Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, and Angkor Wat

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Angkor Thom

We spent two full days and two half days in Siem Reap, and spent almost all of that time at the temples in the surrounding countryside.  Angkor Thom is the largest complex we visited, and it was our first stop.

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The entrance—from three different perspectives, in the pictures above—is grand.  A causeway 
crosses a moat, which is also part of a vast, complex network of reservoirs that are believed to be the basis for the ability of the Khmer empire to sustain crops through fluctuations in rainfall from year to year.  The stability and prosperity that provided allowed for the construction of massive temple complexes over a number of centuries.

Most visitors to Angkor Thom traveled by tuk-tuk, and there would be a row of them parked at major sites.  A smaller number of tourists rented bicycles, which looked intriguing first thing in the morning, but well before noon, it was sweltering and muggy, and we were increasingly glad that we’d splashed out on a guide and a car, which had a cooler of icy water for us, each time we got in and out (we were sweating faster than we could drink).

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Battle scenes were intricately carved in some sections of the walls; while weather had eroded some portions, the detail was still amazing.

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Most of the towers in Angkor Thom were adorned with smiling faces, topped with open lotus blossoms.

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This was another place in our travels where the perspective trick was popular, and while our guide took a picture of Lana, David couldn’t help but take a making-of picture.

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Ta Prohm

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We moved on to a separate complex named Ta Prohm, which many of the guides referred to as the “Tomb Raider” temple, after one scene from said movie.  The tree roots had worked their way between the stones of much of this complex, and the trees and stones were now supporting each other.  Strangler figs had wrapped around some of the trees as well.

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David's Indiana Jones-esque* hat finally seemed totally appropriate to our surroundings, but for once, nobody made any comments about it (*David will note that it's not even remotely a fedora, and thinks it looks more like a truncated sorting hat after being crushed flat weekly, in his luggage; however he also got lots of 'cowboy' comments in Egypt, so hat identification is clearly a weak spot around the world).

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Angkor Wat

After a break for lunch, we drove to Angkor Wat, which is probably the most well-known temple in Cambodia.  It’s also the largest single structure; where Angkor Thom is a much larger complex of sprawling buildings.

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Also, unlike Angkor Thom, the towers are topped with stone that imitates closed lotus blossoms.

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We’d reached the hottest part of a very hot, humid day, and our clothes were drenched.  We were getting really tired from the heat, and the substantial stairs involved in ascending to the upper levels of the temple.  We were also finding it hard to take wide-angle shots that felt creative, and we started focusing on other elements of the temples.

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It was an amazing day; each of the temple sites were different enough from each other that we didn’t feel like they were becoming a blur.  But we were exhausted by the end, from the heat and the extensive walking we’d done at each site.  After showering and resting at our hotel, we switched cultural gears and joined a friend we’d made on the Mekong for St. Patrick's day drinks and dinner at Molly Malone’s.  I would never have predicted that an Irish pub would exist in Cambodia, but there it was, and they even served green beer (Lana asked for one that was beer-colored).  At the time, the day had been so varied that it didn’t even stand out as that odd. Ok, maybe it was a little odd.