We saved the best for last, Angkor Thom and the Bayon. The guidebooks talk about the enigmatic faces that follow you everywhere. I hope that our pictures give you some flavor of what we were seeing. This temple is meant to be the center of the universe in the fusion of Hindu-Buddhist cosmology and the heart of the Angkor Thom complex. The bas reliefs depict stories of oppressing the kings enemies, daily life and the "churning of the milk" story of creating the elixir of immortality. King Jayavarman VII had the temple built in the late 12th and early 13th century. Barb and I wandered for three hours, climbing whatever stairs we could to get to ever higher levels. The detail on every surface is incredible. We both wondered what it would have looked like fresh, without the melting away from environmental exposure. There are limestone pieces scattered around the base of the temple like jigsaw pieces ready to find their place. There are signs from many different countries working on aspects of the restoration, but it looks very slow as they use mallets and an adze like tool to fit the pieces together.
It truly is a wonder of the world and I feel so fortunate to see it.
We are winding up our trip to Cambodia, leaving tomorrow at 7 am for a 12 (as in TWELVE) hour bus ride back to Saigon. Barb told me about a previous bus ride when she sat next to a woman barbecued tarantulas, but I am hoping for a bit less drama than that. We did include a photo of the street food which we walk by nightly on our search for dinner; there seem to be two large platters of insects (possibly the sad fate of the many cicadas we hear nightly?, or cockroaches? not sure and I didn't want to seem too interested) and a third platter of silkworm cocoons. The Angkor Wat area has been truly spectacular; it is so difficult to choose just a few photos to give you some idea of the incredible ruins that remain here. It boggles the mind to envision what it must have been like when new and completed. The terror and awe that it must have inspired for a supplicant of the king is endlessly manifest. I am a bit reminded of the Wizard of Oz stories; some of these giant heads look awfully familiar, and I think I have seen a few bas relies of those fling monkeys...Many of the people living near the temple complex today live in such abject poverty, what must they feel about the antiquities in their backyard? Lots of amusing details of daily life as well as historical reminiscing in the bas reliefs today