Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Temples of Angkor Wat: Seam Reap, Cambodia

We left Cambodia by bus and made a hectic border crossing. A tour agency "helped" us acquire our visas and we moved from station to station and bus to bus. When all was said and done we realized that we had paid a little more than if we had done it ourselves, but at the same time it was nice to have someone pointing us to the next desk, checkpoint, or office.

Seam Reap was the Cambodian destination. The legendary, 12th century temples of the Khmer empire, the goal. We arrived late at our guest house and booked a Tuk Tuk ride for the following morning. Sunrise is a coveted time to be at Angkor Wat.

The massive towers, resembling lotus buds, an important icon in Asian culture, were silhouetted in as the sun rose.

The turnout for the sunrise was surprising. There were many jockeying for the perfect spot in the early dawn. Cambodian kids running about getting people coffee and hot chocolate, and selling the option to sit in a plastic chair. About a half an hour after the sun came up the place cleared out as everyone left for breakfast. Chels and I stuck around and enjoyed the enormous complex almost all to ourselves.

When approaching the enormous city of Angkor Wat, you must cross a huge moat on a stone causeway. The city sat on its island with a 2 mile wall surrounding it. Passing through a large gate in the wall you are faced with the grand temple which once towered over the surrounding city.

The access to the ruins is amazing. There are very few restricted areas which you cannot explore.

The below is a view from the Temple tower, looking back toward the gated wall and the moat.

The enormity of the ruins are hard to capture in one frame. As we travel, I don't have the software to stitch pictures and create panoramas. Possibly a fish eye lens will come in the future.

The monks in Cambodia, Thailand, and as we saw later Vietnam, all wear orange robes. They are very easy to spot. They provide a splash of contrasting color to the scenery.

The carvings in the granite walls were numerous. It is amazing that they have survived so many years and remained so intricate. They depicted dances, fashion, relationships, wars, and more.

The Khmer empire's key to feed the masses was the production of rice. They held water in massive reservoirs that the peasants dug by hand. They still hold water to this day, although the rice fields have long been overgrown by the surrounding jungle.

Locals washing their livestock and the children swimming.

Chelsie and I borrowed bikes from our guest house and rode about 30 kilometers around the surrounding area. It was a beautiful ride even though it was hot.

First on the loop were the overgrown jungle temples. We wandered about the ruins of Ta Prohm, the location where Tomb Raider was filmed.

Massive faces stared down in all directions.

Twists and turns allow visitors to wander as if in a maze, passageways, windows, and doors all around.

Some trees, which once dominated, have been pruned back to help preserve the stonework. Large trees twist their roots around large blocks pushing them apart, adding character, mood, and mysticism to the surroundings.

We stopped for lunch. This young one was enjoying her rice.

These guys had made hats from banana leaves and were parading about like little warriors.

This young lady was helping mom clean up.

Inside some remaining rooms and passageways there are pieces of Buddha still lingering. Sadly, many of the statues were destroyed or stolen.

Children, whose parents are vendors, wandered about and played in the ruins. Many children also followed you around pleading for you to buy postcards, jewelery, and other trinkets from them.

The following day Chels and I hired a Tuk Tuk driver to show us some of the more remote ruins.

One of the most fascinating projects that some archaeologists have taken on is reconstructing some of the crumbled ruins. The blocks are numbered, measured and entered into computer programs to more easily solve the puzzle. The complex architecture is then reconstructed.

Pieces, pieces, pieces waiting for someone to put them back together. Different countries around the world sponsor teams to tackle reconstruction projects.

A large gate into the city.

Guards lining a bridge, watching for intruders.

Whew, that was just the start of the ruins and just a few of the photos.
Well stop there and move on.

We stayed at the Golden Mango bed and breakfast. It was a family run operation with moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles all helping out. Excellent service, wonderful stay.

When checking in I was told that there was a duck pond in the back that I could see if I had time. One evening when we came back, I poked my head out the back door to find a wall. Strange duck pond I thought. I climbed the steps to find a walkway with over 80 crocodiles below. Some duck pond. We found out it was a side business.


Jeff said...

Angkor Wat is a great lesson in anitya. They might say anicca in Cambodia. Not sure. Well, you're about six weeks behind my friends. But you won't catch them now unless you come back through Salida. Where you will be welcomed and feted, of course, should you ever do so. I'm glad you didn't try to surprise a duck.

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