Sunday, November 8, 2015
We had a leisurely morning, ate a nice breakfast at the hotel then were picked up at 9am by our tuk tuk! From the CNN travel site: Even tuk-tuk fans will quickly understand why every market stall offers T-shirts emblazoned with: “No tuk-tuk. Not today. Not tomorrow,” but don't let the aggressive hawkers intimidate you into missing out on a quintessentially Cambodian ride.
|Thoeun and Michelle in the rain ponchos. Sandy is leaning out from the tuk-tuk.|
Tuk-tuks are the local taxis, and the easiest way to get around Siem Reap. You can get anywhere in the main city for US$2, while good negotiators should be able to talk drivers down to a dollar. Tip the driver well and you'll have a friend for life, plus an eager tour guide who will show you the best of Siem Reap.
Our driver is Thoeun (pronounce “tin”). The going rate for this service all day through the temples is only $15US!! Wow!
|Staying dry in the tuk-tuk.|
Anyway, torrential rains started as we headed out. Tihn bought Michelle a rain poncho and off we went! Tuk tuks are the way to see Siem Reap and Angkor Wat! Very fun, comfortable and maneuverable. We went back to Angkor Wat and each bought a 3 day pass ($40) because there is soooo much to see and we want to keep going back!
|Local doggy resting in the ruins.|
Our first stop was Ta Prohm Temple. From Lonely Planet: Ta Prohm is undoubtedly the most atmospheric ruin at Angkor and should be high on the hit list of every visitor. Its appeal lies in the fact that, unlike the other monuments of Angkor, it has been swallowed by the jungle, and looks very much the way most of the monuments of Angkor appeared when European explorers first stumbled upon them. (Think “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) Well, that's the theory, but in fact the jungle is pegged back and only the largest trees are left in place, making it manicured rather than raw like Beng Mealea. (Which is one of the places we visited yesterday)
Many water buffalo all over!
Still, a visit to Ta Prohm is a unique, other-world experience.The temple is cloaked in dappled shadow, its crumbling towers and walls locked in the slow muscular embrace of vast root systems. If Angkor Wat, the Bayon and other temples are testimony to the genius of the ancient Khmers, Ta Prohm reminds us equally of the awesome fecundity and power of the jungle. There is a poetic cycle to this venerable ruin, with humanity first conquering nature to rapidly create, and nature once again conquering humanity to slowly destroy.Built from 1186 and originally known as Rajavihara (Monastery of the King), Ta Prohm was a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII. It is one of the few temples in the Angkor region where an inscription provides information about the temple's dependents and inhabitants.
Ta Prohm is a temple of towers, close courtyards and narrow corridors. Many of the corridors are impassable, clogged with jumbled piles of delicately carved stone blocks dislodged by the roots of long-decayed trees. Bas-reliefs on bulging walls are carpeted with lichen, moss and creeping plants, and shrubs sprout from the roofs of monumental porches. Trees, hundreds of years old - some supported by flying buttresses - tower overhead, their leaves filtering the sunlight and casting a greenish pall over the whole scene. The most popular of the many strangulating root formations is that on the inside of the easternmost gopura (entrance pavilion) of the central enclosure, nicknamed the Crocodile Tree. It used to be possible to climb onto the damaged galleries, but this is now prohibited to protect both the temple and visitor. Many of these precariously balanced stones weigh a tonne or more and would do some serious damage if they came down.
Sandy got separated from us while we were there. We waited out front for her. Turns out she was “high jacked” by a rogue tour guide and had an amazing private tour all over the ruins and into places where the tourists are not generally taken! Quite an experience!
We stopped to see the Ta Keo Temple. Due to work being done on the temple, we could only look at it, not actually visit. According to the Lonely Planet website:
AN UNFINISHED MASTERPIECE
Massive sandstone blocks were used to construct Ta Keo. The temple was one of the first, if not the first, to be erected entirely out of sandstone. If this temple were not abandoned during the ornamentation stage, it would surely be among the finest examples of Khmer architecture. The temple’s precision stonework and thoughtful simplicity is unparalleled throughout Cambodia’s temple region. Today, despite the temple’s brilliant construction, Ta Keo appears plain against the ornate façades of neighboring temples.
This lovely little butterfly just loved Michelle!
|Look carefully: these are elephant heads, the trunks hanging down.|
We stopped for lunch at one of the local areas, there are several within the park. These are open air dining areas. There are many proprietors within the little complexes. We had a nice lunch and refreshing drinks. I had a fresh watermelon juice. It was delicious!
|The kitchen, meals being prepared as ordered.|
|Lots of open air shopping stalls, selling lots of stuff...|
Our next stop was Bapuon Temple. From the renown-travel.com website:
The Baphuon is the state temple of King Udayadityavarman II. It is located in the old Khmer capital city Angkor Thom, between the Royal Palace and the Prasat Bayon. The sandstone monument that was dedicated to Shiva is in the shape of a stepped pyramid.
