Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Then What to My Wondering Eyes Should Appear...

This is the last monument at Angkor that I want you to experience. It is called Ta Prohm--a Buddhist monastery built in the late 1100's. When the ruins at Angkor were first being excavated, it was decided to leave some of them alone, so everyone could appreciate the impressive force mother nature can wield. The huge trees that you will be seeing are called silk-cotton trees and they are spectacular! They are large and unique, almost looking fake--definitely giving Ta Prohm an eerie tomb like atmosphere. (FYI, Tomb Raider was filmed at this very location!)
So once again, watch your head, and come take a look at what mother nature has claimed as her own! (I am sure you have noticed by now that I like taking pictures that seemingly take you into somewhere else!)Remember how we have been here in both rain and shine? Well, the rain on this day brought rivers of water where there should have been none!
The following three photos are just to whet your appetite on what is to come!
May I just say 'You 'ain't seen nothin yet'? Check this out! And this! How puny are men's labors when mother nature takes over?
Here are the same two photos at a camera must is in rain--and one with shine!Although now they have added a fence in front--not a great addition visually!
As we were going through the ruins, there were several Cambodian boys following us. All of a sudden they stopped us, and told us that we had to look at this tree. I looked...and looked again; what was I supposed to be looking at or looking for?
And then I saw her...'The Lady in Tree'! She is the most famous resident here at Ta Prohm. Look at her close-up! My special thanks to our little friends who insisted we stop and take a look! So this is a little taste of Ta Prohm at Angkor--a fascinating glimpse into an "otherworldly place." I hope you can experience it someday for yourselves!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Just as I promised!

To take up where we left off, you simply have to experience two other stops in Angkor. They are unique in their own way, so I hope you will find it interesting. About 2 kilometers from Angkor Wat, there is a majestic entrance to Angkor Thom or "The Large City" as it was called, built in the 12th century. This used to be where the palace was located, and where they estimate 100,000 people lived. It encompasses a rectangular area of about 9 square miles and it has its ' own unique monuments. To enter this complex, you drive down a passage way lined with 54 gigantic divinities, that look like fearsome war-lords. They are carved in solid stone, with the 54 gods struggling to hold a large 9 headed serpent, as if to prevent it from escaping.

Can you see them clutching the mighty 9 headed serpent?

This causeway leads to a monumental gate that is called "The Victory Gate, or South Gate." This gate leads you into the city complex. The opening is large enough for the vehicles of today to pass through without any problem. (Actually there are four more gates like this one that surround Angkor Thom!)

Notice how beautiful these fearsome gods are...

Now for the close up!

It is thought that the city complex, the palace (which no longer exists) and its famous temple, the Bayon, are Buddhist in origin ( remember, Angkor Wat is Hindu). Certainly it has a different feel from Angkor Wat. Note serenity of the head on the top of the Victory gate. What a benevolent welcome!After going through the gate you come to one of the most famous and unique temples. It is called The Bayon. If Angkor Wat is grand and imposing, the Bayon is wild and erratic. To fashion this structure from stone, without use of cement or mortar, it is amazing to behold. Just visualize how grand it must have been in its day. In fact, the center tower of this structure was supposedly coated in gold leaf! That would have been impressive! When most of the excavating was completed, they realized that the Bayon was situated in the exact center of Angkor Thom.

These two shots gives you an idea of it's grandeur.

This is me enticing you to come with me and see!

Now I know you are thinking, what is so unique about this temple? Well, check this out!

And this!

And this!

There are 200 of these large faces carved into the 54 towers that make up The Bayon. Are you impressed yet?

I suppose you might be getting a little tired of seeing so many faces, but lest you think this temple is unique simply because of that...You should also know that they carved in their walls surrounding the complex these incredible bas reliefs depicting their daily life and significant events! Here are two examples for you to enjoy!

Just in case you think that Dad was not with me at this temple, here are two photos to prove that he was!

