Monday, October 12, 2015

Day 82 - Temples Day 2: Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei and Preah Khan

First glance on Angkor Wat through a window of the gate building

My sister and I "overheard" the alarm clock this morning and slept in (were awake half an hour to set the air conditioning that almost froze us at night, and to get some warmer cloths). We slept until the parents rang the doorbell, which made them pretty angry..... We had to dress hastily and could not really enjoy the biggest breakfast buffet ever. The tour then started only a few minutes late. Today we visited the highlight of our visit: Angkor Wat, the latest and biggest temple of the classical Khmer temple-building period. Angkor means Town and Wat means temple - and that is very appropriate: All that is left from the big Khmer capital with estimated one million inhabitants is large temples, and the latest and biggest one is considered to be the biggest religious building on earth. Since the primary state religion had changed from Hinduism to Buddhism several times in ancient times, the sites are now a mix of both styles.

The Angkor Wat templetown in its full beauty (from the backdoor)

The wall carvings that
are not finished yet
We started from the east with the morning sun in the back to take the best photos. Our tour was very interesting, although we saw many things many times. But: as our chef from the cooking class told us "same same but different" ! The several hundred meters of wall relievos showed so many different stories and legends, but we concentrated on those that depicted a parade in front of the king and those that describe the ancient Hindu mythology. Interesting that many stone details are carved after wood tenplates, e.g. fake doors or window latticework.

After having the wall relievos on the first level explained, we climbed to the second level where you found more than thousand wall relievos (30-40 cm high) of Apsara dancers. Even though the relievos are created after the example of women in the 12th century, many look very modern and even have futuristic hair designs. They only wear jewelry and a sarong which, if not weathered, still has ornaments.

The steepest stairs go up to the third level where only a limited number of visitors are allowed to climb - so you have to stand in line for some time (if you don't go with a guide that stands in line for you ;-) ) On the third level you find Buddha statues and the best preserved carvings (because they are under roofs). From there we had a great overview over the whole temple area. After descending, went over another rainbow bridge that crosses the artificial lake (which shall represent the Hindu "proto ocean") around the temple.

The rainbow bridge towards Angkor Wat in East direction to make a wish

After almost three hours at Angkor Wat, were driven to Ta Prohm temple. It is widely in ruins, but very famous because it is overgrown by the jungle and was the often-copied location of the famous "Tomb Raider" movie. We walked to the temple over a small jungle path and through an old, deserted Buddha gate with big smiling faces that are by the way built according to the four cardinal directions.

After a simple (but not inexpensive) lunch, driven 30 kilometers to the countryside where we visited an older and smaller temple made from reddish-brownish sandstone that is much more luxury, valuable and solid than others. Through the explanations of the relievos, we learned a lot about the ancient Hindu religion. There we saw much more delicate carvings which where much less weathered because of the good quality of the sandstone. After some time even the sun came out. On our way back to our minibus, we had to walk through ditches and even along the edge of a former minefield that was cleared only in 2007.

Our final temple for today was Preah Khan, back in the main Angkor Wat area. The temple is partially ruined, but has a very unusual two-story side building (the spider house). It was nearly sunset when we left that temple to see the sun setting at Angkor Thom south gate and bridge. After returning to the hotel, we had dinner in the same nice family restaurant that we explored yesterday. Quite tired we went to bed early.

Buddhist monks at the evening prayer: different cloth colors indicate a different degree

What I learned?
All along the road we saw small huts where many people walked around, trying to sell their garden products and fruits from the jungle. Because they are so small and weak and remote the big towns they don't get any juice, I mean electricity. As a result you often find car batteries in huts or on the moving selling stalls that you charge after around three days when you get in town.

What you certainly have to charge more often is your motorbike's tank. Usually the people only fill one liter per filling to not have it stolen. For filling they do not look up the for Western people usual gas stations but private gas stations: canisters or mostly one-liter bottles filled with fuel which is much cheaper than normal gas stations (because regular people don't have to pay taxes).

Water buffaloes are quite thick in comparison to lean cows or oxen. That's because cows and oxen are picky and water buffaloes eat everything. They also must be strong because they are treated as livestock, the others are butchered.

As a comment to earth pollution due to plastic: in Cambodia you would never get a plastic plate or plastic bag. What you buy for takeaway you get along in a banana leaf or lotus leaf. Congrats! True sample.

Flying red balls: people selling fruits from the jungle

P.S. What fingers do to artwork. They make it prettier!

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