Thursday, July 21, 2011

Angkor Wat!!

Today we begin our tour of Siem Reap with Intrepid Travel.  Our guide's name is Vantha (pronounced Wantah) and he is incredibly knowledgeable.  Plus, he's funny and we really like him.  Also, we're the only people on our tour, so that's awesome.  We call the shots.  We began the day at Angkor Wat which was built roughly in the 1200's.  The interesting thing about these temples is they're blended Buddhist and Hindu.  In some, carvings and statues of Buddha have been removed, vandalised, defaced, etc. and images of Krishna and Lingas put in their places.  In one temple though, pictured later, the king wanted to harmonize the people and the whole thing was full of the images and idols of both major religions.  Angkor Wat's history is amazing, and it's remarkable that as much of it stands as it does now.  Also, there is extensive reconstruction going on all over the place to repair damage done to the temples by looters, vandals and general weather and age wear and tear.  
The causeway and gate to Angkor Wat.

Nagas (9 headed serpents) guarding the causeway.

Tiny carvings found ALL over the gate to the temple.

One of the 3 doorways through the gate.

Chillin' at the gate.

Here you can see that the support beams (crosswise) all cracked in the same place, due to stress from the stone roof.  They've been repaired and reinforced with concrete filler.

3 of the towers at Angkor Wat.

Oh yeah, we went up there.

the ONLY remaining original timber door support, showing Lotus carvings.

Did I mention that Josh is afraid of heights?  Goodtimes.

Up at the top of the towers.  They're all connected with walkways, and house a statue of Shiva inside.

I love translations.

One of the top towers at Angkor Wat.

Omg, random half naked baby.

Matt enjoying the bit of breeze coming in through the window ballisters.

Josh dripping with sweat.  Poor Josh.  He melts in the heat.

Just outside Angkor Thom, an elephant came through the gate!

Railway leading to the gate of Angkor Thom, this side is all demons with grimacing faces.  The opposite side is all gods with happy smiling faces.

I got hold of the camera and took pictures of nothing but trees... Matt got frustrated and took the camera back :)

Doorway at Angkor Thom.

Standing with one of the 216 Smiling Faces of Angkor Thom.  

Here you can see the profile of one of the faces.  There are 4 on each of the 54 towers at Angkor Thom temple.  Each of the carved faces is in the direction of the 4 cardinal directions.  This place feels very inviting, because literally everywhere you look, there are tons of smiling faces!

Dancing concubines.

Elephant Terrace.  It would be from this vantage point that the king would watch performances on the lawn.

They cut the grass here by hand.  With machetes.

Josh enjoys a coconut!

Chicken curry with bamboo shoot!

Beef Lok Lak with fried rice and egg!

These next several pics are taken at Ta Prohm temple, which is gorgeously overgrown with trees since it was completely abandonned unlike the other temples.  Now the trees are part of the preservation, since they're growing all through the stonework.

Just some tiny trees... no biggie.

Looking upward through one of the towers whose top has crumbled away.

Doorway at Ta Prohm made famous by one Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider.  Unfortunately, this temple is becoming known simply as Tomb Raider Temple.  :(

Vantha got fancy with our photos... "look over there at the tower when I take it!"

Josh took advantage of the super storm to cool off, and pretend that the reason his clothing was soaking wet was because of the rain.  Right Josh... you were dripping before the rain started.

One last pic of Ta Prohm.

Day two of our tour involves more temples and some other fun stuff, too... so stay tuned :)

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