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Nong Nooch Village – Pattaya

The nong nooch village is around 90 minutes drive from Pattaya city and is considered to be on the biggest and the most beautiful garden in SE Asia. There are plenty of atttractions from artificial elephants to live shows such as Thai Cultural Show, Elephant show which can be enjoyed by the visitors. Apart from these one can also take photos with the tigers, macaus etc.

A half day tour of this village is well worth the visit if you are in pattaya. We had booked this tour as we had a spare day and we could enjoy a lot there while taking photos and soaking in the cultural delights

Fun day @ Nong Nooch Village

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Big Buddha – Bangkok and Pattaya

The big buddha pagoda is one of the biggest pagoda’s in bangkok. This was one of our visiting places during the half day city tour in bangkok. The Pagoda contains one of the biggest buddha statue made out of pure gold.  As this is a religious place one needs to go bearfoot inside. The walls contain paintings related to buddhism

Big Buddha Pagoda

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IMG_6028_resizeThere is also a Big Buddha statue in Pattaya which is a located Pattaya Park. since this was walkable distance from our hotel we had paid a visit here as well during our visit to pattaya.

Big Buddha Pattaya

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Siam Ocean World and Madamme Tussauds Wax Muesum

With the cambodia leg of our trip complete, we headed to Thailand for the next part of the tour. An hour’s flight from Phonm Penh took us to bangkok and we finished our immigration formalities and were out of the airport where our guide was waiting for us. Since today was a rest day, after checking into the hotel, we relaxed for a while before heading to siam coean world and madamme tussads museum located near siam station.

Siam ocean world is a popular draw for tourists in bangkok. Located beneath the siam paragon mall siam ocean world is one of the largest aquariums in bangkok and also the largest in south east asia. One can expect a huge crowd any day of the week and it was no diff when we went. Tickets for both madamme tussads and siam ocean world run to around 1700 bath for one person.

Siam ocean world comprises of various sections and there are multiple shows to entertain the visitors. One can spot penguins to sharks and other marine life here. Various shows like speaking with the divers, etc are also organized which adds to the fun quotient.

Siam Ocean World

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IMG_5935_resizeIt took us around 2-2.5 hours to go through the entire place while enjoying all the shows.

Next stop was the Madame Tussaud wax museum which has wax statues of all the celebrities. This is located in Siam Mall and is a stone’s throw from Siam Ocean World. The wax statues contain emminent personalities such as Albert Einstein, Gandhi to super stars such as Tiger Woods to film stars such as Jakie Chan, Elizabeth Taylor among others. One can also take photos and later get them printed for 350 bhat a piece,

Madame Tussaud’s Museum

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Cambodia Day 4: Beng Mealea

Today would be our last day in cambodia as we would be heading back to phonm penh for the flight to thailand the next day. We decided to cover Beng Mealea today as it is located on the way to phonm penh and we can head back there after covering it. The temple is located 40 kms from siem reap and is thought to have been built at the same time Angkor Wat was built.

The temple is completely in ruins and only few walls are left standing. The temple has the carvings of the churning of the milky ocean. The walls also have very few carvings in them.

The ruins of Beng Mealea

IMG_5818_resizeIMG_5821_resizeWith moss growing everywhere the place has a mystical feel. One can get to feel and experience a Tomb Raider effect when you go to Beng Mealea. 

Moss covered Ruins

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IMG_5863_resizeWe spent some time walking around the ruins and exploring the small tunnels in the temple, before heading back to the Car to continue on the long drive to Phonm Penh thus ending a fantastic visit to the ancient empire.

Cambodia Day 3 – Angkor Wat

The third day of the trip would start with a visit to prasat kraven which is again a temple dedicated to vishnu, The temple is under renovation with co-operation from the Govt of germany.

The temple does not contain many carvings as other temples, however the sanctum sanctorum contains the idol of vishnu.

Prasat kraven

IMG_5531_resizeAs the temple is under renovation, the image of vishnu is not fully visible. The temple contains two chambers on the ether side of the sanctum sanctorum and the right chambers contains statue of lakshmi and her assistants.

