Sunday, November 8, 2015

Angkor Wat and other temples.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat.

Saturday, November 7, 2015
Didn’t sleep a lot during the night, heard the heavy rain from about 2am onward.  Was wondering if there would be a sunrise to watch!  But when we got up at 4am, there was the sliver of moon up above, some clouds and clear sky.  Yippee!  We quickly got ready and Dith picked us up at 4:30 to head for Angkor Wat!  It was amazing how busy is was as we drove!  Many bikes, motor bikes, tuk tuks and vehicles.  Some didn’t even have much in the way of lights and reflectors and on these potted, muddy roads… in the dark…

But we all made it safely to the ticket booth.  Hundreds of folks already there.  Bought a day pass and continued onto the drop off zone.  Did not even think about bringing a flashlight, it was dark, uneven ground, puddles and crowded as we made it through the structures to the viewing point.  Made for slow going.  But we finally arrived and picked our spot.  There were hundreds of people already there.  It would have been nice to be seated at the edge of the pond, but those spots were already occupied.  As the sun came up and showed some nice colors, people would edge more and more forward, sometimes going in front of people that had been there for a while.  There was one lady that just walked right in front of a seated couple and just stood there blocking their view!  How rude!  So the man kept calling to her to move, she never acknowledged, so he finally got up and stood right in front of her and she just moved over.  She did not get it at all!  The crowd applauded.  Pretty funny!

Angkor Wat is famous for its beguiling apsaras (heavenly nymphs). More than 3000 apsaras are carved into the walls of Angkor Wat, each of them unique, and there are 37 different hairstyles for budding stylists to check out. Many of these exquisite apsaras were damaged during Indian efforts to clean the temples with chemicals during the 1980s, the ultimate bad acid trip, but they are now being restored by the teams with the German Apsara Conservation Project.

The sunrise was nice.  So amazing to watch it over Angkor Wat!  From the guide book “Ancient Angkor” by Freeman and Jacques: The Khmer civilization centered on Angkor was one of the most remarkable to flourish in Southeast Asia.  Between the 8th and 13th centuries, a succession of Hindu and Buddhist kings created magnificent temples in stone.  Their elaborate carvings and intricate architecture amazed the first Europeans who visited in the 19th century and continue to fascinate today, when after many years of political turmoil, Angkor is once again accessible.  

The following description is from Lonely Planet guide of Cambodia. 
The traveller’s first glimpse of Angkor Wat, the ultimate expression of Khmer genius, is simply staggering and is matched by only a few select spots on earth such as Machu Picchu or Petra.
Angkor Wat is, quite literally, heaven on earth. Angkor is the earthly representation of Mt Meru, the Mt Olympus of the Hindu faith and the abode of ancient gods. The ‘temple that is a city’, Angkor Wat is the perfect fusion of creative ambition and spiritual devotion. The Cambodian god-kings of old each strove to better their ancestors’ structures in size, scale and symmetry, culminating in what is believed to be the world’s largest religious building, the mother of all temples, Angkor Wat.

The temple is the heart and soul of Cambodia. It is the national symbol, the epicentre of Khmer civilisation and a source of fierce national pride. Soaring skyward and surrounded by a moat that would make its European castle counterparts blush, Angkor Wat is one of the most inspired and spectacular monuments ever conceived by the human mind. Unlike the other Angkor monuments, it was never abandoned to the elements and has been in virtually continuous use since it was built.

The sandstone blocks from which Angkor Wat was built were quarried more than 50km away (from the holy mountain of Phnom Kulen) and floated down the Siem Reap River on rafts. The logistics of such an operation are mind-blowing, consuming the labour of thousands – an unbelievable feat given the lack of cranes and trucks that we take for granted in contemporary construction projects. According to inscriptions, the construction of Angkor Wat involved 300,000 workers and 6000 elephants, yet it was still not fully completed.

This cute long tailed macaque was hanging around hoping for a treat.

Along comes Michelle with some crackers.  This is just before he went after Michelle for those crackers!  Notice his wide open mouth!!

Here he is with the prize!  It was pretty scary!

The internet is extremely slow here, so there are only a drop in the bucket of photos posted.  (That may be good or bad!!)  If you are interested in seeing more, let me know!  Between Michelle, Sandy and myself, we have a TON of great pictures!

Touching the top of an Angkor Wat tower!  (Like a similar photo from Machu Picchu!)

Young Monks.

Elephant rides are available.

We decided to have some lunch then go to see another temple, Bayon.  From Lonely Planet:  Unique, even among its cherished contemporaries, Bayon epitomises the creative genius and inflated ego of Cambodia's legendary king, Jayavarman VII. It's a place of stooped corridors, precipitous flights of stairs and, best of all, a collection of 54 gothic towers decorated with 216 coldly smiling, enormous faces of Avalokiteshvara that bear more than a passing resemblance to the great king himself.

 These huge heads glare down from every angle, exuding power and control with a hint of humanity - this was precisely the blend required to hold sway over such a vast empire, ensuring the disparate and far-flung population yielded to his magnanimous will. As you walk around, a dozen or more of the heads are visible at any one time - full-face or in profile, almost level with your eyes or staring down from on high.

Bayon is now known to have been built by Jayavarman VII, though for many years its origins were unknown. Shrouded in dense jungle, it also took researchers some time to realise that it stands in the exact centre of the city of Angkor Thom. There is still much mystery associated with Bayon - such as its exact function and symbolism - and this seems only appropriate for a monument whose signature is an enigmatic smiling face.

The eastward orientation of Bayon leads most people to visit early in the morning, preferably just after sunrise, when the sun inches upwards, lighting face after face. Bayon, however, looks equally good in the late afternoon, and if you stay for the sunset you get the same effect as at sunrise, in reverse. A Japanese team is restoring several outer areas of the temple.

Young and persistent sales people!

Another of Michelle's friends.  This one wanted all of her crackers as well!

By the time we toured through, over and around this temple… we all got separated from each other.  I ended up out on the surrounding area and was going to see some other areas, but realized it was another huge complex to explore.  I was bushed!  I walked around the outside of the entire Bayon temple until I found Michelle again!  She was busy feeding (and being threatened by…) the monkeys again!  Sandy finally caught up with us and we headed back to our house.

Stacy, Dith, Michelle, Maden, Maden's wife, Sandy

Dith took us back to Maden’s house where we did our final packing and good byes.  It was a wonderful stay with Maden and his family in their traditional home.  I definitely recommend it if you have a chance to visit the area!
Dith took us to our hotel in Siem Reap.  We met up with our trip leader, Shelley, and met some of the rest of our team.  Check in was quick and easy.  Then we took a much needed and enjoyed shower!  Whew!  

Eating Mexican food.. in Cambodia!!

Sandy, Michelle and I went shopping at the market near our hotel.  We found some wonderful bargains, had a nice lunch (at a Mexican restaurant!!  In Cambodia!!) then returned to our hotel for a little rest.  We met the rest of the team for a nice dinner and visit.  A walk back to the hotel and quick good nights and off to bed.  Most of us were quite tired from very busy days.  Tomorrow: off to see more temples!

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