And it's Temple-tastic surroundings
14.06.2009 - 24.06.2009
I leave Phnom Penh behind me & take a bus to Siem Reap and the ancient temples of Angkor. As I get off the bus I get mobbed by moto drivers and pick a friendly looking one to take me to my hostel. In fact he's really nice and speaks good English, so I hire him to drive me round the Temples the next day. Angkor Wat was built in the early 1100s, but in all there are over 1000 archaeological ruins dating from around this period. Overrun by the temples & re-found in the 19th Century, even now the temples have been cleared and partially restored, they still lie in a beautiful setting. I get a three day ticket and start working my way round the different sites, each obviously related to the others but each different in their own way (Did I just quote High School Musical?!) They are stunning, just stunning.
We started at Angkor Wat, which seemed like the right place to start, and crossed a large bridge to reach the impressive entrance way. Passing through dark stone hallways and emerging again into the sunlight we reached a well tended expanse of lawn and pools, with two stone buildings either side of a long stone pathway leading to the temples in the distance. It reminded me of English Heritage castles, but with better weather. As I walk towards them, the towers do get more impressive, towering into the blue sky. There are carvings everywhere, patterns at the base of pillars, dancing girls on the outer walls and running the length of a corridor the entire Ramanyara in exquisite detail.
Next to be visited is the slightly more ruined Angkor Thom, a site with more than one temple and the excitingly named "Terrace of the leper king". Its entrance way is impressive; a dozen statues apparently playing tug of war with a snake and inside the three or four site ramble on into each other. I try to read a notice board on the history of the main temple, but give up when it starts to lapse into "Some historians believe the Buddha's sloping eyelids date to the Jayavarman VIII period, however the slight curve to the mouth would indicate they were carved in the Jayavarman VII and only altered within the Jayavarman VIII period". The Buddha carvings in question are massive faces on the peak of the temples turrets and are dramatic enough not to need such detailed interpretation.
I cannot list in such detail the many other temples we visited in the two days, they were gorgeous monuments to a past time and the jungle creeping in gave them an atmosphere unlike anywhere else I have been. In some the trees have literally taken root in the stonework, in others you can clamber about and in some the steps are so huge and steep you wonder if they were created by a race of giants. At the end, however, I truly understand the meaning of the traveller's phrase "templed out"