Friday, February 5, 2010

Angkor Thom first visit and Ta Prohm

After falling in Angkor Wat and spraining my ankle, walking more than a few steps was out of the question. But it was too early in the day to go back to the hotel room. Figured I could sit in the tuk-tuk and hurt just as well as sit in the hotel room and hurt. So we continued the very short distance to the complex of Angkor Thom.

The total complex of Angkor Thom is four times larger than Angkor Wat. It covers about 5.5 square miles inside the broken stone walls. Angkor Thom was built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII. He established the capitol of the Khmer empire there and a city of about 1,000,000 was soon established.

The center is the temple of Bayon, commonly called the temple of faces. This was the last major temple built during the Khmer empire. The final minor temple built in Angkor Thom was Mangalartha, which we did not vist. There are 200 carved stone faces of the king on the Bayon temple. Every direction one looks there are multiple faces to be seen. Every face has the identical peaceful expression with slight smile and almost closed eyes.

In the northwest quadrant of Angkor Thom is located what was the royal palace. Also in the northwest quadrant are located the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. I have no idea who was the Leper King. There are carved elephants all down a long high stone wall. At the northern end of that wall begins another long high stone wall filled with carved animals that look sort of like monkeys. The "monkey" area is the beginning of the Terrace of the Leper King. I really can't say if these carvings are monkeys or possibly one of those 330 million sub-dieties in the Hindu religion.

In the northeast quadrant of Angkor Thom are located many tall stone buildings. These are all identical. They reminded me of townhouses or 3-storey patio homes. Supposedly the king had 2,000 wives who were all housed on the grounds of Angkor Thom. The king used these separate smaller buildings to sleep with a different wife each night. It was believed that if he ever was unable to "enjoy" a wife on any night then he would have been considered to have become weakened and would lose power of the empire. The people would not follow a weak king. We learned this tidbit when we visited a museum on our last day in Cambodia.

There were elephants walking around the grounds and elephant rides were available for sale to the tourists. There was also a very, very large stone Buddha between the Bayon temple and the royal palace complex directly next to Baphuon, a 3-tiered temple mountain. There are a number of temples inside Angkor Thom.

Bill snapped a few photos as I waited in the tuk-tuk and then we drove east out of Angkor Thom, past yet another temple called Ta Keo. We zipped right past that one. It did not appear to be much of a tourist attraction because all the tourist buses also skipped it.

Soon we were parked outside the temple of Ta Prohm along with at least 2 dozen big tourist buses. Our tuk-tuk driver warned us that Chinese and Korean tourists move very slowly so we probably did not want to get stuck behind any such large group. With that warning Bill headed off to take photos while I again waited in the tuk-tuk. While waiting there must have been 30 kids approach me trying to sell me souvenirs or guide books. One little guy was trying to sell very nice looking books about the temples around Angkor Wat for only one dollar. I didn't have any money or would have bought a few as gifts for friends who would be interested in this subject.

Ta Prohm is the temple that has been left as natural as possible so that tourists can see what the jungle can do to large stone buildings over 900 years. They have cut the trees well away from the buildings so no further damage can occur and have fortified the stone structures where necessary to prevent further deterioration. Several large trees have been left in place in the temple that show how the roots move the stones about.

Ta Prohm is one of the probably the frequently photographed temple after Angkor Wat. I had been looking forward to seeing this particular temple but it just wasn't meant to happen.

Bill was back in about an hour and announced that he was done with temples. Period. No more.

We drove back to downtown Siem Reap and spent most of the afternoon sitting at a place on Pub Street watching the interaction between the locals and the tourists. For some reason Bill thought the signs posted on lightpoles requesting people to donate blood were funny. The fact that they guaranteed clean needles was the part that I think he found humorous. He should remember that we are in one of the poorer countries on earth and clean needles are not such a far-fetched thing to worry about. I thought it was more unusual that they were giving out tee-shirts for blood donations. No one ever gave me a free tee-shirt for donating blood in Houston.

We stopped at a pharmacy and purchased some very crappy bandaging material to wrap my foot and ankle and returned to the hotel. Enjoyed room service for dinner and dug out the Advil. Tomorrow's activities would involve as little walking as possible.

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