After our sunrise excursion yesterday we decided to let ourselves sleep as long as we wanted. We spent the morning shopping for handicrafts and taking care of various other things.
After lunch we called up our tuk tuk driver and set off to the temples one last time. We started with one called Preah Khan which is just north of Angkor Thom. It is in much worse shape than the others, with large piles of rubble, and whole rooms that are inaccessible. The parts that are still standing however have some beautiful carvings.
This place is absolutely massive, in fact it’s the largest building in the world, so it should be able to swallow massive amounts of visitors. Yet here I am, in the longest queue I’ve seen in more than two months of traveling. From the stairs leading up to the main stupa, it goes around the corner all the way along the north wall, down to the opposite side of the stupa. I don’t like standing in line but I can’t come to the most famous temple ruin in south east Asia and skip the main shrine, so here I stand…… Read the rest
The entire wall, probably a hundred meters long or more, is covered in bas relief figures. It is something like the Bayeux tapestry, a depiction of a battle with multitudes of armed soldiers on foot, and commanders in their chariots. I’ve seen carvings before but the scale of this is something else. Looking down the corridor and just knowing that the carved scene continues all the way to corner is fascinating.… Read the rest
I’ve heard from several sources that you should see Angkor Wat at sunrise, so this morning we forced ourselves out of our comfortable bed at four o’clock. Our Tuk Tuk driver picked us up and we set off into the cold, starry night.
When we arrived at the temple there were already some people waiting but we managed to claim a spot right at the edge of the pool facing the temple. Soon there was a veritable crowd, three rows deep lining the edge of the pool, we were lucky to be so early. After a while we started seeing … Read the rest
The sky is growing imperceptibly lighter, it’s just possible to make out the black silhouette of the temple against dark grey sky, and the perfect reflections in the still waters of the pool in front of it. Up above, myriad stars twinkle in the sky. The only thing to dampen the mood is the mass of people pressing in on me from behind and from the sides.… Read the rest
From Sihanoukville we took a night bus to Siem Reap. The bus was surprisingly good and we were both able to sleep most of the way. When we arrived we were lucky enough to be able to check in right away. After resting up for a little while we headed out to what is bound to be an important part of any trip to Cambodia, the temples of Angkor.
Our original plan was to rent a motorbike but I read that there is some kind of ban on renting motorbikes for use in the city and apparently there are a … Read the rest
To the left and in front of me is an L-shaped wall about three meters high. It is built by large, square blocks of dark grey stone, the top and bottom decorated with geometric carvings. To the right it is connected to a stone tower with a sort of stepped dome and a passage right through it, the door posts decorated with bas relief figures of Hindu gods. After nearly a thousand years of neglect, the stones are covered in moss and lichen, giving it a copper green hue. A gigantic tree, its roots as large as the trunk of … Read the rest
There’s a large tree straddling the top of the ancient building. The roots, as big as a man’s leg or bigger, come spilling down the walls like a mass of grey tentacles over the dark, moss covered stone. From the top of the roof, the trunk shoots up towards the blue sky, to the green crown high above. In front of the building is a small wooden platform, on it, two Chinese women posing for a photo and in front of the platform, a long line of tourists, all waiting for their chance to take a picture. The place is … Read the rest
The central chamber of the main stupa: despite the size of the the surrounding structure, the room is small and cramped. Save for the sunlight that comes in through a small hole at the very top of the high, narrow, conical roof, the only light inside comes from a few candles. In the center of the room a seated Buddha statue wrapped in an orange cloth with a few decorations on either side. In front of the Buddha is a family, sitting on a thin mat, praying. The room smells of incense, sticks of it burning in a vase at … Read the rest
It’s well neigh impossible to capture this place on a photo. In the middle, the giant, mountainlike central stupa, the peak soaring above the rest of the temple. The sides of the stupa are crumbling, large blocks of stone missing and the reliefs that used to depict faces have withered away during hundreds of years of neglect. Around it there are four smaller towers, one in each direction of the compass, the tops of which consist of four faces, facing four different directions. Lower down, on the sides of both the main stupa and the surrounding towers are dark openings leading in … Read the rest