Vishnu and Lakshmi

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The next stop was Bantaey samrei a temple dedicated to shiva. The carvings here are damaged and the guide explained during the khmer rouge time many of the carvings were illegally exported to thailand.

Banteay Samrei

IMG_5536_resizeThe temple has various libraries situated in the interior of the temple. These libraries used to be used for religious purposes.

Libraries of Banteay Sameri

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 The interior of the temple has a linga and a huge courtyard. The back end of the temple contains statues of two liones whose backside is shown to us. Clicking few photos there we moved to the next temple Banteay Srei

Lions at back entrance

IMG_5565_resizebanteay Srei the next temple in the list is also a important temple as it was built during the construction of other important monuments such as the Notre Dame Castle and the chichen itiza in mexico

Banteay Srei Construction

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The temple is dedicated to lord shiva. The temple also has carvings dedicated to lord vishnu in his narashimha avatar.

Narasimha

IMG_5573_resizeThe temple has some ancient writings written in pali language. As with other temples there are various libraries within the temple

Ancient Inscriptions

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Banteay Srei Libraries

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 Among the other carvings in the temple there is one carving from Ramayana depicting the battle between vali and sugreeva. The caving shows Rama shooting and arrow killing vali.

Battle between vali and sugreeva

IMG_5606_resizeThe outer portion of the temple was being enclosed by a wall and once a get a full view of the temple. We took several photos before heading to Banteay Kdei.

Banteay Srei

IMG_5622_resizeBanteay Kdei is a temple that is constructed in bayon style. The entrance of the temple has 4 headed buddha which is same as the one present in Angkor Thom

Banteay Kdei

IMG_5642_resizeThe speciality of this temple is that there are big trees growing throughout the temple. Most of the tress have their roots within the stone blocks of the temple from which it has grown.

Trees in Banteay Kdei

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With trees growing and giving the temple a mysterious look this place has become very famous and even movies such as Tomb Raider are shot here. The guide showed us the tree which was used for the shooting of tomb raider.

Famous Trees

IMG_5669_resizeApart from the trees there are carvings of aparas as well. Spending some time here we headed to the Royal Baths a huge man made public bathing system which was used by the people and the royals alike. This is present next to Angkor Wat. As it was already afternoon, we broke for lunch at a hotel near royal baths.

The royal baths

IMG_5682_resizePost lunch break we headed to the most famous of all temples The Angkor Wat . The temple complex is a world heritage site and was constructed in the first of 12th century by king suryavarman II. The temple was initially built as a hindu temple when cambodia was ruled by hindu kings and later became a buddhist temple. This is also one of the largest temple complexes in the world.

We entered the west side of angkor wat as it has less tourists. The temple has 3 main towers and has various levels. Each level has various carvings and has significance based on the type of religious activity that is done

West entrance of angkor wat

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The angkor wat is a massive complex and there are 3 main towers which stand out pre-dominently. The first level of the temple contains carvings of a battle scene where we can see the king on top of his elephant with his other soldiers.

To enter the upper levels of the temple one needs to climb the steps which are steep. The carvings of the aparas are more detailed here than other temples. Once we go inside we can see various buddha statues in his various avatars.

Apasaras

IMG_5723_resizeThe temple also has inscriptions similar to the ones in Banteay Srei. At each level we can see buddha statues indicating the influence of buddhism has had towards the later part of the khmer empire

Inscriptions and Buddha Statues

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IMG_5744_resizeThe temple following the other temples has libraries. Taking photos of the central tower and other statues within the temple we spent some time roaming inside the huge complex. Ideally one would require around 2-3 hours to cover every inch of the temple. We spent approximately the same amount of time admiring the wonderful architecture .

Central Tower

IMG_5734_resizeAs we headed to the lower level we could see more carvings on the wall. The carvings depicts a story from Mahabharata.

Carvings

IMG_5760_resizeWe headed out of the temple after couple of hours. Once we come out we can see Angkor Wat it all its glory with its reflection in the waters surrouding the moat. This photo has become very popular and I could experiment with various angles.

