Monday, November 11, 2013

Angkor Wat

On our second day in Siem Reap we hired a tuk tuk driver, Mr. Lum, to take us to the temples. The journey was not long but was wonderful, riding through the shady jungle streets in the tuk tuk, past troupes of monkeys, elephants, and roadside vendors selling coconuts, fruit and water.

We began by visiting Angkor Thom, of which the highlight is the Bayon temple, which is three levels structures with of dozens of faces, all of them huge and perfectly carved and identical to one another. It was spectacular to climb over the stones and in and around the temples' various rooms, some of which held buddhist or hindu shrines and were thick with incense smoke. There were many tour groups there, but it did not spoil our visit.

Let me say this of this temple and all that we visited so i need not repeat myself unnecessarily  all of the temples, are amazing. They bear many similarities: each is situated in the jungle and is surrounded by the forrest as well as counless smaller temples, statues, walkways, and pools, and everything is or was ornately carved with design and religious figures. All are about 900 years old, give or take a century. Some have been well maintained and others have let the jungle enclose around them, with vines and enormous strangler figs growing on and through them and slowly reducing them to rubble. Around each shrine or temple are locals selling drinks and souveniers and there are throngs of small children selling postcards and musical instruments. Our driver took us to each temple and we had more or less unlimited time to explore. It was a great way of visiting. Some people took bicycles to the temples, which seems like a great idea in the morning, but by the afternoon, the heat is oppressive and i did not envy them in the least.

Next we visited Ta Prohm, which is one of those temples where nature has been allowed to take over, it was amazing to see what will happen if the trees are allowed to grow as they please.

On our way out of that temple we saw what looked like a foot long twig but was the largest walking stick insect i have ever seen. Aside from its mantis-like head, it looked exactly like a stick. Incredible. We also saw a large, dead black millipede and some flying beetle the size of a big cockroach. There were also innumerable cows and several grazing water buffalo (at least that's what they looked like).

We visited numerous other temples, some of which involved climbling steep stairs to the top, which afforded wonderful views over the landscape. Betty Lou was delighted to find an artist from whom she bought a painting.

Our day of temples finished up at Angkor Wat itself, which is truly magnificent, rising above the jungle and approched by way of a long walkway bordered by carvings and a large moat.

We walked around the temple taking in the incredible bas reliefs and i was looking forward to climbing up to the high inner chamber when i fell down some stairs and badly twisted my ankle. Betty Lou spang into action, assessing the injury (not a break but a sprain) and fashioning a bandage out of her krama (traditional Cambodian scarf). The end result of that was that i can walk, limp, very slowly and my ability to climb stairs is somewhat limited, so i did not get to climb up to the inner part of the temple. It is painful and annoying but it shall not otherwise hamper my sightseeing.

In the evening we went out for a dinner of traditional Khmer food - i had a lovely curry and an odd dessert of cooked potato and tapioca - before going to bed, early and exhausted.

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