Friday, February 20, 2009

Phnom circus

Every available vantage point is sought on Phnom Bakheng. This youngster tries his luck with this linga with the central shrine in the background.
I mentioned my recent visit to Phnom Bakheng for the sunset experience and how horrendous it was. The temple-mountain is a magnet for sunset snappers and there were literally thousands of people taking up every available inch, and making a din that completely spoiled the moment. It may be the highest spot in the Angkor Park to take your sunset pictures, and it used to be the best, but it's become a victim of its own success. Avoid it at all costs unless you simply have to tick the sunset box on your Angkor itinerary. Having said all that, a visit to Phnom Bakheng at any other time is definitely worth the long climb. The dangerous and direct route is now off-limits, so its a long circular climb to reach the top these days. The pyramid temple was the state capital for King Yashovarman I in 889 and has 108 prasats (shrines) in total and its central tower originally held a linga dedicated to Shiva. You have a great view of the Angkor Wat towers as they peep out of the treeline, but beware, the thousands who descend (or should that be ascend) on it each day begin to arrive at 4pm, so time your visit accordingly. Here's some pictures from my recent sunset visit.
The original steep and dangerous route to the top of Phnom Bakheng, now closed
A magnificent lion on guard at the foot of the original stairway
$20 gets you a lift to the top on this elephant's back
This lion is contemplating his next lunch - the Angkor Balloon
Angkor Wat's towers peering out through the treeline
Now and I got there early but still the crowds were already forming
One of the camera-clicking hordes at the Phnom Bakheng circus - oh, it's me!
With half an hour still to go to sunset, the crowds are thickening at the summit
The view that thousands come to see each evening at Phnom Bakheng

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