Preamble

Trip Start Jan 01, 2009
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Trip End Ongoing


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Monday, April 18, 2011

I did not realize how immense the Angkor Archaeological site is.  It covers over 200 square kilometers and include 70 ruins.  Two days is not enough time to see everything.  I will be trusting Intrepid and T to include the must see ruins in our itinerary.  Today, we will be touring the sites in the city ruin of Angkor Thom because T informed us that the third tier of Angkor Wat is closed, today. 

Our first stop is Ta Prohm.  Because the gates guarding Ta Prohm had the four-headed tower it was originally thought to be a Hindu temple.  However, archaeologist determined it was constructed by Jayavarman VII to honor his mother by placing her likeness in the form of the goddess Prajnaparamita, the personification of wisdom and the mother of all Buddhas.  The main attraction of this ruin is how nature has reclaimed the land.  Throughout the site giant fig, kapok and banyan trees, with their fantastic roots wrap around the walls and towers.  Another attraction is that these trees provide much appreciate shade from the brutal sun.  There are only a few frieze, bas-relief or statues on site, but one striking relief had a face peering out of a gap between roots.  I had to thank T for pointing it out to the group because I do not think anyone would have spotted it on their own.

Next stop was Takeo, a five-tiered pyramid mountain temple dedicated to Shiva built in the 10th century.  It was the first temple built of sandstone; however it was never finished because during the construction the temple was struck by lighting.  In any religion this is considered bad juju.  The steps leading to the top was very steep.  Everyone made it up okay but Steve2 and David2 both had panic attacks on the climb down.  It was a little scary looking out and realizing how high you are and how steep the steps are.  My strategy was to turn around and climb down facing the temple for a portion; then walking down along the sides, always focusing on the side not out.  We managed to talk Steve2 and David2 down the same way.  Once everyone made it down, we were introduce to another T'ism when he said let's bounce (meaning to leave) and started to bounce.

Our next stop turned out to be my favorite temple visited, today.  Located at the geographical center of Angkor Thom is the Bayon.  What first looked like random piles of stone from afar turns out to be sculptured four-headed towers.  There are 54 such towers in the Bayon which total 216 faces, a number significant in Mahayana Buddhism.  I believe each face has an unique expression because I could not find two alike.  The Bayon is designed with 3 levels.  The lower two levels are chaotic maze of passage ways; making it fun to explore to see what bas-relief might greet you around the corner.  After playing hide and seek, you climb to the third tier where you are face to face with these giant sculptured heads.  The archaeologist believe King Jayavarman VII is the model for the faces but no one is sure.  One thing for certain I will not forget my visit here.

After a busy morning of temple touring, we stopped to have lunch at "The restaurant in front of Angkor Wat".  That was the name of the restaurant.  I had a dish of Khmer curry with chicken but it was not spicy.  Not even an one pepper in my hotness scale.  We had one more temple to visit, Banteay Srei.  At this point I think the group was reaching the end of its energy and desire for touring.  It reminded me of the scene in National Lampoon European Vacation where Chevy Chase was say "look kids Parliament and Big Ben" as they drove around in a circle.  Instead it was T saying look another tower and more statues.  For most of this tour, people were more concern about finding a shaded spot to stand.  Maybe two days is sufficient for touring Angkor area.  I would also suggest to break up the day by seeing temples in the early morning, taking a break around mid day and then returning in the late afternoon.

When we got back to the hotel, everyone headed for the pool for a relaxing cool down.  While at the pool, we meet another Intrepid group who were doing the exact same tour but in reverse...starting in Vietnam and working back to Bangkok.  This added some excitement back into the group by describing the cities we have yet to see...I can't wait and see.
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