After breakfast on the ship, 22 of us (plus Nancy, one of the destinations staff who also accompanied us to Bagan), headed for our next adventure – Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat.
We traveled on Bangkok Airlines, and they sure know how to do things right. They have a private lounge to wait in, with fresh popcorn, drinks, sandwiches, chips, cookies, etc. Then they served us a lunch on the plane! It is a little disconcerting to see fish (those orange things towards the front) painted on the side of the plane, but oh well, it was a very colorful plane.
After a short flight of 1 1/2 hours, we were met by our guide for the trip, Sam Kim – he said it is his nickname and never told us his whole real name. We headed first to the Artisans Angkor Fine Arts and Crafts Center, a workshop where disabled children/teens (mostly deaf and mute) work on all kinds of carving, painting, weaving, lacquer work, etc. They are really good, and the work is amazing. In fact, some of the reproductions in the temples are made here. We made some purchases there and really enjoyed the shop and the mission it represents. It is supported by the European Union.
This part of Cambodia is very different from Sihanoukville – it has all the beauty of the surroundings but much less of the poverty and garbage. It has been named a world heritage site by UNESCO, so that may account for it.
We then went to our hotel, Le Meridien, for a rest before dinner at the Sokha Hotel. Our hotel was simply beautiful and the beds are not king sized, they are emperor sized – like two double beds together. I never saw a bed that big.
Our dinner was terrific, lots of Cambodian foods, and we were entertained with an Apsara traditional show.
The next morning, we were off on our temple adventure.
The first one was Angkor Thom for the Bayon Temple complex, Terrace of the Leper King and the Elephant Terrace. The elephant terrace is a sandstone wall covered with carved hunting scenes and three-hea
There are 1080 temples in Siam Reap. They were built between the 9th and 15th centuries. In the 1860’s a French Explorer, Henri Mouhot, set out into the depths of Cambodia in search of what he has heard locals talk about – ruined temples. What he found decaying beneath layers of roots and trees, is absolutely incredible. Over the past 100 years, teams of French experts and archeologists have reconstructed much of what was ruined into the imprressive Angkor Archaeological Park.
Bayon has 216 faces in the big monuments, pictured below (9 is a lucky number in Cambodia) and you see 9 things a lot, or numbers that add up to 9, like 2+1+6 or 5+4.
The smaller heads are the ones leading into the temple complex, on one side are 54 (5+4 = 9) demons, and on the other side are 54 gods.
Next, we visited Ta Prohm Temple, which some may recognize as being the setting for the film Tomb Raider which starred Angelina Jolie (I guess I will have to see that one now!)
It is a quiet and sprawling monastery and its most distinguishing features are the trees that spread their gigantic roots over stones, probing walls and terraces apart as their branches intertwine to form a roof over the structures. The tree is called the sprung tree.
We also visited Preah Khan temple before having a wonderful lunch of the local foods at a restaurant in Siem Reap. This temple is largely unrestored and has 72 (7+2=9) nagas (the many headed serpent).
One of the things that our guide told us along the way is more about the Killing Fields during the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot killed so many people and they specifically targeted the intellectuals (doctors, teachers, lawyers, etc) Millions were slaughtered and most of the schools, hospitals, etc were destroyed, Everything had to be rebuilt. The Khmer Rouge stole many of the treasures in these temples and others to sell and buy weapons. The country still has many land mines and they say it will take about 10 more years to find them all. They have trained dogs and rats to detect them. Out of every 350 Cambodians, one has lost limbs due to land mines. That’s an incredible number and we saw people with no legs or missing an arm or a leg. The country is slowly recovering from the horrors of that era.
After lunch we visited Bantey Srey temple. This is known as the pink temple or women’s temple because of the carvings of the devatas carved into the pink colored sandstone. It is the only one not built by a monarch and was originally dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva.
Along the way we passed many rice fields and learned that most families have their own small rice field. If they are farmers they have bigger ones, and most have a few oxen or water buffaloes to help them with their work.
Our final stop of the day is the Angkor Wat Temple. This huge temple was built by King Suryavarman as a Hinduist temple, his tomb is in the top tower. There are five lotus like towers rising 65 meters into the sky. It is one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, and no wonder!
We spent two hours here and explored the complex, climbed up into the towers and generally enjoyed the tranquil setting as the sun slowly set. We were taken back to our bus by electric vehicles, they are trying to be environmentally aware here, and in years to come, that is what will be allowed in to the complex. For now, there are motorbikes and even elephants.
My typical capture of local people.
Along the way back to the hotel and on every roadside in our journey, we saw these bottles filled with yellow liquid, we thought it was some type of lemonade or liquor (many of the bottles were whisky bottles), but no, it is gas, rebottled by locals for sale at these markets for the many motorbikes.
We were very hot and sweaty – it is humid here – so after a refreshing shower, we had a Cambodian dinner at our hotel. I never tire of the Asian noodle dishes, morning, noon and night!
Nancy made her way to Pub Street where she did a lot of shopping, but the rest of us were too tired.
The next morning, we flew to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). More about that in the next post. Of course, every Cambodian must love Dairy Queen??? – we spotted this one in the airport!