When the temple was converted into a Buddhist temple in the 15th century, part of the Baphuon was demolished and the stones used to build a Buddha image on the West end of the temple. The very large reclining Buddha image, which shape is difficult to make out, was never completed.
Restoration of the temple
When the Baphuon was cleared in the early 20th century it was overgrown, partly collapsed and in a very poor state of repair. The daunting task of restoration was led by the EFEO, École française d'Extrême-Orient using the method of anastylosis. Most of the temple was dismantled and the hundreds of thousands of stones laid out and numbered. The unstable base of the monument was reinforced. After decades of restorations, the Baphuon was once again opened to the public in 2011.
By this time we were so hot, it was extremely humid and the sun was beating down on us. We did not climb to the top, just went around the perimeter and into the surrounding jungle. It was much cooler in there! There were very few other people around, it was excellent just wandering through on our own.
Phimeanakas (Royal Palace) from the aboutasiatravel.com site:
Located within the Royal Palace compound of Angkor Thom, Phimeanakas was constructed long before the other buildings within Angkor Thom. Owing to its date of construction, its Hindu heritage and thus its architectural style is evident, the most notable aspect being its 3 tiered, pyramid design. Phimeanakas Temple Highlights include the location itself within silent jungle, and the aforementioned pyramid structure, where the top tier offers privileged views of the adjacent Baphuon Temple. Within the temple itself some beautiful and detailed inscriptions still remain on the walls, and take the nearby paths to lead to ancient bathing pools.
Built at the end of the 10th Century by King Rajendravarman II, the main function of Phimeanakas (which means "Celestial Temple") was either for religious ceremonies or for the king himself to worship the Gods. The Temple has undergone several additions since its construction, the most significant of these being in the 11th Century under King Suryavarman I.
Preah Palilay: Preah Palilay in Cambodia is a fairly decrepit but nevertheless very attractive temple which can be found tucked away from the hustle and bustle of many of the larger Angkor temples with its serene shaded forest setting and jungle surroundings.
It is widely believed and accepted in Cambodia that Preah Palilay was constructed by King Jayavarman VII as a Buddhist temple in the late 12th century, although some people argue that the Theravadan themes depicted in some of the carvings and building structure suggest it was built some hundred years later. Hindu reaction to the temple was fierce and the Buddha was removed from the temple, before the Khmer returned to reclaim it. It was reconstructed in the post-Bayon period.
|Lots of these local dags roaming around.|
|The monk is pouring water over the lady, some religious ceremony.|
Tep Pranam: A long walkway with a Buddha figure at the far end. Tep Pranam was originally a Buddhist shrine in the 9th century under Yasovarman I, the king that moved the capital to Angkor. It was expanded over the years with 12th century balustrades, 13th century lions and significant post-Angkorian modifications and additions.
|The macaque monkeys are everywhere!|
Terrace of the Leper King: from Tourism Cambodia website: The terrace of the Leper King carries on the theme of grandeur that characterises the building during Jayavarman VII's reign. It is faced with dramatic bas-reliefs, both on the interior and exterior. During clearing, the EFEO found a second wall with bas-relief similar in composition to those of the outer wall.
Some archaeologists believe that this second wall is evidence of a late rites, two meters wide of laterite faced with sandstone. It collapsed and a second wall of the materials, two meters wide, was built right in front of it without any of the rubble being cleared. Recently, the EFEO has created a false corridor which allows visitor to inspect the relief on the first wall.
Elephant Terrace: The 350m-long Terrace of Elephants – decorated with parading elephants towards both ends – was used as a giant viewing stand for public ceremonies and served as a base for the king's grand audience hall. (www.lonelyplanet.com)
Suor Prat: Sour Prat temple is located at the beginning of the road leading to the Victory Gate, in front of the Royal Palace. The temple was built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII and features a row of 12 square laterite and sandstone towers, six on one either side of the road leading to the Victory Gate.
According to a Cambodian legend, the towers served as anchoring places for ropes which stretched from one to another for acrobats performing at festivals, while the king observed the performances from one of the terraces. This activity is reflected in the name of the towers. Zhou Daguan wrote about the entirely different purpose of the towers in describing a method of settling disputes between men. Some think that they may have served as alter for each province on the occasion of taking the oath of loyalty to the king.
|Michelle's new honey!|
Our final stop was Preah Kahn. The temple was built in the second half of the 12th century in AD 1191 by King Jaya-varman VII, dedicating to his father Dharanindravarman.
While we were in there, a couple of the temple security cops took some cool photos of me and Michelle and showed us some neat sites. (For a donation, of course!) It was a blast!
|The Goddess among the goddesses!|
|Nagas at the entrance of the gate.|
Theoun was an excellent driver and host. He provided cold water and face wipes throughout the day. Was very clear on pick up points and approximate times to tour each site. We will definitely call him for more driving!
|This little old fellow hangs out here all the time. One of the team members tried to pet him and the dog tried to bite him. These dogs hang out around humans, but are not handled and are not pets. Interesting dynamics....|
Back at the hotel we got cleaned up, had a bite to eat, worked on the blog, hit the hay. More touring tomorrow!