Monday, December 02, 2013

The Mystery of Angkor Wat

Greetings All,
After our successful completion of the Dhaulagiri Circuit we could relax and spend a pleasant morning in the village of Marpha.  We visited the monastery where a memorial ceremony was going on and were invited to sit on golden mats in the back of the monastery to watch the proceedings.  Five monks were seated on each side of the room and the head lama was seated on a throne in the front right corner.  We watched in quiet respect as the monks chanted, played horns, clashed cymbals and beat drums.

Marpha Monastery
As we were leaving the monastery I had one last chance to spin the many prayer wheels asking for good health for my family and friends.

Peggy Spinning Prayer Wheels
All too soon it was time to leave Nepal but not before thanking our great trek crew for all their help during our trek.  They carried our heavy loads, set up our tents, prepared and served our meals, brought us coffee in the morning and were on the trail offering a reassuring hand on the tricky sections.  Dhanybhad (thank you) to our wonderful Nepali crew for a job well done!

Our Nepali Trek Crew

The last stop on our trip was Siem Reap, Cambodia to visit the ancient temple complex of Angkor.  There are many temples built on the site from the 9th to 15th century by the Khmer Kings.  We started our tour with a visit to Angkor Thom, the last capital city of the Khmer empire, established in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII.  At the center of the city is the great Bayon Temple.

Bayon Temple
Along the walls of the temple were many carvings depicting scenes from everyday life during that time.

Bas-relief Depicting Preparing and Serving Food

The next day we visited the Preah Khan Temple.  It was also built in the 12 century for King Jayavarman VII.  Hidden deep within the collapsing walls of Preah Kham was a tiny shrine dedicated to Jayadevi, one of Jayavarman VII's two sister-wives.

Jayadevi, one of Jayavarman VII's Sister-wives

One of the most curious carvings was that of a dinosaur in the Ta Prohm Temple.  Were dinosaurs even known in the 12th century??  Is this proof that dinosaurs and humans once coexisted??

Ta Prohm Temple Dinosaur
However most of the tourists were not interested in the dinosaur.  They had flocked to a doorway where the tree roots from the surrounding jungle had almost engulfed it.  It was here that Angelina Jolie had posed in a scene from the movie "Tomb Raider".  I jumped ahead of a large group of Chinese tourists queuing up to take their picture here and snapped a quick photo.

The Movie "Tomb Raider" was Filmed Here
We ventured outside of Angkor to visit one of the more quiet temples, Banteay Srei, a 10th century temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.  Banteay Srei is built largely of red sandstone and is known for its delicate, intricate carvings.

Banteay Srei Temple

Close-up of One of the Carvings
That evening we climbed to Phnom Bakheng Temple to watch the sunset along with hundreds of other tourists.  They did not seem to care that they were sitting on and possibly damaging a 9th century temple.  We did not stay for the sunset.   
Tourists Watching Sunset from Phnom Bakheng Temple
We saved the best for last, a visit to Angkor Wat.  We asked our guide "how can we see the temple without the hordes of tourists?"  "There are only two ways" he replied, "one is in a hot air balloon, the other is in a helicopter".  The hot air balloon was out of commission so we chose the helicopter flight.  We needed a minimum of three so purchased a seat for our guide Smey.
Getting Ready for our Helicopter Flight
From the air you get a sense of how big Angkor Wat is.  The temple is surrounded by an outer wall with an apron of open ground.  The jungle is beyond and a 625-foot wide moat encompasses the entire complex.   
Ariel View of Angkor Wat
We couldn't fly directly over Angkor Wat so we did brave the crowds and visited the temple complex from the ground.  We managed to avoid the worst of the throngs but couldn't escape them when climbing the steep stairs to the central tower.
Monks Climbing to the Central Tower
Our last stop on our Cambodia tour was a visit to Kampong Plok, a fishing village on the shore of a freshwater lake, Tonle Sap.  During the rainy season, the lake fills with water and the village is over the water.  People get around in boats and go about their daily lives as if they were living on dry land.
Fishing Village of Kampong Plok
That evening we enjoyed our last dinner in Cambodia at one of the local restaurants.
Dinner at Champey's Restaurant
We're now back home unpacking and doing laundry (fun, fun!). Until our next adventure, stay happy and healthy.  See you later alligator (or crocodile).
Crocodile Leather Shop in Siem Reap
Hope to see you soon,
Peggy and Marc