Day 10 - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tuesday, April 3, 2012: After an early morning pickup, Sam dropped us off at the entrance to Angkor Wat around 6:20 AM. Thy led us down the walkway with a flashlight because it was still quite dark out.
|We passed through the outer gate of the complex, ...
|... and faced another long walkway leading up to the main area.
|We stopped short of the temple area and joined the other tourists in front of a pond out front and to the left of the walkway. Careful maneuvering and camera-over-head shooting techniques yielded this beautiful photo.
|Here's what the scene actually looked like, with people to our left, ...
|... and to our right. It must just be a mob in the high season.
|We were there. Thy was great about offering to take photos of us in front of nearly everything.
|We were all waiting for a sunrise that wasn't likely to come through overcast skies.
|But the skies were getting lighter, so we got a photo of our friend, Orchy, in front of another famous structure.
|We weren't the only ones photographing inanimate objects in front of Angkor Wat.
|Here it is -- our very best photo of Angkor Wat. Beautiful.
|We decided to leave the crowds behind and start our tour.
|Waterlilies have to be photographed. By now, you understand the rule.
|Here is the waiting crowd, ...
|... and here are the smart people getting an early start.
|We started at the left corner.
|This is looking to the right, the front of the complex.
|This is one of the carvings along the corridor behind those columns.
|This is the corridor on the left side of the complex, ...
|... and the is the view just outside the corridor.
|This is Sanskrit carved into a wall.
|We saw lots of windows with these carved posts in them, in various states of repair.
|The carvings on one large part of a corridor features the Churning of the Ocean of Milk scene. Very roughly explained, these are the good guys, ...
|... and their leader, ...
|... and these are the bad guys, ...
|... and their leader. The actual story has a little more detail. Look it up.
|This is the courtyard inside.
|Small bits of the ruins are stacked on larger stones to keep them off the grass.
|There is quite a lot of grass to keep mowed.
|We walked around the inner series of corridors, which required stepping up and over foot-tall steps every 20 feet or so. Our knees did their best to keep up.
|Here's a closer view of one of Angkor Wat's signature towers, ...
|... and another.
|There were more carvers featuring more lovely Apsara dancers.
|Here is a free-standing building, one of two libraries on the grounds, ...
|... and more Sanskrit carvings.
|This was an interesting sound chamber. If you pounded your chest, it echoed and sounded like a loud bass drum. So very cool.
|We would be going up to the inner part of the temple, but we had some time to kill before it opened, so we sat down for a rest at the edge of this courtyard that is actually a pool.
|Thy showed us some photos of a charity he works with.
|In typical Bundlings weather fashion, it started to rain as soon as we were undercover, ...
|... and poured and poured as we made our way through covered corridors to the entrance that was closed.
|The rain stopped moments before we had to leave the covered area. We don't know why we are so lucky, but we are and it is nice.
|The stairs leading up are very steep, so we held onto the handrails on our way up. Once at the top, we discovered that our hands were covered with rust. This, dear reader, is why we travel with lots of wetnaps.
|The view from up here was pretty cool.
|There's the center tower.
|More views, ...
|... and more, ...
|... and more. The tour guides waited for their tourists on the level below and enjoyed a nice chat. The stairs looked even steeper on the way down, but we did not use the railings this time.
|Having seen it all, we headed out of the main complex, ...
|... and stopped to get this artsy photo of Orchy.
|We stopped to see another statue in the outer ring of the complex, ...
|... then continued back to the road.
|These cool statues are situated on either side of the start of the walkway.
|Let's look at this one close up.
|We had left too early to have breakfast at the hotel, so we had the choice to drive back to the hotel or eat at an open air restaurant nearby, so of course, we chose the restaurant.
|The tour guides were gathered around a table in the back watching television, ...
|... while we had some time to ourselves to relax and cool off under the fans.
|We both ordered omelettes, and like every other tourist around us, we tried coconut juice, assuming it would be served in a glass like the other juices listed on the menu. At table after table, these giant coconuts showed up to the surprise of the people who ordered them. It was all delicious and the break was very welcome.
|We had a full day left of touring in front of us, with many more temples to visit, but Tom was starting to get a cold and we were getting tired, so we asked Thy and Sam to just take us to Ta Prohm.
