Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Siem Reap - 18 March 2015

Today is Pat's birthday and we are not visiting any temples.

We are headed south out of Siem Reap to Tonle Sap Lake for a private boat ride. This is the largest fresh-water lake in Southeast Asia and officially designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Because we are visiting in the dry season, the village (on stilts over the water) is not reachable, so we are going out to a floating village near Chong Kneas. The people in these villages depend on fishing for their living and are very poor and lead a hard life.


Boat dock at Chong Kneas

Dry docks - in monsoon season, the water
reaches the top of the bank

The captain's quarters on our boat

Collecting firewood

A cell tower and 2 temples on stilts to avoid
the high water during monsoon season

Water Buffalo walking along the channel

Cooling off

A floating lumber yard

The floating village

A floating school provided by a Korean NGO

General store

Trying to net fish

After returning to the dock, we then drove back to Siem Reap to visit the Artisan's d'Angkor, "...established in 1922 to support Cambodian arts and craft and to help young people find work in their local villages by continuing the practice of traditional arts." Many of the worker were deaf and might not be able to find other work. Their crafts were beautiful.



We then returned to our hotel for the rest of the afternoon. This being the last day in Cambodia, before our flight back to Singapore in the morning, we decided to take a tuk-tuk into town to look around some more, get another geocache and have dinner. We were successful in all three endeavors.

Back to the hotel to pack and get ready to head to the airport in the morning.

It's been a great trip. It is the first time we ever had a personal guide and driver. It was so successful, we'll do it again. The guides and drivers were friendly, well-informed and generally very personable.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Siem Reap - 17 March 2015

After breakfast at the hotel, we were picked up by our driver and the travel guide for our next adventure in the Cambodian countryside,

The first stop was about 65 km from Siem Reap at Beng Mealea temple. "Beng Mealea is a spectacular sight to behold. It's one of the most mysterious temples at Angkor, as nature has well and truly run riot. Built to the same floor plan as Angkor Wat, exploring this titanic of temples is Angkor's ultimate Indiana Jones experience. Built in the 12th century under Suryavarman II (r 1112-52), Beng Mealea is enclosed by a massive moat measuring 1.2km by 900m, much of which has dried up today. (lonely planet)

Although most of the world didn't hear about this temple until after it was "discovered" in 1990, the Khmer Rouge used it during the war in the 70s. As we were walking along the path to the temple, we saw a sign telling about the government clearing 600+ land mines and hundreds of un-exploded ordinance. Our guide related that his children, now teenagers, were always told to leave "shiny objects" they might find in fields or jungle, alone. Even now, there are lots of land mines and ordinance that shows up around Cambodia. (Cambodia Landmine Facts)

But back to the temple. Until about 10 years ago not many people made it our to Beng Mealea because the roads were almost non-existent. Now it is popular because it has not been fully reclaimed from the jungle. We thought Ta Promh was such a temple, but this one is much more so. As the roots of the trees expand, they force the walls apart. Damage is also done when the trees fall.


Rubble around one of the "libraries"

These trees have destroyed this wall

Intricate carving

The ever-present spindles and Ray

A side entrance to the temple

Amazing how the trees grow here

Naga

Just as we arrived, several busloads of
Chinese tourists unloaded, umbrellas and all

We then went to Banteay Srei, a 10th-century temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. "Originally called Tribhuvanamahesvara, the name Banteay Srei (or Banteay Srey) is a modern one, meaning "citadel of the women" or, "citadel of beauty"...When Banteay Srei was first rediscovered it was thought to date back to the 13th or 14th century due to its refined carvings. However, inscriptions later found at the site place its consecration very precisely on 22nd of April, 967 A.D. It is the only major temple not to be built by a King. The construction of pink sandstone is attributed to Yajnavaraha, a courtier and King's counselor. The temple was expanded and further built upon in later years and remained in use until at least the 14th century." (more info)


Approaching Banteay Srei's outer wall

Inside the outer wall, heading to the
inner wall and gate

Looking over the inner wall at the temple

Carving on the outer gate

Naga on the outer gate

One of the buildings protected by Garuda

A false door on the temple

This reminded me of our friend, Muffy.
Is that a fleur?

