Saturday, January 16, 2010

Temple Raiders At Angkor Wat

Well, things have been a bit hectic for us as of late, so I really do apologize for the delay in posting this. We have received our 'orders' and will be leaving Okinawa for Port Hueneme, California in just a few more weeks. So...we have a million and one things to do before we go....

Now that I've cleared the air...let's get back to Cambodia. Kevin and I arrived in Siem Reap, pretty late the first night, so we grabbed dinner (click here to see post titled Siem Reap) and hit the hay. The following morning, we got up to meet our personal tour guide and driver at 8am.

If you plan to visit the temples, make sure you plan accordingly. There are well over 100 temples at Angkor, so most tourists usually buy 2-3 day passes. These passes are great since they are also your entrance to use the facilities. As most of the temples are in the Cambodian jungle, toilet facilities are pretty scarce. What little facilities that do exist, allow foreigners to enter for free with a pass, but locals have to pay.

Kevin and I were glad to have a driver AND tour guide since there was a lot of ground to cover. Although we had done our share of reading up on the temples before we got there, we were both amazed by the sheer size of it all. On our first day, we went to visit some of the more major, popular temples like Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom, Bayon, and Ankgor Wat, to name a few.

Ta Prohm, in particular, is fascinating since most of the temple has been taken over by the jungle.

Walking around the temples, we both felt a bit like Indiana Jones.

Our tour guide informed us that we were actually visiting at an ideal time, as the weather was pleasant. Not at all like the summer when the mosquitoes and sweltering heat can make temple raiding uncomfortable. That said, although we agreed with our tour guide about picking the best time; I strongly advise you bring insect repellant, water, and wear comfortable shoes. Although we had a driver to take us to the sites, we did do a lot of walking.

The temples at Angkor Wat are really fascinating, while it is not one of the 7 Wonders of the World, it is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage site with thousands of visitors a year. Many of the temples were built (by hand no less) in the early 12th century. Unfortunately, today, many of the temples have fallen into disrepair. During the Khmer Rouge regime, many of the original blueprints and sacred texts were destroyed. As a result, the temple stones that have fallen off of the temples now litter the ground and must be put into place much like a jigsaw puzzle. International goverments like the goverment of France and Japan are just a few that have taken on the mammoth task to rebuild.

No problem; should only take about 1000 years....

After a hour or so at Ankgor Thom, we made our way over to Bayon, the temple best known for its multiple faces.

In addition to the many faces, our tour guide introduced us to "aspara"--a celestial dancer. Aspara is a typical decorative carving found on temple stones and walls at Ankgor.

Our tour guide also showed us other decorative carvings, like these bas reliefs.

We even saw monkeys frolicking.

Our final temple of the day was Angkor Wat. Built for king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city, the temple complex was a significant religious centre.

Today, the temple is visited by thousands of tourists each year and is a national symbol of Cambodia.

Stay tuned for Day 2 of 2!*


*Warning: Individuals who get bored easily (you know who you are!), should probably skip the next post. Day 2 of 2 consists of more temples.... If that doesn't interest you, this should....our last leg of our trip coming up: Vietnam!
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