16 December 2012

BAKHENG - THE OVERLOOKED TEMPLE

Phnom Bakheng from the air
Bakheng temple, located on top of the mountain Phnom Bakheng is often left in the shadow of the sunset and the thousands of tourists who trample around the levels of the temple mount - which is a bit sad. After all, this temple symbolizes Mount Meru and the five peaks of the mythological mountain.

Phnom Bakheng and it's temple date back to the 10th century A.D. and is an important temple and part of the very early Angkorean culture. 

I had been up on the mountain twice. Once, years ago to view Angkor Wat in the distance and once to give the famous sunset a try. The first time, I had not even known anything about the temple. At that time it was not even under restoration yet and if at all it left a big pile of rubble and stones in my memory. The second time I just remember tourist everywhere and I had trouble to find all the spots of the temple I wanted to see. 


Bakheng temple before sunset
It is a huge temple mount, initially with five levels and 108 sanctuaries and located at the centre of the historic city of Yashodharapura. Today, heavy restoration work is still continuing, though much of it has been completed already. Posted sings on the way up will tell the interested visitor what has been done here. Despite the tourist craze the temple is definitely worth a visit, during non-peak hours!



View from Phnom Bakheng mountain

Central shrine


Shiva Lingam









15 December 2012

A SUNSET FOR THE MASSES

Bakheng temple
So, I did it!! A sunset on the famous Phnom Bakheng mountain. THE sunset that everyone sees when in Angkor!! 

And it wasn't even intentional but the group I travelled with wanted to do the elephant ride up and see the sunset. So, I went along. I didn't ride the elephant though. I felt sorry for the poor creatures who have to go up and down carrying tourists every day. 

Hiking up the mountain
Instead, I chose to walk up the mountain - Phnom Bakheng - with hundreds of other tourists. Mostly Chinese tourists. It was packed, like I had expected it. But I didn't think it would be that bad during the rainy season. I had already heard that it is hell during the dry season, hence I never did it then. 

I had been up on the mountain to enjoy the great view onto the rain forest and Angkor Wat years and years ago. There were no tourists and we also had a much steeper but shorter way to climb up. For the masses who walk up and down today an extra wide path had been created. 

Waiting for the next load
The amount of people allowed on Bakheng temple is now controlled and the stream of tourists is channeled in one direction only. One guy on one side keeps track of how many people climb up and one guy on the other side keeps track of how many people climb down, thus limiting the number of people on the top. I was told that everyone will make it up, though I have no idea what happens when it is too many people in the lines. 

Waiting for space on the top
The sunset? Well, I never waited for it. I saw the amount of people and went down the mountain before the sun ever set. I have seen the most perfect sunsets from other locations and was almost alone, or just with a few people. The sunset from Phnom Bakheng is not for me. Back during another trip to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat, I met a friendly guy from Spain. He told me that the sunset on the mountain here was one of the worst experiences he had during his trip. Tripods are not allowed because of the sheer mass of people crawling around on top of the ruined temple. His name was Jesus....I should have better listened to Jesus :-)

The view onto Angkor Wat in the distance
   
The line waiting to get up

Full even during rainy season