Angkor Wat Reflection

IMG_5773_resizeCouple more snaps of the towers and we exited the complex biding adeiu to the temple.

The 3 towers

IMG_5786_resizeThe outer portion of the temple contains a large statue of buddha which is worshipped by the people. Few more snaps and we headed back to the hotel thus ending a wonderful tour.

Buddha

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Cambodia Day 2 : The temples in Siem Reip

Day 2 of our journey started with an early breakfast and a drive to siem reip whcih has the main attractions such as bayon, angkor wat, angkor thom etc. Siem reip is 300 kms from Phonm penh and will take approx 5-6 hrs of driving. We departed from phonm penh to siem reip. The inital part of the journey was through the crowded city traffic and the progress was slow.  The roads in cambodia are not well developed. Lot of potholes remain and one has to be careful when driving. Progress was slow till we reached the city limits and soon we could pick up some speed. The speed limit on the highway is restricted to 60 kms and the drivers do not accelerate beyond that. The scenary also improved and the lush green fields greeted us. Couple of stops in between for few photos and we continued our journey.

Scenary outside phonm penh

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Couple more hours of driving and we reached siem reip and checked into our hotel. The guide and the driver who would take us around were already present there waiting for us. A brief introduction and we asked him for some time to freshen up before we could start exploring the temples.

We first visited the south gate of bayon temple and angkor thom which is the entrance to the bayon temple. The entrance to the temple has the stone carvings of asuras and the devas churning the milky ocean. Some of the stone faces are recent however many of the original stone faces are still present.

Entrance to Bayon

IMG_5374_resizeAngkor Thom was built by Raja jayavarman VII and is predominently a buddhist temple. The main attraction of the temple is the 4 faces of buddha carved throughout the temple.

The 4 face Buddha@ South gate Bayon

IMG_5382_resizeOnce you enter the south gate you can find airavat the 3 headed elephant of indira the king of gods. There are other carving as well along with the 3 headed elephant,

3 headed elephant

IMG_5383_resizeWe continued towards the main temple, which has 23 towers. There are two libraries which used to contain books related to religion on two far ends. These have been recently restored by the Govt of Japan. Each tower has the buddha faces carved in it. As with other temples in the angkor plain has carvings of apsaras on it. As we moved inwards, we came across the detailed carving of the king going into battle with his entourage. The carving shows the king on the elephant and followed by the soldiers. The carving also depicts the kind of weaponry used during the khmer reign.

Elegant carving of king going into battle

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We continued to explore the temple, taking snaps. The most famous of all the statues is the smiling buddha statue. We clicked few photos there before entering the interior of the temple.

Smiling Buddha

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The interior of the temple contains a buddha statue which is being worshipped. Spending some more time at the temple we headed out of the temple, to the next attraction “The Terrace of the Elephants” and “Terrace of the Leper King” which are located adjacent to each other.

The terrace of elephants is located at the east entrance of Bayon temple and it consists of images of Airavat and garuda carved in it. 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.

Terrace of Elephants

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Next to the elephant terrace we have the terrace of the lepper king. This contains the carving of Yama the god of death. Most of the carvings have discoloration and it shows a person with leprosy, and also because it fit in with a Cambodian legend of an Angkorian king Yasovarman I who had leprosy.

Terrace of Lepper King

IMG_5448_resizeIMG_5447_resizeWith Bayon complete out next visit was Banteay Kdei which is located a little distance away from The terrace of the lepper king.

The speciality of this temple is that the archway decrease in size as we go inwards and it extends out as we go out of the temple. The temple is again built in Bayon Style.

Banteay Kdei

IMG_5453_resizeOnce we enter the temple one can see the base of the linga present indicating this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The sanctum sanctorum consists of a buddhist related structure. As per the guide this temple was vandalized supposedly by the king’s henchmen when he converted the people to buddhism and destroyed several carvings.

Linga and Buddhist Statue

IMG_5460_resizeIMG_5462_resizeThe outer portions of the temple has trees growing on the walls thus giving a mystical feel to the temple.

