Day 14 - Wednesday, Nov 5, 2003
Siem Reap

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- Green Town Guesthouse -

8:16 AM
Nescafe, eggs and baguette at the hotel. Our taxi driver from last night (Mr. Paul) arrived at 9 with a Khmer tour guide (Mr. Gia) to take us to the temples. Our guide rode his motorbike since we couldn't all fit in the car.

- Angkor -

Much more acclimated, nice day with tour guide and driver.

Map of Angkor Area

Map of Angkor Temples

- Angkor Thom - South Gate -

9:27 AM 9:27 AM 9:27 AM 9:28 AM 9:29 AM 9:32 AM
We did Angkor Thom in AM. Angkor means city; Thom means big. Founder and architect was Buddhist King Jayavarman VII, probably the most prolific Khmer builder. We entered through the south gate. Causeway to gate - one row of demons, one row of gods, pulling naga to churn the sea of milk. The gate itself was massive, beautiful, with a huge placid Buddha face at the top; a splendid introduction to the Angkor area.

More Angkor Thom - South Gate Pictures

- Bayon -

9:57 AM 10:00 AM 10:01 AM 10:03 AM 10:05 AM Our Guide 10:09 AM
10:12 AM 10:23 AM 10:32 AM 10:46 AM 10:59 AM Central Temple 11:05 AM
11:07 AM Sign in Ladies Room
The Bayon temple: built in 1181. The Champa (conquered Muslims) battled Cambodia, lostů King built temple, city, tomb for himself. Pre-Cham = Hindu, then after winning, king converted to Buddhism.
Heaven is a mountain in the center of the ocean (Hindu) so all the temples have moat and wall. Whatever each king worshipped went in the center (lingam = symbol of Shiva; Vishnu = guy with 4 or 8 arms, no symbol). Buddha faces here are also faces of the king.
Jayavarman 7's daughter married a Hindu who became king and cut off all the Buddhas (and buried the statues under a footpath so the people would be symbolically trampling them). Only the 4-faced Buddhas weren't taken down because 4 faces also = Brahma, a Hindu deity. Our guide mentions repeatedly the story that the daughter stole a secret/sacred sword from her dad to give to her husband, which enabled him to become king. Paging Dr. Freud, white courtesy phone! Pulling the snake to churn the sea of milk?!
Jewelry or statues are put in the foundation of temples (even in modern monasteries), so people dig under old temples for loot and cause them to crumble further. The organization to protect the temples was begun in 1907.
A relief in the east gallery of Bayon showed the parading of the soldiers (victory over Champa, 1180, after 3 years occupation). 3 levels of carving show the whole procession from front to back. The reliefs are fantastically detailed, and do not repeat. The different ranks of soldiers have different costumes and ethnicities; commoners are at the very back, including a female figure holding a child and a spear; another female figure holding a turtle that is biting a man! Carts of rice; animals; drinking rice wine. Scenes of everyday life - hospital (childbirth, etc.), work, chess, party.
Apsara = female dancers with flower garlands (also in heaven). In 1962, the princess saw carvings of apsara at Angkor and revived the ancient dance style.
Ruth wasn't up to climbing Bayon, so she went and sat in shade. Fruit bats in the towers. Upstairs - inside, 2.6 meter buddha (orig.) - put in well? Dan bought us each small brass buddhas from old man and nice nun in white robe in central tower of Bayon. One very nice Avelokitesvara relief survived because it was covered over, although it's clearly a bodhisattva.

More Bayon Pictures

- Elephant Terrace -

11:42 AM

- Ba Phoun -

11:44 AM 11:49 AM 11:50 AM 11:51 AM 11:54 AM 11:55 AM
Ba Phoun - 1102-ish - Shiva temple. One of only two with column-supported bridges like this. Smaller stones because Angkor used all the big ones at quarry. They also reused stones - they would turn the blank side to face outward, and carve that side. Ba Phoun was restored by the French in the 20th century, and is still being worked on - scaffolding. In the 16th century when Khmer retook Siem Reap from the Siamese, maybe then they built a big reclining Buddha here out of small stones (it's not here; it's being restored).

More Ba Phoun Pictures

- Phimeanakas -

11:59 AM 12:02 PM 12:09 PM 12:11 PM 12:14 PM 12:20 PM
12:26 PM
Phimeanakas - 10th century temple within wall (with lions) to Shiva. The palace here was wood, and didn't survive. The king had to climb to the top of the temple every night to meet a 9-headed naga female, who turned human until midnight - then he'd come down to his queen. If he missed a night, bad omen. Lions = guards. Elephants = broken off. 11th century protective wall - brick roof. Sanskrit in temple and in protective wall (with graffiti?).

More Phimeanakas Pictures

- Terrace of the Leper King -

12:31 PM 12:32 PM Towers Used by Tightrope Walkers 12:36 PM 12:37 PM 12:38 PM
Terrace of the Leper King - from here, the king watched sporting events, military processions, etc. 12 small temple things - Prasat Suor Proat (named after tightrope walking because jugglers performed here for the king (also cockfights, pig fights). Garuda (bird head, standing on nagas).
Lunch outside Angkor Wat (very good veg curry in a coconut for $4) and Dan and Claire chitchatted some with little kids selling postcards and bracelets. Cuties showing off knowledge of US and UK capitals, etc.
Us - "Thay okhoon [no thank you]"
Girl - "I don't know what that means."
Us - "Yes you do!"
Girl - "I'm from United States. I'm from Washington D.C."
Us - "Oh really, so are we!"
Girl - no reply
Another little girl had carefully, in decent English, written a whole postcard, which she gave to Claire, who of course had to buy a bunch of postcards then.