|This is the South Gate of Angkor Thom, where we had visited the day before. There were lots of people, so we were very happy with the timing of our visit in the afternoon when there were very few people.
|We saw several elephants carrying tourists as we passed Bayon Temple.
|We travelled through the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom to reach Ta Prohm.
|It features the same Ocean of Churning Milk statues just outside it that the South Gate has, but they aren't in such good shape.
|We passed this little creek, ...
|... and the Ta Keo temple, ...
|... finally arriving at the Ta Prohm gate. It was pretty busy here, and the souvenir vendors were a little more aggressive here. Overall, we hadn't had any problems with vendors, but we had to say no a lot here.
|There was several restoration projects underway, including work on the main entrance gate.
|These signs showed some before-and-after shots of restoration projects already completed.
|Trees throughout the Angkor Wat area had signs at the base identifying them, and this type is the most notorious, because it is the type that has grown over and through many of the Ta Prohm structures. It is called a Spung tree (Tetrameles nudiflora, Datiscaceae).
|Fans of "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" may recognize this structure as the one that had the front blown off of it in the movie.
|This temple area was used for several scenes of the film, and our guide jokingly referred to it as the Tomb Raider Temple.
|Now, let's look at what the Spung tree has done to this beautiful temple here, ...
|... and here, ...
|... and here.
|The trees aren't the only story here, though. This carving featured what appears to be a stegosaurus on it, and has triggered a fury of claims that dinosaurs still walked the earth 800 years ago.
|Here's a rare shot of the temple that isn't a closeup of tree roots.
|Now, back to the tree roots. Can you spot Orchy in this photo?
|This area was recognizable in the film, ...
|... especially this impressive display of tree roots. To help protect the area, roped off walkways have wisely been added to some key locations.
|You have to duck down and hold your camera out to get a photo of this inaccessible area, ...
|... but it's worth it to see a face peeking out through the roots.
|There was an echo chamber here, too, so we gave it a try again. Science is awesome.
|Scaffolding and supports are fighting back against this tree's root system and its impressive assault of the temple, including that one overachieving root up front.
|Here's a glimpse at the painstaking restoration work being done at the temple.
|It's clear that there's a lot of work remaining to be done.
|This sign showed the nearly impossible task of reconstructing a corridor from ruins, ...
|... and there's more left to do. Imagine taking this pile of rubble and figuring out where everything goes!
|The tree dipped low over the walkway, so the helpful signs on either side of it said, "Mind Your Head."
|And now, the most iconic photo of all. This is Ta Prohm at its most famous.
|There was a roped-off platform in front of it specifically designed for photo opportunities, so we waited our turn for photographic proof that we were there.
|On our way out, we got this photo of a tree with the biggest, baddest thorns on it we had ever seen.
|We reached the exit where Sam, the car, and the souvenir vendors were waiting for us. Oh, that air conditioning was nice.
|We retraced our steps out of the whole complex and had an uneventful drive back to the hotel. This photo was the best of many attempts to photograph the cattle on the side of the road.
|Tom wasn't feeling well, so we planned to stay in the rest of the day.
|We ordered some standard food from room service, ...
|... including a good old American cheeseburger for Tom.
|With Tom sleeping, Debbie decided to take advantage of the hotel's incredibly low spa prices, so she went through the spa menu and made a list of six different services to try. There were $10 mani-pedis and $15 massages, so the entire afternoon of services cost less than a single cruise ship massage would.
|The spa staff laughed out loud once they realized that she really intended to schedule all of the services on her handwritten list. Then they huddled over the list to determine the best order of events. First up: a foot and hand massage, followed by hot ginger tea.
|Next: a manicure, pedicure, facial, shampoo, blow dry, style, and full makeup. Four hours later, she was fully relaxed but a little overly made up. On second thought, she should have opted for the light makeup instead.
|We headed down for dinner and ordered off the regular menu this time.
|A couple of geckos were playing on the ceiling overhead. Geckos are so adorable.
|Each night, the restaurant has an Apsara performance on the stage in the courtyard.
There are a variety of dances represented by different groups of dancers, but this traditional dance was the most beautiful.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy