Up at a reasonable time and down for a nice breakfast of all sorts of fresh fruits. Servers here are as polite as in Thailand. We met Phroney at about 8:00 and we headed off to Angkor Wat on a very bright and sunny (and hot) day. Before we got to the complex we had to have our pictures taken for the pass into all the temple complexes in the area. There were also the folks trying to sell us books and trinkets – quite a bit more pushy than in Thailand.
We entered the complex from the “wrong” end and had a spectacular view of the complex with the sun behind our backs. We passed a monastery where there were lots of very young monks playing in the street. Also a number of large termite mounds and truckloads of coconuts and other stuff. We took loads of pictures. Naga, the protecting king cobra, with five or seven or nine heads, was at every door and stairway. There were thousands of bas relief of dancers in various poses.
In one huge gallery there were depictions of heaven and hell. The whole complex started out as a Hindu temple and it still has most of the original art work. Indeed, the Hindu gods are still followed by most of the people here, even though they are Buddhists. When people die they are judged. If found wanting they are sent to the 32 hells to be beaten until they are reincarnated. They can eventually ascend into one of the 37 heavens by living the right life.
Then into another gallery depicting the struggle between the demons and the gods – each pulling Naga back and forth in the eternal struggle. Another gallery depicted scenes from Hindu mythology. All very difficult to take it all in.
Then we ascended the steep stairs (after waiting in line) to the third, temple level. Alice and Kitty had to put on “modest” clothing to go. From the top there was a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside and the rest of the complex. It is still an active Buddhist temple and there were a number of images of Buddha. Some had their heads removed (a common occurrence in all of the temples we visited. They were cut off and sold into the antiques trade during the Khmer Rouge reign in the 1970s.
After visiting the temple we walked through the rest of the complex, passing a row of Buddha images that had survived, the library complex. The four pools that were used to heal disease. Then the reflecting pool and the long walkway into the complex from the main gate. We came across a cleaning crew working around the pools, one woman carrying a baby and a three foot machete! We finally left the complex and were shown the bullet holes left when the Khmer Rouge took shots at the Vietnamese army when they invaded to remove Pol Pot in 1979.
We finally went over the moat around the complex and met up with the van driver – who had cold towels and water for us! Very welcome as the temperature was well above 90. Then we drove off through the vendors around where most tourists enter.
Then to Ta Prohm, a complex that has been left in its original state – with the jungle taking over. We first passed a band of men who were all injured by land mines – all had one or more limbs amputated. The complex itself was taken over by sprung trees (very light wood) and strangler figs – all intertwined in the stonework. It was at this sight that some of the movie “Tomb Raider” was shot.
Then we headed to lunch. Passing many scenes that you might expect in India – cows crossing the street, very poor villages, children on the front of motor bikes, and streets adorned with all sorts of decorations. At the restaurant we had a nice meal while Phroney went off to have his three bowls of rice. Then back to the hotel for a rest and a downpour occurred just as we got into the hotel.
After an hour to clean up and cool off we met Phroney at the desk and mounted a pair of tuk tuks for a long ride out to Angkor Thom. We came across a tourist place with an elephant that you could ride as well as a large troop of monkeys, some of whom were misbehaving!
We walked across the bridge over the moat that was guarded by a long line of demons through the gateway. The complex itself is comprised of nine square kilometers, only a small part of which is temple – the rest a city of a million people in 1200 AD. The Bayon is the main temple complex and is noted for its 200+ faces, all smiling and all looking in the four cardinal directions. Phroney said they were images of the Buddha but our guide book said they were of the king. In any event, when the king who built the temple died, his son converted to Hinduism and carved a diamond mark between the eyes to make them look more Indian.
There was a large gallery depicting everyday life in 1200 – from battles between the king and his enemies to people serving beer and smoking marijuana. After taking lots of pictures we headed to visit Bauphon, which was a Hindu temple and Phimeanakas, a Buddhist temple both of which predated Angkor Thom.
As we were coming toward the Elephant Terrace a monkey decided I was his best friend and climbed my leg and sat on my back going through my hair! I dug out a mint and dropped him off on a nearby wall and he ran off. About five minutes later he was back and did the same thing, but he didn’t like the butterscotch I offered him so the guide chased him away.
We met up with the Tuk Tuks and drove back to the hotel. After conversation with the guide about the tour tomorrow I had to get another receipt printed out – but it was a bit messed up so we’ll work it out in the morning. He did make reservations for us at a local restaurant. After getting a bit cleaned up we took a Tuk Tuk to the restaurant and had a nice meal. Cat under the table too!
We walked back to the hotel in the dark – quite nice. When we returned I had some stomach issues… but a grand day!