raider

East Mebon. Located on what was an island in the now dry East Baray, this is a large, three-story temple-mountain crowned by five towers, like a miniature Angkor Wat. Originally built by Rajendravarman II in the 10th century, many structures are in poor shape, but the temple is best known for its massive (restored) elephant statues.

The temple mountain form is topped off by the now familiar arrangement of towers. The elaborate brick shrines are dotted with neatly arranged holes, which attached the original plaster work.

Pre Rup. A temple-mountain close to and quite similar in style to East Mebon, and constructed only a decade later. A favorite spot for viewing the sun set into the jungles and rice paddies of the Cambodian countryside.

Pre Rup: Built by Rajendravarman II, is about 1km south of the Eastern Mebon consists of a pyramid shaped temple mountain with the uppermost of the tree tiers carrying five square shrines. The brick sanctuaries were also once decorated with a plaster coating, fragments of which still remain on the southwestern tower, there are some amazingly detailed lintel carvings here. Several of the outermost eastern towers are closed to collapse and are propped by wooden supports. This temple may have served as an early royal crematorium.

Ta Som stands to the east of Neak Pean, is yet another of the late 12th century Buddhist temples of Jayavarman VII. The central area of Ta Som is in a ruined state, but restoration by the World Monument fund is getting closer to completion.

The most impressive feature is the huge tree completely overwhelming the eastern gopura, providing one of the most popular photo opportunities in the Angkor area.

TA KEO: A sandstone temple built by Jayavarman V between AD968 and 1001 was dedicated to Shiva. It has a large central tower surrounded by four smaller towers. It is undecorated that undoubtedly would have been one of the finest of all Angkor’s structures had it been finished. The summit of the central tower, which is surrounded by four lower towers, is almost 50m high. This cial arrangement with four towers at the corners of a square and fifth tower in the center is typical of many Angkorian temple mountains. No –one is certain why work was never completed, but a likely cause may have been the death of Jayavarman V.

The stairs at the east side of the monument are least steep and the easiest way to reach the top level.

Thommanon is just north of Chau Say Tevoda. Although unique, the temple complements its neighbour, as it was built around the same time to a similar design. It was also dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu.

Other temples

Sras Srang Lake: Is a basin measuring 800m by 400m has a tiny island in the middle once bore a wooden temple, of which only the stone base remains. This is a beautiful body of water from which to take in a quiet sunrise.

Banteay Kdei: Is massive Buddhist monastery surrounded by four concentric walls. The outer wall measures 500m by 700m. Each of its four entrances is decorated with garuda, which hold aloft one of Jayavarman VII’s favorite themes; the four faces of Avalokiteshvara. The inside of the central tower was never finished and much of the temple is in a ruinous state due to hasty construction.

Ta Nei: Ta Nei, 800m north of Ta Keo, was built by Jayavarman VII (reigned 1181-1219). There is something of the spirit of Ta Prohm here, albeit on a lesser scale, with moss and tentacle-like roots covering many outer areas of this small temple. It now houses the Apsara Authority’s training unit and can be accessed only by walking across the French-built dam. To get to the dam, take the long track on the left, just after the Spean Thmor Bridge when coming from Siem Reap.

Victory Gate

Chau Say Tevoda

Chau Say Tevoda temple under restoration by China

Cycled back through the East Gate

Prasat Suor Prat under restoration by Japanese Govt.This "Temple of the Rope Dancers" with its 12 towers is very picturesque. With all of them lined neatly in a row, 6 on the left, and 6 on the right, one imagines that it would make a great picture.

At the main entrance to Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is a whole city in itself. It is a meticulously planned complex which leads the visitor from the outside world, through the Hindu universe and up to the home of the gods. From the gallery in the western outer wall of the temple, the towers of the temple rise almost one-third of a mile away. The terrace gives way to another great entrance which leads to a wide causeway lined with stone balustrades. Buildings which were once libraries, and sunken pools, lie on either side. From here, steps rise up to a terrace, and on to another gallery and a final terrace, built in a cruciform. From here, steps begin the long ascent up the mountain to the five towers that form the pinnacle of Angkor Wat.
The causeway is 190m long.