As we were leaving the Bayon to go to our third ruin...we passed by this beautiful and peaceful field, "The________ Terrace". I will let you fill in the blank!I was going to take you to third and final ruin of our visit in this posting...but this will have to do for today. But stay won't believe what is coming next!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

There is beauty all around...

Cambodia is a lovely country. I have especially come to love and appreciate the people of this beautiful land. I have found them to be kind and gentle and quick to meet your smile! However, it is not a country without a past. From it's ancient glorious pinnacles of amazing architecture and domination, to being controlled and almost destroyed by one of their own in the modern era--Cambodia has experienced it all. So come with me in discovering one of the most incredible places in Asia...just be careful not to bump your head!
One of the most famous sites in all of Cambodia is found at Seim Reap. This is the modern city where the famous ancient city of Angkor was located. Angkor was a huge complex that housed over 400 temples, a large palace and many other buildings. This city was begun in the 9th century and flourished until the 13th century. It's saw its decline by the 15th century--when the jungle took over and kept it hidden from the world. It was re-discovered in the 1800's by a Frenchman and has become one of the most sought after places to visit. Angkor Wat (wat means temple) is the most famous of all the monuments in Angkor--it was built in the mid 12th century and is surrounded by a large moat.

Note the aerial view of the complex. Pretty impressive don't you think? Because dad and I have been to Angkor twice, I shall be including pictures from both trips. (This will keep you on your toes to see if you can tell which trip was when!) However, I shall give you a wee hint--the first excursion was done in pouring rain, while the second one sported blue skies and plenty of sunshine!

It's raining...(dare I say it Kara?) Cats and dogs! (I have to get in a cliche now and then!)

And here we are without the rain gear! Wow--what a difference a day makes!

As you walk over the moat to enter the complex, you are watched over by a seven-headed serpent or “naga” that forms a stone balustrade on either side of the walkway. They are magnificent and unforgettable!

This temple was originally built for the worship of Hindu deities. The complex must have been a huge undertaking to build. The stone buildings are massive and when you realise that all this was done with out machinery of any kind, the rest of the day is spent in awe as you witness the size and complexity of the buildings.
Can you feel the majesty of this temple complex? Absolutely incredible! Also, when you get close enough to examine the walls, you realize that the almost every wall inside and outside has been carved with the most beautiful and intricate bas reliefs. At the center of the temple complex, there is an edifice that has incredibly narrow, steep steps. To reach the top, you literally have to climb bent over, using your hands to help you. This was done deliberately, so anyone climbing up to worship would be forced to do so in a humble-like position. Even the king had to climb it in this manner! I opted NOT to climb the steps because of the rain--too dangerous. However, we had two companions that thought it would be a fun thing to do!

Here they are on their way up--they are only standing because of the photo shoot!

Looking down from the top!

Not exactly the best of steps!

I was all set to climb the steps this trip...but darn if they had not closed them off. Apparently, someone fell while climbing and spoiled all the fun for the rest of us!

Here are two views from the top...

After leaving Angkor Wat and on our way to visit another temple, I was amazed to see a car wash facility on these ancient grounds...who knew? This is all for this posting...I hope you loved Angkor Wat as much as I did! But wait...there's more...two more temples to share and then some thoughts about modern day Cambodia...Are you up for that?

PS: A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON OUR WAY TO DISCOVER ANGKOR WAT...There was this handsome young man with a film crew standing a few feet away from us. He was obviously getting ready to film about the history of Angkor Wat. As we were watching him prepare, dad said to me, "Isn't that Erin's friend from Punahou? The one that is on Globetrekkers?" I looked closer and sure was him...none other than Zay Harding! I was going to let it go and not bother him, but I thought better of that idea-- Who could let this opportunity pass? SO using Erin's name, Punahou and reminding him that he was her classmate, I introduced myself to him. He, of course, was so nice...stopped his filming to chat for a while and inquire after Erin! He told us he was no longer with Globetrekker, but was now working for The History Channel. What a small world!