Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cambodia: Angkor Wat

We visited the ancient capital of Angkor Thom (12th century). The South Gate with its huge statues depicts the churning of the ocean of milk. Bayon Temple is unique for its 54 towers decorated with over 200 smiling faces of Avolokitesvara, the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, the Elephant Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King.
In the afternoon, we visited the most famous of all the temples on the Angkor plain: Angkor Wat. The temple complex covers 81 hectares and is comparable in size to the Imperial Palace in Beijing. Its distinctive towers are emblazoned on the Cambodian flag and the 12th century masterpiece is considered by art historians to be the prime example of classical Khmer art and architecture. 

Angkor Wat's towers symbolize Meru's five peaks, the enclosed wall represents the mountains at the edge of the world and the surrounding moat symbolizes the ocean beyond. 
We hiked up a minor hill to see a minor sunset from Phnom Bakent of the Western Baray and Angkor Wat.             

Our multiple temple visits also included Prasat Kravan, with its unique brick sculptures, Srah Srang's "The Royal Boths" was once used for ritual bathing, Banteay Kdei, surrounded by four concentric walls, Eastern Mebon, guarded at its corner by stone figures of harnessed elephants, some of which are still in a reasonable state of preservation, and then  Ta Prohm, one of the most beautiful temples in the area. Ta Prohm has been left relatively untouched  since it was discovered and still retains some of its mystery.      

We also visited the floating village of the Chong Khneas, located 10 kilometers south of Siem Reap and traveled in a traditional wooden boat on the Tonle Sap, the "Great Lake" of Cambodia, the largest in Asia. 

We found these musicians jamming along the path coming from one of the temples. Yup...that would this fellow's prosthetic hand sitting on the edge of the table stage. Naturally we contributed to the cause as we do for all the musicians we encounter.

This seven-headed snake figure is a prominent guardian of all the temples. This one at Angkor Wat is one of the best preserved.

Classic tourist photo. Proof we can check this one off our Bucket List.

It's interesting to observe the similarity between the structures built here and those built on the other side of the world in Guatemala and parts of the Yucatan Peninsula.

VERY steep climb to the upper level of Angkor Wat, similar to those we encountered at the end of the Inca Trail just before reaching the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu.

A view of one of the many court yards inside the top of Angkor Wat. Generally, more of the same. 

So here we are in the inner sanctum and discovered this reclining figure, casually resting on one arm. It reminded us of the reclining figures on top of the many sarcophagus we saw in the great cathedral in Cologne, Germany who were also lying casually on their sides much like this fellow. Guess they've learned to take eternal rest in stride.

This is a view of the inner temple grounds of Angkor Wat from the tippy top of the temple. That orange ball in the distance is a hot air balloon that some enterprising local entrepreneur rigged up to make money on the tourist trade.

Later in the day we went to an excellent museum and discovered the meaning of the shape of these temple towers. Since this is a G-rated, family-friendly blog, I will leave it to your educated imagination to figure out what the shape of this tower might be a reflection of.  Hint: think fertility.

Good shot showing how steep the stairs are to the upper level of Angkor Wat. I take all such inclines very seriously. 

This is an impressive rock pile. Angkor Wat, much London Bridge, is falling down. All the rocks are saved and some are recycled into the structure which is always undergoing repairs.

The folks in this balloon basket are getting an A-1 view of a minor sunset.

Sunset at Angkor Wat.

As if building Angkor Wat wasn't enough to do, there are a whole lot of other temples hidden all over the place in this jungle area. 

Here would be your basic temple library on the out-skirts of the temple grounds.

A "classic" tourist photo of Angkoro Wat with lake reflection. I'd like to know how those post card photographers get such awesome color photos of this. John says they have special filters. I say, they use Photo Shop.

After all that walking and climbing, John deserved a famous Cambodian foot massage. So whilst I investigated the Night Market John was massaged for an hour.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

And the view was an bonus.

No comments:

Post a Comment