Walls covered with tree roots

IMG_5478_resizeAn exit at back of the temple completed our visit to this temple. The final temple in our list was Bakheng which is located atop the bakheng hill. One needs to walk a short distance up the hill to reach the temple. The temple is under renovation and one can see towers of Angkor Wat from the top.

Bakheng temple

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The structure is in ruins and only the sanctum sanctorum remains which houses a image of buddha. Taking few photos of Angkow wat towers we headed back to the car

Towers of Angkor Wat

IMG_5512_resizeA short rest for some snacks and we headed back to the hotel thus completing a well spent day.

 

Cambodia Day 1 : Phnom Tamao wildlife sanctuary and Ta Prohm

The ancient khmer kingdom of cambodia was in my bucket list for a long time. Finally after planning and saving up for the trip, I decided to pay a visit to this ancient land in the last week of september. I had checked various blogs about the best possible route to siem reip or phonm penh and all sources either a land crossing either from Thailand or Vietnam or fly to either of these destinations. There are no direct flights to cambodia from India and one has to transit via Malaysia/Singapore or Thailand.

Tickets were booked in advance and it was time to hit the road. One can get visa on arrival when you enter cambodia. The airline will give the necessary forms which needs to be filled up. One passport photo and $25 dollars is all that is required to get entry into the country. Our guide was waiting for us at the airport and after a brief introduction we headed to the Phnom Tamao wildlife sanctuary which is one of the largest in cambodia. The wildlife sanctuary was created to prevent illegal trafficking of animals and it houses a wide variety of animals ranging from cobras to deer, gaur etc.

Animals @Phnom Tamao wildlife sanctuary

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As the wildlife sanctuary is huge we spent a lot of time covering the entire place. The bird population in the sanctuary is equally impressive. From eagles to other macau’s enough photos were clicked.

Birds@Phnom Tamao wildlife sanctuary

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Apart from animals and birds the sanctuary also has snakes and we could see lot of cobras and pythons in the snake cage. A look at the bear and we headed out of the wildlife sanctuary.

The next stop was Ta Prohm a buddhist temple built by Raja jayavarman VII. The temple was initially built as a temple for lord vishnu, when cambodia was a Hindu country and it was later converted to buddhist temple.

Ta Prohm temple

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The temple has aparas carved on the sides of the wall and this is a standard feature across all temples in cambodia. The statue of buddha is also present inside the temple. As the temple was dedicated to vishnu the carving of vishnu is also prominently featured in the main entrance.

Apasras engraved on the wall Buddha Statue and Lord Vishnu

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There are stone engravings near the temple depicting the churning of the milky ocean by the Asuras and the Devas as told in the hindu mythology. The engraving show the asuras on one side and the devas on the other. Vasuki the great snake is in the middle of this war.

Churning of the milky ocean

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We also found another engraving depecting the life of a local king who gave up his power to become a saint. As per the local legend the king had given his riches and power to turn to mediation. Renouncing every thing he was on his way to the forest followed by his son and his ministers. Enroute they met a sage who asked the king for some alms. However as the king has nothing to give as he had given up everything he asked his son to go with the sage and serve him, thus showing his generosity.

Engraving of king becoming an ascetic

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The guide then gave us another detailed explanation regarding the unfinished portions of the temple. As per the guide the temple was built as a contest between the king’s son and his mother. Before building the temple they had come to a agreement that the temple had to be built in one day and the construction would stop once a bright light in the sky. The construction of the temple was proceeding in full swing in both sides and when the son and his workers were taking a break, his mother through trickery won the contest by sending a bright light in the sky. As per the agreement her son stopped working on his side thus loosing the contest.

Clicking few more photos the temple we moved to the nearby pagoda which has various statues of buddha. There is an vishnu temple present in the same place and this was constructed during the same time as Ta Prohm.

Pagoda and temple

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Next to pagoda there is a burial place where the local people bury their elders and pray for their soul to RIP.

Burial Place

IMG_5352_resizeSpending some time in the pagoda we relaxed for while before heading to the hotel, thus concluding a well spent first day in cambodia.

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