Moat is 600 feet wide, almost 4 miles in circumference as the outer ocean of the universe

Another wedding couple

Outer wall of Western Gate

Statue of Vishnu is 3.25m tall

ANGKOR WAT, one of the seven Wonder of the World, was the ultimate creation of the pyramid temple - the formation in stone of the magic mountain of Hindu mythology surrounded by its universe and oceans. Its builder, Suryavarman II, was the king of a great empire stretching over much of Indo-China. Angkor Wat was his legacy to the future, larger than any temple before it. It was more elaborately decorated, with a complex series of buildings built on rising terraces and linked by causeways. Its central towers were taller than any built before by the Khmers. A visitor to his city in 1146 would have seen Angkor as the symbol of a great king who had just demolished the Cham Kingdom and annexed it to his already large empire. A visitor familiar with the Khmer religion and theory of kingship would also recognize, from the moment he entered the outer gateway of the western approach to Angkor Wat, that he was entering the cosmic universe of Hindu mythology.
Ms Tania from Kenya and I at the Esplanade

Ms Debra from England and I at the Esplanade

The Library

Inner Wall esplanade - Churning of the Ocean of Milk

Second storey temple

Second storey temple

The wide stairways up to the Third storeys temple

The wide stairways up to the pinnacle of Angkor Wat

Sleeping Buddha statue on the third storey temple

Day 07 (22/12/04) Siem Reap > Phnom Penh by boat

8.00am I took the express boat to Phnom Penh sailing through Tonle Sap Lake. Boats from Siem Reap leave from the floating village of Chong Kneas near Phnom Krom, 11km south of Siem Reap. 2.00pm I arrived at Phnom Penh. Explore the town and attended Public Bank staff dinner at branch compound in the evening on invitation by the Mr. Phan the branch manager.
Capitol GH for US2-00 per day
Boat ticket to Phnom Penh for US21pp

Mr. Phan Ying Tong the Phnom Penh Public Bank branch manager

I was invited for the bank's staff dinner at the branch premises

Day 8 (23/12/04) Phnom Penh

Early morning, I explore the Southern part of the City. I bought a pair of Nike sport-shoe for US13-00 at the Russian Market. On the way back I visited the genocide museum – Tuol Sleng, the former Khmer Rouge S-21 Prison. Afternoon was exploring the central city area.

Phnom Penh Genocide museum – Tuol Sleng

Independence Monument, Phnom Penh

The garbage on the main road, Phnom Penh

Day 9 (24/12/04) exploring eastern and northern Phnom Penh city

Petronas Office
Malaysian embassy
Grand Palace
River side
Wat Tathom
Central Market
Super Market Sorya

Petronas Cambodia Office, Phnom Penh

The Malaysian embassy, Phnom Penh

Photo taken with the police, Phnom Penh

The river side view, Phnom Penh

The Grand Palace, Phnom Penh

The National Museum, Phnom Penh

The Japanese bridge donated by Japan, Phnom Penh

Wat Tathom, Phnom Penh

The Central Market, Phnom Penh

Fried water bugs taste good, Phnom Penh

Day 10 (25/12/04) Phnom Penh > Battambang

The bus departed Phnom Penh, Capitol Hotel at 8am and arrived at Battambang 1pm. I had my lunch at one of the shop and later walked round the town.

Battambang is an elegant riverside town, home to some of the best preserved French period architecture in the country. There is a very popular boat service connecting it to Siem Reap, probably the most scenic river trip in the country. The city is easily negotiable on foot and at the centre of town is Psar Nat – Meeting Market and all commercial activity and most of the city’s hotels are located within a few blocks from here. Across the river are several large properties serving as administrative centres for the NGOs.

Bus fare to Battambang – US3ppRoyal GH - US2 per day.
Having breakfast with this 70 year old grandmother from France

Battambang market

Battambang main road

Traditional vacuum bottle massage

There is a boat service connecting to Siem Reap
Day 11 (25/12/04) Battambang > Poipet > Bangkok

08.00 am air-con car for US5-00 to Poipet
Motor taxi to bus station at Aranyaprathet for B50
12.00 pm Air-con bus to Bangkok Eastern Station for B164
04.30 pm arrived at bus station and took a motor taxi to Bang Sui Train station for B100.
No train ticket to Hadyai so took the LRT to Hua Lampong station for B31.
08.00 pm took a bus to Hadyai for B750.

A sunrise view from the top floor of the hotel

The Battambang market

Air-con car for US5-00 to Poipet with other backpackers

Bangkok LRT station

Bangkok Hua Lampong train station

Day 12 (26/12/04) Bangkok >Hadyai >Butterworth >Ipoh

11.00 am arrived at Hadyai
01.00 pm Air-con van to Butterworth for B200
05.00 pm at Butterworth
07.30 pm bus to Ipoh at RM10
10.00 pm arrived home in Ipoh

The day was marked by the deadliest tsunami in history. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea mega-thrust earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on Sunday, December 26, 2004, with an epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries.

At Butterworth Train Station
Total cost for the whole journey is about RM800

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I like your travel very much, am hoping to be friends of yours and join the adventure some day.