“Are we there yet?” I huffed as I grudgingly lifted my foot onto the next steep, narrow step.
My hostelmate didn’t answer. He was probably huffing on his own.
I looked up, peering at the end of this never-ending flight of stairs, beyond my sunglasses and the agonizing heat of the Siem Reap sun.
When, when, when were we going to reach the top?
I pulled out my water. And almost fell backwards halfway over the forever flight of stairs to the top.
If you want to know why stairs are not my forte during my two week backpacking Indochina trip, then this is where it all started. Or further emphasized.
Doing the Baphuon Temple under the heat of the 10am sun may not be such an awesome idea.
As we parked at the outside of the temple, I immediately panicked, my brain slowly processing the length of this temple.
It was LONG. Like seriously long.
“I think I need to buy water first,” I tell my hostelmates and our tuktuk driver.
My hostelmates agreed and we had our driver take us to a store first before we came back to start the temple.
From afar, Baphuon looked like a beautiful castle.
But it would take a long walk to get inside.
And I mean seriously far. Entering Baphuon was just like entering Angkor Wat. Before you get into the temple, you have to walk a long, paved path into an arc, and then another 10-20 meters or so to get to the actual gate where two locals barked: “Cover your shoulders, lady.”
Before heading up the long flight of stairs, I shrugged on my sweater that I specifically brought with me to wear to this temple, having been warned that I would need to be covered up for this.
Baphuon Temple was very simple and at the same time elegant and had a castle-y appearance to it. Our tuktuk driver had briefed us about the reclining Buddha before we entered and I made it our mission to go looking for it.
The temple was designed to have levels of structure, giving it a classic, video-game feel, similar to that in the Angkor Wat. From the outside, the levels made it look exquisite, but the fading colors of the temple gave an authentic addition to its design. Every floor was designed to have huge windows and big columns.
To get to the top, we had to climb a LONG flight of stairs. In the middle of it, I decided to go all clumsy, bringing out my water and all, almost losing my balance and tumbling down back some 50 – 60 steep steps. Fortunately, I held on, half laughing at myself and proud that no one had seen my embarrassing stumble.
“The top better be worth it!” I grumble to my hostelmates who were both amused, probably at my lack of coordination.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I made the last step to get to the top.
Thank goodness the view was worth it, otherwise I would have hurled something at someone.
At the top was basically an open area, surrounded by fantastically designed columns and stones or bricks (definitely looked like it had been renovated, since part of it looked like brand new and had a different color compared to the fading black and white bricks) that made up this final level to showcase interesting windows at the tip.
My hostelmates and I thought it would make an awesome background for a picture, unfortunately, the stairs to get there was closed off.
Grudgingly, we headed back down the same flight of stairs and no, there was no other way to get back down. It’s the stairs or nothing.
We exited the temple and headed out to the back where a short walk away was another temple.
Similar to Baphuon’s main temple, it had a long flight of steep stairs to the top. The top level was designed with unique windowed columns.
When we had finished touring this, I believed I was templed out. Seriously. I didn’t want to climb anymore stairs. I just wanted to get out. Too many stairs, too many temples.
We looked for what seemed like the perfect exit out of the temple, but we were shooed away by a guide.
“No exit!” he practically screams and my hostelmate and I nudged each other into a different path, half laughing and half confused.
In the end, we couldn’t find anywhere to exit the temple earlier. As we followed a group of Korean tourists into what we thought was also an exit, we hoped we would find one soon.
And we thought we would find an exit. And we thought…
On our fourth round inside the maze of deities we got ourselves in, my hostelmates and I were already exchanging looks, questioning when this would ever end…if it would ever end.
And we went on a fifth round…sixth round.
Finally, a clearing! I think my hostelmates and I all heaved a sigh of relief at the same time.
We just seriously wanted out.
The Baphuon temple was beautiful, but its vastness will eat you up like the crazy people from Lost.
The exit from this temple immediately lead to a canteen (very convenient, of course) and we found ourselves sipping an average-tasting mango shake before getting out of there.
Tired? Hell, yeah.
Oh, and no, we didn’t see the reclining Buddha. Somewhere between our aggravated rounds and the sweaty climbs to get to the top, we must have missed it. Only to realize after Googling it after, it had been right in front of us all along.