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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Phnom Bakheng Sunset


After an almost 7 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh, we finally rolled into Siem Reap and the feeling of excitement has swelled into a massive wave inside my body. My mind is painting a picture of the vast Angkor Wat complex and its nearby and equally impressive temple ruins. Comparing what I had imagined and read before to what I will see in a short while, equals every adolescent boy's first foray into a lovemaking session with a beautiful girl.

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I've been mad and passionate about visiting the ancient Khmer capital of Angkor for a very long time and to have that moment laid out a few minutes in between, is like what every climber feels when one sees the towering peak of a mountain. There's this absolute moment of finality, the long journey of dreaming, planning and the eventual trip itself has finally come.

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After settling in at River Garden Guesthouse - which took our tuktuk driver to locate for a while, we went down to business and hurriedly headed straight to the ticket booth located near the entrance of Angkor. We waited for the ticket booths to open at 4:45 PM and along with other tourists we bought ourselves a pass for one day which costs $20.00 each. By virtue of that ticket that we will use the next day, we could enter Phnom Bakheng temple for free to watch the sunset.

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Going to the Hindu temple of Phnom Bakheng requires a modest 15 minute hike atop a hill where the temple which was built under the rule of King Yasovarman, who ruled the Khmer empire from 889 until 910, represents a form 'of a temple mountain'. It has been resting there since the end of the 9th century. For those looking for extra thrill, an elephant ride is available but will cost $20 per two persons. Since we're on a stringent budget and the sun is about to set from the horizon, the thought of a riding slow paced elephant and relying on it to take us atop the hill on time seems like a bad idea.

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Moments earlier as our "tuk-tuk" ride was breezing the long highway en route to Angkor, I saw a glimpse of the main Angkor Wat temple with its thick forests and a scenic lake surrounding it. Like a drug that flowed smoothly in my veins, I felt a sensation that is more powerful than known LSD's could offer. 

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Upon reaching the top of the hill, I saw the towers of Phnom Bakheng and as other visitors lined up to climb the steep and narrow stairs, I stared at my very first temple in Angkor. It must have been an awesome sight and atmosphere 1200 years ago. This was a temple that was built more than 200 years ahead of Angkor Wat, which of course, I considered as the main dish of the whole trip.

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The Angkor tourists staff manning the line kept on reminding us that the stairs will be closed exactly at 5:30 PM, this is to ensure that people atop the temple wont become too crowded. I looked at my watch and it says 5:25 PM, i was resigned to the fact that I wont see the sunset atop the Phnom Bakheng temple. However, after a minute they allowed more people to climb and soon I found myself stepping on the steep stairs and slowly making my way atop the temple.

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I had arrived indeed! The first thing I saw when I looked up at the sky was the sun bursting with fiery inferno-like ball and at the opposite direction was a rainbow beaming down on the direction of Angkor Wat. It was like a threesome of sorts, me the rainbow and the magnificent sunset. 

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Some tourists, French I assume by the language they speak, starts prancing and dancing around and a vibe of togetherness collared the place with one nodding in appreciation of the others while the sun continues its grand exit from the light of the day. It feels like, there's this unheard melody in the air and the atmosphere around calls for a higher form of peace, a singular moment that should have been multiplied and shared in earnest with one another any place on Earth.

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Then the sun goes out. Not after delighting ourselves endlessly, although a regular occurrence that happens everyday. However, this time, we were able to view it in a place with so much history, the symbolic representation of the home of Hindu Gods, Mount Meru. Mostly, it was a in a place I've so longed to visit.

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Tired and restless from walking around Saigon for 2 days, the bus trip from Saigon to Phnom Penh, the next day's trip to Siem Reap was all dissolved by that seemingly routine movement of the sun. As the light went out in a puff and night time arrives, we walked back down and I carried with me another indescribable experience I would willingly recommend to other people to also experience for themselves.






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