- Ta Prohm -

2:33 PM 2:34 PM 2:43 PM 2:46 PM 2:47 PM 2:48 PM 2:49 PM
2:50 PM 2:55 PM 2:59 PM 3:04 PM 3:06 PM 3:07 PM 3:07 PM
3:07 PM 3:09 PM 3:10 PM 3:19 PM 3:19 PM 3:21 PM
3:28 PM 3:37 PM
Ta Prohm - that is the locals' name for it, not the 12th century name. Gate similar to Bayon. This is a Buddhist temple, dedicated to King Jayavarman VII's mother. This is where several scenes for Tombraider were shot. Lovely swampy moat, in the jungle, where deafening shrill cicadas make a continuous high squeal like a dentist's drill or high-voltage power lines. Bayon-style, Garuda and nagas. Buddhists and Hindus got along at that time. The nagas come out of a very long, snaky lion's mouth. The center of the temple once had a nice statue of the Queen Mother - taken to France by colonists. Over doorway: Buddha chopped out and made into a lingam.
Inside Ta Prohm, another Khmer guide with his small tour group rounded a corner, and upon seeing Ruth, exclaimed "She looks just like Angelina!"
On the path out of Ta Prohm, a group of 5 variously disabled musicians played traditional Khmer music for donations.

More Ta Prohm Pictures

- Angkor Wat -

3:57 PM Mortar Shell Damage to Main Causeway 4:09 PM 4:10 PM 4:20 PM 4:24 PM 4:28 PM
4:30 PM 4:51 PM 4:52 PM 4:53 PM 4:56 PM Tethered Balloon 5:01 PM
5:29 PM
As the light was getting long and golden, our driver dropped us at Angkor Wat, then took Ruth back to the hotel (her ankle was getting tired and sore). There was some question about whether Mr. Paul would return for us or send another driver, as he had just gotten a call on his cell phone that his uncle had died. He had been in the hospital for some time with cancer of the spine.
Angkor Wat - causeway reinforced with concrete. Stone of balustrade was taken to make road to Siem Reap. We saw the marks of a bomb explosion on the causeway. The Khmer Rouge used Angkor Wat as a fort. Lon Nol attacked; K.R. had machine guns on the 3 gate columns. Angkor Wat predates Bayon, but the Buddhas in the gateway area are probably Bayon-era. There was an old woman tending the Buddha statues inside the outer wall who had no hands or feet. She still walked around on her stumps, carrying incense and water bottles, with a sweet smile on her face. The Khmer Rouge used to ring their bases with landmines, then move on and leave them. There is a continuing program to remove all mines by 2020.
Angkor Wat is unusual in that it faces west - all the others face east, both Buddhist and Hindu. One theory is that the king decided Vishnu's heaven was on the other side of the universe, to the west.
The causeway is 250 meters long, then another 350 meters inside the gate to the temple itself. The Japanese are currently restoring the side buildings with stone from the original quarry.
The name Angkor Wat comes from the 16th century. It used to have a monastery off to the south. Lotus petals and pods are all over the carvings. Some of the reliefs: Monkeys symbolizing the Cambodian army - they bring trophies (fruit, etc.) and make music to make happiness. In the Ramayana, Hanuman's monkey army defeated demons. Demons on opposite wall: Rama's wife guarded/held hostage by them? Vishnu on Garuda - female at left - captured by demons; Vishnu and Garuda rescued her by bringing the whole hill she'd been hidden in. Gods each on their own steed (peacock, etc.). Mahabharat (Indian epic) scenes - Arjuna, etc. Demon (Bravarsa?) who loved female has 10 heads and 20 arms. Monkeys must cut flag/banner to then kill him? There was red paint here originally, also on the wood ceilings.
Angkor Wat was seething with tourists, all kinds, many Indian females in saris, and of course backpacker types and Japanese tour groups, plus oldsters reminiscent of Kendricks' tour groups. One older Indian man asked Dan where we were from. He said he had a daughter living in the States. Dan told him he had visited India back in 1980 for the solar eclipse.
Dan, Claire and Dodo climbed Angkor Wat (less to climb than expected) and came back down the same steep little steps rather than queue up for the steps with a handrail. We thought we were pretty good until Dodo saw a monk do the same thing faster, in flipflops, without using his hands.
Mr. Gia seemed to enjoy pointing out details in the reliefs at the temples, and was very congenial generally; leaving Angkor Wat he said "Temples-rocks! Temples-rocks!" and explained that many Cambodge (Cambodians) who come to Siem Reap are not impressed and call them just a bunch of rocks.

More Angkor Wat Pictures

As we drove back to the hotel (Mr. Paul having amazingly found us at dusk in the crowds spilling out of Angkor) the sun was about to set in a fine red swirl of cloud, and lots of Cambodians on bicycles were streaming toward Angkor to watch the sunset.

- Red Piano Bar -

Then we piled 4 in a tuk-tuk and had dinner at the Red Piano bar (where Angelina Jolie hung out while filming Tombraider). There were a couple pictures of Angelina with the owner, and a tiny red piano hanging on the wall, as well as shadow puppets (female and male) above bathroom doors; a side patio was all netted-in, with geckos climbing the netting. The "Tomb Raider Cocktail" was Cointreau, tonic, and lemon juice - TART! We had various libations and giggled at George Michael videos. Same tuk-tuk took-took us back - when we left the bar, 3-4 of the drivers swarmed Dan, but one was the guy who'd brought us there; he'd waited. Fare $2 each way.

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