Friday, March 29, 2013

Angkor Wat - Temple City

After lunch and a rest from the heat of the day, we returned to see the 12th century masterpiece of classical Khmer architecture, Angkor Wat.

The moat.
Built by King Suryavarman II as a funeral temple for his father, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world.  It's even bigger than the Forbidden City in Beijing.  It is surrounded by a moat symbolizing the ocean, a wall representing the edge of the world, and 5 towers representing Meru's 5 peaks (home of the devas in Hindu mythology). 

The temple is oriented facing west, in contrast to all the other temples of its time.  It is also dedicated to Vishnu, rather than the usual Shiva.  It was built between 1109-1152AD and continues to be a significant religious center, although now it is Buddhist, rather than the original Hindu.

There is a wide roadway leading to the entrance with the moat on both sides.  The 7-headed serpent greeted you, and the walkway had some curious stones in it!  They have rebuilt half of the roadway and left the other half "as is", so you have to walk carefully.

The Buddha in the entrance looks like King Kamehameha with his lei.

 After entering the complex, there is a large cruciform terrace leading to the central structure.  There is a beautiful reflection pond to one side.

 This long wall was covered in bas-relief friezes depicting Hindu epics, mostly battles.  There are other friezes depicting a historical scene and the 32 hells and 37 heavens of Hindu mythology.

These warriors have the faces of monkeys.
One of the many devatas decorating the temple.
This guy looks really cool.

There are lots of long, cloister-like hallways, and the temple is in much better shape than most of the others, but it isn't as intimate and "jungley", and thereby, not as much "fun" to explore.  Plus, there were some major staircases to climb!  The highest tower is 65 meters!

Kirk's head is peeking out the widow above.  This devata has red coloring, so I wonder what colors might have been here in the past.

When there are tourists, there are local entrepreneurs.  These folks are all dressed up for photo shoots with any willing employer.  It does add a fun flavor to the visit.

You can see the change of color in this sculpture, showing some of the restorations that have been done.  There were places where stones were piled in heaps to the side.  It is an immense project, but it seems to be making progress.  What a delight it is to be able to go inside and "feel" the essence of these amazing temples.
Another pretty view as we walked back out--the colors are softening in the evening light.

Buildings at the entrance to the complex.
THE place to go to watch the sunset is to the temple of Phnom Bakheng.  This hilltop temple has a beautiful, misty view of Angkor Wat.

A Hindu temple, dedicated to Shiva, it was built at the end of the 9th century (2 centuries before Angkor Wat) by King Yasovarman.  It faces east and has a pyramid form consisting of six tiers.  At one time there were 108 small towers, but most have now collapsed.


It was a long hike up a winding dirt road to get to the temple, and we were hurrying to "catch" the sunset.  However, there were mobs of people and a long line to climb up, so we barely made it before they roped it off.

With Angkor Wat in the background, you can see the sets of stones laid out, waiting for reconstruction.  The stone lions standing guard are also a big feature of this temple.  This is one of the most threatened monuments here because everyone wants to climb up to watch the sunset.

See the mobs of people standing on the edge to watch the sun?  Crazy!

Looking towards the Tonle Sap

We had a REAL hamburger and a REAL frozen yogurt for dinner.  It may be a poor country, but we like the food we can get here better than at Chinese fast food places!  

The next day was New Year's Eve.  (We went to Hanoi, then Cambodia, then Saigon, but I blogged all of Vietnam together, so that's why I already blogged about the new year in Vietnam!)  In the lobby of our hotel was a fantastic ancestor shrine, complete with a roast pig!
Out in front of the hotel, they were burning money!!  Those ancestors should have enough to buy a new hat!  It's actually fake money which is for sale in all the shops.  Why do they use American bills?  I guess their Cambodian Riel isn't worth much on the other side either.  We saw other ancestor shrines out in front of the shops as we wandered down to the market.
 It's always entertaining to see what is for sale, and how they are selling it.  Also, I love to say hello to the sweet little children.  I sure miss my grandkids!

We saw a sign that really caught my eye!
No Piranha?  And a free soda?  All for a buck?  This, I gotta try!!
Fish Biting Massage

My grandson, Owen, said "Nonny, how do the fish know when to stop eating your legs?"

It feels like someone is lightly scratching you with their fingernails.  Maybe some of you have sky-dived out of a plane, or bungee-jumped off a bridge, but this has to be the bravest, scariest thing I've ever done!  One fish was a little more aggressive and bit a mosquito bite I had, making it bleed.  Yeah, I now probably have every blood-born disease known to man.  But it felt good and the mosquito bites didn't itch after that!  I topped it off with a pedicure.  Not exactly like my favorite spa back in Tucson.  And neither Linda nor Shanna was here to chat with me!
 We headed back to our hotel in the local mode of transportation.

Riding a Tuk Tuk 

I enjoyed looking at artifacts in the Angkor National Museum which fortunately had English captions.  We should have gone to see these things before we went to the ruins!  It tied up everything together, though, and gave me an appreciation and more knowledge of this ancient culture.

At the airport, we noticed they are doing their best to help teach people about the perils of smoking.

Goodbye, Cambodia.  Thanks for your hospitality.  Best wishes to your people.