On my first day in Siem Reap, I was wondering why my Tuk Tuk driver, Safi “cum tour guide” was insistent that we reach the Angkor Wat ticketing booth at 4:30pm.
I thought I would start covering some of those famous temples of Angkor on the second day… but he insisted I had to get my tickets and I had to go to a Phnom Bakheng.
Sighing wearily, I decided to just follow and waited till it was about 4:45pm when they opened the counter to get the passes into Angkor…And mind you, these passes comes with your picture printed on it.. LOL, so you cannot pass it to the next person and you can keep it as a souvenir…The pass cost me US$20/pax .
Anyway, immediately after I got my pass, Safi straight away headed to the check-point and took me pass lush greenery, and moats… and wow… the Angkor Wat…. It was definitely a breath taking scenery and I felt my breath catch as I stared at the glorious remnants of history
Phnom Bakheng is located around 400m south of Angkor Thom, and is supposedly to have among the best sunset views around Siem Reap. You have to be fast as they now restrict just about 300 visitors at any one time, so get here immediately after getting your pass to guarantee your sunset spot.
Frankly speaking, this is NOT for the physically challenged and the elderly. The hike up the hill can be quite exhausting, I was panting like a dog. It is a compact dirt road, UP . THE. HILL!! Get it? Get it? And there are many people heading up too… so be careful!!!
But if you have extra money in your budget and do not want to walk, you might consider getting an elephant ride up….I do not know how much as I walked up the hill…
AND…do not wait too long before you start going down the hill, as I am sure you don’t want to go down when it’s pitch dark. There are no lightings along the path, at least not that I noticed back then…..
Be sure to wear your most comfy walking/hiking shoes. This is both for the hike up the hill and when climbing those temple stairs. Another word of caution here!!!!! Because the steps are really REALLY steep and narrow!
I really pondered as to why it was built this way. It also seems to be the case for most ancient buildings anywhere in the world, The Bell and Drum towers in Beijing, China; those towers in Glendalough, Ireland; the Prambanan in Yogyakarta, Indonesia- all these places has such narrow and steep stairs!!!… Did the ancient people have really small feet? Nowadays we have such big feet (I am a Size 8!!!!!) and it is definitely a struggle when it comes to climbing ancient stairs.
But finally someone told me that the ancient people do not step on to the stairs like we do. We use our whole foot when we climb the stairs, as if we’re walking but with an elevation added. Not so with the people who lived hundreds of years ago……It is said that they were barefoot, and they always tiptoed up the stairs, instead of really stepping their whole foot on them. Huhuhu… answers my question… I think.. does it answer yours?
This hill- temple has five tiers, with seven levels (including the base and the summit). At the base are 44 towers. Each of the five tiers had 12 towers. The summit of the temple has four towers at the cardinal points of the compass as well as a central sanctuary. All of these numbers are of symbolic significance. The seven levels, for example, represent the seven Hindu heavens, while the total number of towers, excluding the central sanctuary, is 108, a particularly auspicious number and one that correlates to the lunar calendar.
Some people think Phnom Bakheng is overrated and way too crowded, while others think it’s only so-so. Personally, I think that Phnom Bakheng is quite an amazing place for an Angkor Wat sunset!
And it just so happened that the sun that evening was pretty unique with a halo on it… and well, I found it kinda fascinating to see so many seemingly different people come together in an area just to enjoy the view…I headed down the hill before the crowd decided to disperse and before it got dark as well…so I did not quite watch the sun set… but here is a picture taken from the travelphotographs.net….Isn’t it just gorgeous…