This temple is known for the
intricate carvings

Looks like 3 mountain peaks or as
Marty thinks, morel mushrooms

Shiva conquered a demon

Once back at the hotel, we again rested and then decided to eat at one of the nearby restaurants. "Nearby" is relative, since the location of the hotel is not in a pedestrian-friendly area. There are some sidewalks, but for short distances and often blocked by cars and tuk-tuks. To go a few hundred yards, meant we had to walk in the road part of the time.

We found a nice restaurant, recommended by our guide. We had an early dinner and then stopped at a coffee shop on the way back to the hotel. As usual, Ray had to have a sweet with his coffee.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Siem Reap - 16 March 2015

Before I go into the day's events, I want you to see the photo id all foreigners need to purchase before accessing any of the temples at Angkor. It cost $40 USD for our 3 days.



After breakfast, we headed to the ancient city of Angkor Thom ("big city"), the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire."After Jayavarman VII recaptured the Angkorian capital from the Cham invaders in 1181, he began a massive building campaign across the empire, constructing Angkor Thom as his new capital city. He began with existing structures such as Baphuon and Phimeanakas and built a grand enclosed city around them, adding the outer wall/moat. He then constructed some of Angkor's greatest temples including his state-temple, Bayon, set at the center of the city. There are five entrances (gates) to the city, one for each cardinal point, and the victory gate leading to the Royal Palace area. Each gate is crowned with 4 giant faces. The South Gate is often the first stop on a tour. (Angkor Temple Guide)


Traffic was backed up for a long way

Some of the 54 demons on the
causeway at the South Gate

The demons and the tail of
Naga (the snake)

The South Gate

Inside the South Gate - 3 elephants

At the main entrances to all the temples there are multiple
stalls selling clothes, trinkets, food, and lots of  other stuff

Once inside the walled city, we stopped at an active Buddhist temple to receive a blessing from one of the monks. This was another of those tourist "experiences" arranged by our travel agents.

Just a few meters from where we got our blessing, we came to the Bayon Temple at the exact center of the Angkor Thom city. " Built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII as part of a massive expansion of his capital Angkor Thom, the Bayon is deliberately built at the exact center of the royal city. The Bayon is the only state temple at Angkor built primarily as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine dedicated to the Buddha. Following Jayavarman’s death, it was modified and augmented by later Hindu and Theravada Buddhist kings in accordance with their own religious beliefs." (Angkor Temples)

The heads at this temple are remarkable.


Bayon Temple

Part of the outer gallery

One of the magnificent heads

Another head

Dancing Apsara in pairs, carved
on the pillars

Part of the outer gallery murals
depicting a feast

We stopped for lunch at the Khmer Village Restaurant. Pat had Sweet & Sour Fish. I had Stir-Fried Khmer Noodle. We split an order of Deep-Fired Shrimp and both had a bottle of Cambodia beer. Once again, a good meal.

Our afternoon started with the Ta Prohm temple, "..original name was Rajavihara, meaning "monastery of the King". It was built as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. The construction of the temple is dated to 1186 AD, but it is generally considered to have been added to and embellished over a period of several years." (Ta Prohm, the Tomb Raider temple)

Although this temple is known as the "Tomb Raider" temple because parts of the movie were filmed here, that part of the site is just a tiny, although extremely popular, part of the whole experience. This temple has been largely left as it was found: overgrown with jungle trees and vines. These trees and vines have cause much of the temple to crumble.


One of the entrances to Ta Prohm

A tree on the wall

Is the tree holding up the wall
or the other way around?

Rubble

The art around the doorways is beautiful

A massive tree with a viewing platform

Crowds in front of where Lara Croft
went into the temple

Dancing girl hidden by roots

Sign showing the before and after of
gallery restoration

My shot of the reconstructed gallery

After Ta Prohm, it was off to the very famous Angkor Wat, built in the early 12th century. Angkor Wat is constructed like a temple mountain symbolizing Mount Meru, home of the Hindu god, Vishnu. This temple is the one Pat wanted to see more than any other and is the reason for coming to Cambodia. It surpassed our expectations. Wonderful!


Approaching Angkor Wat from
the back

Looking at the back of the temple

Some of the many steps we had to climb

Restored dancing women

Beautifully carved lentil

The jungle is close by

Looking down from the top level

Just a nice picture

One of 4 royal pools



More steps to the top level (and they're steep)

Pat at the top level

Looking to the front of the temple

The front way into Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat across the water

Ray and our guide, Sokna

Pat and Sokna

We then went back to the hotel to rest and clean up before taking a tuk-tuk into Siem Reap for the Night Market and dinner.</>